“Internet marketing is nothing more than another aspect of channel promotion management within the marketing mix.” In the early ’90s, Tim Berners-Lees developed an Internet-based global information initiative and released it to the Internet Community. It didn’t take long and the World Wide Web (WWW) began to bloom. Companies were being told incessantly that they needed to be on the web. So companies soon began to create a web presence by using some clipart graphics, a couple of construction signs, and some contact information and then said, “Hey look, we’re on the World Wide Web.”
Since this introduction, technology has rapidly expanded and more and more people have adopted technology in their everyday lives. Thanks to the development of browsers such as Netscape and Explorer, and to their multimedia characteristics, the WWW has become extremely popular for commercial and personal publishing and has expanded the potential of the WWW and the Internet as a medium for marketing. Increasingly businesses are using the Web and e-commerce to gain a competitive advantage over real-world businesses. Statistics show that in Australia 25% of households have Internet access and that 44% of adults accessed the Internet in 2000.
In today’s fiercely competitive business environment, there is a strong need for an organisation to become globally competitive. E-Marketing provides us with a means of doing this. It is clear that there are fundamental differences between the operation of the business on the Internet and in the real world. Indeed it would be surprising if this were not the case. Still, there is widespread expectation that business will operate on the Internet in much the same way it operates in the real world.
Unlike the real world, the Internet is not based on scarcity but on abundance, there is an abundance of information and anyone can trade in it. Traditionally marketing has been defined as ‘the process of planning and executing the conception, distribution, promotion and pricing of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organisational objectives.’ using mass communication, a one to many processes, using mediums such as billboards, television and newspapers. The introduction of the Internet offers many new and unique opportunities and challenges to marketers.
Internet marketing has not completely revolutionised the concept of Marketing but has incorporated it and expanded the opportunities available to marketers. Internet Marketing still uses the traditional concepts of the marketing mix (4 P’s), but the logic of them has changed. Consider ‘Promotion’, with traditional marketing businesses used a one to many processes, by using mass media to transmit their advertisement to their customers. This involved no interaction with the customer. Internet Marketing changes this by using many to many communication processes, enabling customers to interact with the medium, with each other and also provide content to the medium. Thus, marketers must reconstruct advertising models for the interactive, many to many medium underlying the web. This is perhaps one of the major changes from the traditional methods of marketing.
One of the most obvious advantages that Internet marketing provides is the removal of barriers in regards to location. Businesses can now reach a much wider audience, customers that were considered unreachable can now be targeted. Also, businesses need not operate from a physical location (shopfront) any more, they are able to provide all the information that a customer needs on their web site eg using catalogues, pictures, video clips etc.
This has an effect on the ‘Price’ of their products and services as overheads may be reduced (such as rent). A disadvantage of this is that businesses must be aware of what customers want, as the market space is now much wider. In the twentieth century, we have gone from a situation of scarcity of product to today having an abundance of choice.
With many choices available to buyers, having a competitive advantage is vital to the company that wants to thrive. Knowing the competition is one part of understanding competitive advantage and this relies on information. Consider the corner grocery store, they need only to approximate what their customers really want because the convenience factor brings in their business. But when you eliminate this advantage, as customers can use the WWW to go anywhere to get what they want, you need to know exactly what they are looking for. You also need to ensure that your website has a good design and is able to firstly attract customers to your site and also to encourage them to revisit. Many sites use the ‘honey pot’ system to do this eg offer discounts on their second purchase, freebies etc.
Various mediums are used to communicate with their current and potential customers. There are a number of benefits for both firms and customers in using the web as a medium for marketing.
- Consumers : availability of a large amount of information, provision of search mechanisms, on line product trials.
- Companies: interactive, effective distribution channel.
The WWW is a hypermedia environment within the Internet that allows multimedia information to be located on a network of interconnected servers around the world allowing one to travel through information by clicking on hyperlinks. Any hyperlink can point to any document anywhere on the Internet. This allows the market space to become more efficient as consumers now have the ability to use search functions to gain maximum knowledge of a good or service before they purchase. With traditional media marketers were able to restrict (to a degree) the information that was released in regards to goods and services. This also enables consumers to shop around and do price comparisons.
Every time a consumer decides to buy something, a competitive assessment takes place. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will only take the lowest priced product or service. They will look to what they perceive gives them the best value or look to what product or service they perceive best meets their needs. Every sale that is made, therefore, is up against some competitive force. Compared to traditional markets the cost of information is lower and the information quality should be higher (and closer to ‘perfect’), leading to a higher degree of market efficiency .
Questions have been raised in relation to the reliability, efficiency and security of transactions that are in the essence of commerce. And it is because of this that infrastructure has been designed to enable sensitive data to be transmitted via the Web. Although this infrastructure has been implemented consumers still have concerns with entering their credit card details over the web, which creates a significant barrier for the adoption of the web for commercial purposes.
It is rarely acknowledged that most of the business that takes place on the Internet does not involve money. Much of the software that underpins the Internet and the WWW is freeware or shareware. In the midst of the current hype about e-commerce, most users of the Internet and not engaged in actually spending money but rather securing free products or in obtaining some product or service by barter.
The rapid adoption of the Internet has caused firms to experiment with innovative ways of marketing to the consumers in the computer-mediated environment and has created opportunities that were unthought of and everybody is in a rush to establish their place in this new market. This has required marketers to realign their strategies to incorporate the advantages and opportunities that Internet marketing offers.
In an E-Commerce world, knowing who your customers are and making sure you have the products and services they want becomes even more imperative than it is in the real world. An effective marketer will be actively constructing new models for marketing on the web, based upon an increasingly diverse and complex virtual society. It seems as though the technology is evolving faster than we can acquire the ability to manage it!
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