10 Reasons Marketing Strategy Should Include the Internet
It may seem surprising but many companies, big and small, have yet to develop a rational Internet marketing strategy. Considering marketers have now used the Internet effectively since 1994, any organisation without a strategy to utilise the Internet for marketing is probably making a big mistake. For any organisation that still does not have a meaningful Internet marketing effort, we offer 10 Reasons why you should.
1. The Go-To Place for InformationPossibly the most important reason why companies need to have an active Internet marketing strategy is because of the transformation that has occurred in how customers seek information. While customers still visit stores, talk to sales representatives, look through magazines, and talk to friends to gather product information, an ever-increasing number of customers turn to the Internet as their primary knowledge source. In particular, they use search engines as their principle portal of knowledge as search sites have become the leading destination sites for most Internet users. Business owners must recognise that the Internet is where customers are heading and, if the business owner wants his/her business to stay visible and viable, they must follow.
2. What Customers ExpectThe Internet is not only becoming the resource of choice for finding information, in the next few years it is also likely to be the expected location where customers can learn about products and make purchases. This is especially the case for customers below the age of 25. In many countries, nearly all children and young adults have been raised knowing how to use the Internet. Once members of this group dominate home and business purchases they will clearly expect companies to have a strong Internet presence.
3. Captures a Wide Range of Customer InformationAs a data collection tool the Internet is unmatched when it comes to providing information on customer activity. Each time a visitor accesses a website they leave an information trail that includes how they got to the site, how they navigated through the site, what they clicked on, what was purchased, and loads of other information. When matched to a method for customer identification, such as login information, the business owner has the ability to track a customer’s activity over repeated visits to the site. Knowing a customer’s behavior and preferences opens up tremendous opportunities to cater to customer’s needs and, if done correctly, the customer will respond with a long-lasting loyalty.
4. Extreme Target MarketingThe most efficient way for business owners to spend money is to direct spending to those who are most likely to be interested in what the business is offering. Unfortunately, efforts to target only customers who have the highest probably of buying has not been easy. For instance, consider how much money is wasted on television advertisements to people who probably will not buy. Yet the Internet’s unrivaled ability to identify and track customers has greatly improved business' ability to target customers who exhibit the highest potential for purchasing products.
5. Stimulate Impulse PurchasesWhether customers like it or not, the Internet is proving to be the ultimate venue for inducing impulse purchases. Much of this can be attributed to businesses taking advantage of improvements in technologies that:
- allow a website to offer product suggestions based on customer’s online buying behavior, and
- streamline the online purchasing process.
6. Customized Product and Service OfferingsCompanies know they can develop loyal customers when product and service offerings are designed to satisfy individual needs. This has led many online businesses to implement a mass customisation strategy offering customers online options for configuring products or services. The interactive nature of the Internet makes “build-your-own” a relatively easy to implement purchasing option. An empowered customer base that feels a company will deliver exactly what they want is primed to remain loyal for long period of time.
7. Takes Prospects Right to the SaleNo other form of communication comes close to turning exposure to promotion into immediate customer action as the Internet, which allows customers to make purchases immediately after experiencing a promotion. Prior to the Internet, the most productive call-to-action was through television informercials that encourage viewers to call toll-free phone numbers. However, moving customers from a non-active state (i.e., watching television) to an active state (i.e., picking up the phone to call the number) is not nearly as effective as getting people to click on an Internet ad while they are actively using the Internet.
8. Conveys Perception of Being a Full-Service ProviderFor distributors and retailers the Internet makes it easy to be a comprehensive supplier. Unlike brick-and-mortar suppliers who are often judged by the inventory that is actually on hand or services provided at a store, e-commerce sites can give the illusion of having depth and breadth of inventory and service offerings. This can be accomplished by placing product and service information on the company’s website but behind the scenes having certain orders fulfilled by outside suppliers via shipping and service agreements. With such arrangements customers may feel they are dealing with providers that offer full-service when in reality a certain percentage of the products and service are obtained from other sources.
9. Lower Overhead, Lower Costs, Better ServiceInternet technologies are replacing more expensive methods for delivering products and services, and for handling customer information needs. Cost savings can certainly be seen with products and services deliverable in digital form (e.g., music, publications, graphic design, etc.) where production and shipping expenses are essentially removed from the cost equation. Cost savings may also be seen in other marketing areas including customer service where the volume of customer phone calls may be reduced as companies provide online access to product information through such services as Knowledge Bases and answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Field salespeople may also see benefits by encouraging prospects to obtain product information online prior to a face-to-face meeting. This may help reduce the time devoted to explaining basic company and product information and leave more time for understanding and offering solutions to customer’s problems. As these examples suggest, the Internet may lower administrative and operational costs while offering greater value to customers.
10. Create Worldwide PresenceThe Internet is a communication and distribution channel that offers global accessibility to a company’s product and service offerings. Through a website a local marketer can quickly become a global marketer and, by doing so, expand their potential target market to many times its current size. Unlike the days before e-commerce when marketing internationally was a time-consuming and expensive undertaking, the uploading of files to establish a website is all that is needed to create a worldwide presence. While establishing a website does not guarantee international sales (there is a lot more marketing work needed for the site to be viable internationally), the Internet provides a gigantic leap into global business compared to pre-Internet days.