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marketing strategy for the Internet

marketing strategy for the Internet

مولف/مترجم: Karen Forcht and Joan Pierson

سال انتشار: 1997

وضعيت: تمام متن

تنظيم: پايگاه مقالات مديريت

Introduction

The worldwide network of computers, called “Internet”, provides opportunities for a company to do business in cyberspace. Organizations find it more and more important to represent themselves on the Internet to get more customers, to increase the public’s awareness of the companies and their products, and to sell more of their products. However, corporate leaders are finding it difficult to keep up with fastmoving markets and the customer conditions that are the hallmark of the Internet. There are numerous and widely varying predictions of the potential of doing business via the Internet, including the increasing numbers of people with Internet access, of corporate Web sites, of Web spending by advertisers, and of total online shopping. Yet, confusion abounds concerning exactly what is happening, how much potential there really is, and what businesses should be doing to take advantage of it. The very nature of commerce on the Net can be baffling, even to the experienced marketer. Both businesses and consumers perceive many obstacles to successful online commerce. In order to successfully cultivate online market share, companies are compelled to design marketing strategies specifically for the information highway.

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Popularity of the Internet

From its comparatively humble beginnings inthe 1960s as a means for protecting US mainframecomputer systems in the Cold War, to a1970s link for scientists and academics to sharedata and research, the Internet has blossomedin the 1990s into the information age’s curiousmarriage of the personal computer and citizens’band radio (Hof and Verity, 1994), instantaneouslylinking a user with the whole electronicworld and providing themeans to interact withthat world. This explosive growth of the Internet,including commercial networks and services,has been accompanied by an astounding increase in the population of Internet users. Thehuge potential of customers and consumers hasbusinesses scrambling to get on to the Web, withits low cost and broad reach. Millions of peopleworldwide can utilize the Web’s affordable and easy access to view product, service and161

Get linked or get lost: marketing strategy for the Internet

Alicia Aldridge

Karen Forcht and

Joan Pierson

The authors

Alicia Aldridge is an Associate Professor in the Department

of Marketing, Walker College of Business, Appalachian State

University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.

Karen Forcht and Joan Pierson are Professors in the

Department of Information and Decision Sciences, College of

Business, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia,

USA.

Abstract

Develops detailed marketing strategy recommendations for

online commerce based on the general popularity of the

Internet, the unique nature of doing business there, and how

its attributes may be utilized for a successful marketing

presence.

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • pp. 161–169

© MCB University Press • ISSN 1066-2243

information offerings from an unknown number

of potential entrepreneurs.

Estimates say that the business side of the

Internet is small today, but with untold billions

in potential sales looming ahead. The prospect

of millions of bright, well-educated, upwardly

mobile people searching for some new outlet in

which to spend their money has been too attractive

for many businesses to ignore, in spite of

slow initial momentum. For example, according

to one estimate, while 4 per cent of the population

had access to the Internet in 1995 (Henry,

1996), that number had increased to 19 per cent

by 1996, approaching a fivefold increase in one

year (Rigdon, 1996). In 1995 almost 6 million

computers were hooked up to the Web (Sussman

and Pollack 1995). In terms of dollars,

revenue from Net transactions totaled $20

million in 1994 (Rosner, 1995), with future

estimates ranging as high as $5 trillion by 2000

(Johnson, 1995). Estimates of such explosive

growth have either lured businesses into planning

for Internet marketing or scared them to

death because they are not prepared for it:

“[Online commerce] has often been oversold,

has frequently disappointed, has generated its

own kinds of confusion, and managers have a

skepticism about it” (Mezger, 1996).

Many businesses have been scrambling to

take advantage of the waiting windfall. By

November 1995 there were 100,000 Web sites,

with the number doubling every 2.5 months

(Sussman and Pollack, 1995). According to this

estimate, there would have been 3.2 million

Web sites as of January 1997, certainly more

places to visit on a Saturday night than the local

mall has to offer. Web spending by advertisers

jumped from $37 million in 1995 (Sussman and

Pollack, 1995) to $157 million in the first nine

months of 1996, growing nation-wide by an

estimated $22 million every three months

(“Internet Advertising Skyrockets,”1996), even

though still just a rounding error when compared

to overall advertising spending of $345

billion (Grove, 1996). Online revenues for

merchants have grown from $20 million in 1994

(Rosner, 1995) to $520 million in the first ten

months of 1996, with predicted revenues totaling

$6.5 billion by 2000 (Schmidt, 1996). All of

this activity, growth, large numbers of consumers

, expanding reach and revenues have

attracted a great deal of attention from marketers

worldwide.

Confusion and disillusionment…already?

However, by 1996 some disillusionment already

had set in. “I have yet to see any marketer with

anything but red ink in Internet ventures”

(Schultz, 1996). Twenty percent of all corporate

Web users may drop their sites this year because

of dashed expectations (Henry, 1996). The

problem seems to be that, while there is little

question that the Net and the Web are important

for communications and are likely to be

important for marketing, no one seems to know

exactly how important, when their importance

will manifest itself, and how to take advantage of

it commercially. The rush to promulgate the

Net’s potential has resulted in widely conflicting

predictions and widely varying results, often

confusing and discouraging those with commercial

plans.

For example, one source reported that in

1993 Americans spent $200 million online

(Amirrezvani, 1995), while another said that the

first real online transaction didn’t even take

place until 1994 (Higgins, 1994). Revenue from

Net transactions was a reported $20 million in

1994 (Rosner, 1995), while in that same year

Web sites supposedly generated $118 million in

sales (Kniseley, 1995). Predictions for future

growth have varied also; sources speculated that

revenue from Net transactions by the year 2000

would be anywhere from $1 billion (Rosner,

1995) to $45 billion (Sussman and Pollack,

1995) to $5 trillion (Johnson, 1995). The Internet’s

potential audience was another point of

disagreement. “People using the Net” totaled

13.4 million in 1996 (Rigdon, 1996), while

“people with access to the Net at some time

during the day” was 75 million, and the number

of “actual users” was 50 million (Stores, 1996).

With such a moving target and inconsistent

predictions, the Internet’s realities remain a

mystery, making creativity and strategizing

difficult.

In addition to confusion about the size of the

Net and the Web’s audiences and business

potential, hesitation and perplexity have been

evident over how to implement business in this

new medium. For example, exactly who is the

audience? While most agree that the “typical”

Net user is a white upscale male baby boomer,

estimates of women users range from a low of 25

percent (Stores, 1996) to a high of 49 percent

(USA Today, 1996), estimates of black users

162

Get linked or get lost: marketing strategy for the Internet

Alicia Aldridge, Karen Forcht and Joan Pierson

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169

range from 2 percent (Stores, 1996) to 15 percent

(USA Today, 1996) and median age ranges

from 30 years (Stores, 1996) to 36 years (USA

Today, 1996).

Another question: how much does it cost to

do business on the Net? The apparent expense

of cultivating online buyers has been discouraging.

In 1995, when 2.5 million people bought

something via the Net (Sussman and Pollack,

1995), totaling $118 million (Kniseley, 1995),

Web spending by advertisers totaled $37 million.

This puts the average cost of advertising per

buyer at $15.00, and the cost per 1,000 people

buying at $15,000, all for per capita sales of

around $50.00. Cost per 1,000 viewers for Web

advertisements typically run significantly higher

than for traditional media (Zieglar, 1996). In

summary, it seems evident that strategies for

electronic commerce should be tailor-made, but

data inconsistencies and apparently large

expenses cast doubt on its viability altogether.

Therefore, successful Web commerce depends,

first, on understanding the nature of this “new

beast.”

Nature of business on the Net

Although the commercial market of the Internet

might be small today, it is likely to grow tremendously

in the future. Millions of people all over

the world can view the contents of the worldwide

Internet. It has become affordable and

easy to get access to the Internet and most

potential customers like to see companies represent

themselves there. Customers can search the

products of a company and can ask questions

directly without having the inconvenience of

leaving home. However, a business’s traditional

strategies are not likely to be appropriate, and

thus directly transferable, to electronic commerce.

As businesses scramble to jump on the

train before it leaves the station, they may ignore

the new rules that apply and make costly mistakes:

Businesses need to live with the Internet or risk

being overwhelmed by it…Some companies are

laying the groundwork for entirely new ways of

doing business. It is undeniably the new competition

(Hof and Verity, 1994).

The new breed of Internet commercer is fragmenting

time-honored business methods. Successful

Internet marketers will need to recognize

the Net’s peculiarities and embrace them with

strategies custom-made for this new medium.

The nature of Internet commerce is likely to

take shape around several key factors, including:

• The consumer market is different.

• Net users want control.

• Marketer accessibility is key.

• Communication is direct.

• Authenticity is a must.

• Competition is open.

• Security is a concern.

The consumer market is different

While few scientific attempts have been reported

to identify the audience on the Internet,

recently published studies often seem to contradict

one another because of differing methods

and measures; however, a consensus on the

Internet’s reach and a sketchy profile of the

“typical” user have emerged (USA Today,

1996). One widely accepted estimate is that 17

per cent of the US population is online, translating

into 35 million, mostly casual, users. Even

though the Net has long been considered a

white male bastion, the latest figures indicate

that approximately 32 percent of users are

women and 15 percent are black, although

actual estimates range widely. It appears that

almost half of all Net users are 30-49 years of

age, but again median user age estimates vary

considerably. Therefore, while cyberspace is

becoming more diverse, the dominant force

online remains the white male upscale baby

boomer. This translates into sophisticated, welleducated,

adventuresome consumers with

money to spend. They may not be on the Net to

shop, but they spend more time online than do

others and are more likely to shop there, as

familiarity increases their comfort level.

Net users want control

These explorers want control over the who,

what, where and how of information exchange.

Net users initiate their own contacts, control

information flow, and seek out marketers and

products rather than vice versa. Because of their

experience online, they have “been there, done

that,” challenging marketers’ creativity and

ingenuity in gaining and holding their attention.

They want messages custom-made for their own

individual needs, focusing specifically on the

benefits they seek.

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Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169

Marketer accessibility is key

Oh, what a tangled web of sites to explore, with

no ready roadmaps. Consumers complain of

difficulties navigating through the convoluted,

largely unmarked, highways of the Internet. Yet,

since consumers initiate contacts with Web

marketers, their navigational skills must provide

the key link to marketers’ messages. With Internauts’

desire for control, they can tailor-make

their own messages only if they can access marketers’

Web sites, either by direct address or

“click-through” from another site. Therefore,

Web businesses have to make their presence

known and easy to find.

Communication is direct

Once consumers find a site, communication

with them is direct. Questions can be asked and

immediately answered. Feedback can be garnered;

demand can be created and fulfilled. The

Internet offers the ultimate in relationship

marketing, since companies can develop consumer

lists from Web-site visits, communicate

regularly with consumers either through Website

updates or individually targeted E-mail

messages, and empower product/company fans

with competitive analyses, sales techniques or

case histories. A real sense of community can be

built around products, just as it has been around

other newsgroup issues (Kawasaki, 1996).

Authenticity is a must

Since consumers cannot see or touch actual

products and thus evaluate quality and benefits

first-hand, brand and merchant authenticity are

significant as means to verify product value and

price appropriateness. Consumers will look for

well-known branded products and respected

merchants to assuage their fears of deception.

And, while consumers are accustomed to purchasing

via mail-order and phone-order, glossy,

full-color, highly detailed catalogs and product

brochures are supplanted online by poor quality

monitor representations of products, adding to

those fears. Widely known merchants will do

well to cultivate their reputation for quality and

reliability, while newcomers rely on warranties,

guarantees and liberal, convenient return policies.

Competition is open

Strategies, including prices, are out there for all

to see. No longer is it necessary to clandestinely

visit a competitor’s store to check prices or

search the media for their latest campaign slogans;

simply visit their Web site to investigate

their new products, prices, and promotional

campaigns. It is even possible to flood their site

with misleading “consumer” information to

throw them off track. Open strategy information

may lead to price wars, and it will certainly

emphasize, and complicate, competitors’ abilities

to differentiate themselves.

Security is a lingering concern

A unique aspect of Net commerce, unlike traditional

advertising, is that it not only stimulates

demand through product information, persuasive

messages and reminders, but it also fulfills

demand by providing means to actually purchase

products. While good in the sense that

consumers can act immediately on their desires,

it necessitates fulfillment mechanisms for shipping

and handling, and security measures to

protect consumers’ privacy. Security continues

to be one of the most significant obstacles to

online commerce, as consumers and businesses

alike worry about privacy:

The Internet is still not regarded as secure enough

to conduct corporate business (Lohr, 1995).

The Internet has great potential for marketing and

great potential for abuse (McGeehan, 1996, p.

1A).

Even though security on the Net is now more a

psychological than a financial or technological

issue (Weber, 1996), nervous computer users

must be reassured that their privacy is protected.

Aware of this, marketers are implementing

protection measures, such as encryption, firewalls,

passwords and coding mechanisms, as

well as publicizing their own written security

policies.

As with any new venture, commerce on the

Internet poses many obstacles, all of which can

be transformed into opportunities with carefully

planned and executed strategies. Effective

Internet marketing strategies are built around

identifying target audience needs, and responding

to those needs with product and service

offerings which are priced appropriately, made

conveniently available to customers, and whose

need-fulfilling capabilities are clearly communicated.

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Get linked or get lost: marketing strategy for the Internet

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Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169

Marketing strategy for the Internet

There’s not a business in the world that shouldn’t

feel threatened by the Internet, but companies

willing to become engaged should find big opportunities

(Egan and Pollack, 1995, p. 82).

Becoming engaged with the Internet, for marketers,

means understanding the unique nature

of the Internet market and using that understanding

to execute dynamic strategies.

Targeting

Using traditional segmentation with an Internet

audience may be not only fruitless but also

unnecessary. While the demographics and

psychographics of Internet users and purchasers

are not fully known at this time, some things are

definite: they initiate contact, they control

information flow, they control message content.

Trying to formulate a memorable promotional

message suitable for a large demographic group,

such as males aged 30-45 with incomes of

$25,000-50,000, married with two children, is

not an appropriate Internet approach. Because

of the interactivity of the medium, consumers

choose the messages they want, and by selecting

from finely tuned options, they segment themselves

based on their desired product benefits.

This puts the onus on marketers to know the

benefits consumers seek from their particular

product offerings and so customize messages

around them. The key to Internet segmentation

is benefits.

For example, when a consumer accesses the

Web site of an automobile manufacturer, she is

asked her purchase price range and is then

offered several models within that range. For

each model, she is given a choice of colors,

options, performance specifications and safety

features. As she experiments with her different

choices, indicating her preferences in each

information category, she is self-selecting an ad

message designed for her. If she indicates a

preference for high performance, she is shown

the high performance models, and sees and

hears messages about performance. This is a

highly differentiated segmentation strategy, but

differentiated on the basis of how the consumer

differentiates herself rather than on how the

marketer labels her. Criteria for effective segmentation

are different for Internet segments

also (see Table I).

Online users are a different audience, initiating

contact with marketers as they explore the

vast reaches of the Internet. How are they

reached? They come to you. A different decision

process is at work, as consumers take a more

active role, using the Net and Web to actively

search for information, evaluate alternatives,

and even purchase and relay feedback. As a

result of these differences, marketers’ Web sites

must be easy to find. Accessibility is crucial if

marketer-originated product information is

used in consumers’ decisions. Successful online

marketers make themselves reachable by developing

original and intriguing Web sites and

widely publicizing their Net address in ads and

on product packages. Accessibility can also be

enhanced by utilizing “click-throughs” from

linkages with other companies’ Web sites.

Product strategy

The Internet has already indicated its potential

in generating brand recognition, developing

brand image and building brand equity. Interactive,

highly graphic Web sites attract attention

and interest for products. Actual purchasing,

however, has proven so far to be a different

story, since only 7 percent of Internet users have

actually purchased something via the Net

(Stores, 1996). Part of this hesitancy can be

attributed to the paucity of products available

online; many desired items simply are not there

yet. However, this fact does not hide

consumers’ genuine hesitancy to engage in

commerce for an unseen product with an

unknown seller in an unpoliced “store” under

the unforgiving eyes of countless strangers who

just might be stealing credit card numbers. As a

result, products most likely to sell well over the

Net, at least at this stage of its development,

have definite characteristics (see Table II).

For example, products already enjoying

consumer awareness fare well over the Net

owing to familiarity; e.g. well-recognized brands

that consumers may have purchased previously

or about which consumers already have information,

such as IBM computers, AT&T phone

services, and People magazine. In addition,

consumer hesitancy is often assuaged by products

or services with definite specifications. Computer

shoppers generally understand “32 MB of

RAM” or a “3 gigabyte hard drive” regardless of

the computer brand. Many air travelers feel

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Get linked or get lost: marketing strategy for the Internet

Alicia Aldridge, Karen Forcht and Joan Pierson

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169

comfortable purchasing tickets from New York,

say, to Orlando, as long as they know the price.

But even if consumers are unfamiliar with

specific products or individual brands, buying

from recognized vendors, whether manufacturers

or retailers, provides increased confidence in

purchasing via the Internet. JCPenney’s ubiquitous

presence and reputation extend to cyberspace,

whether purchasing a suit, sofa or stereo.

Likewise, household names like L.L. Bean,

Procter & Gamble, Land’s End and Wal-Mart

are comforting to jittery cybernaut purchasers.

Other products likely to fare well are commodity

products, such as a Vince Gill CD, or a copy

of WordPerfect 6.1; also promising are products

requiring little or no customer service, such as a

dozen roses or an article about dinosaurs; those

with low shipping and handling charges, and

products traditionally sold via mail or phone.

Heavily discounted products also can effectively

overcome consumer hesitancy.

Product strategy should center on authenticity

– of both the product and the vendor. Wellrecognized

brands and vendors will have an

edge over newcomers or other unfamiliar

names. Guarantees and liberal return policies

should be prominently displayed, thoroughly

explained and vigorously supported. Additional

product literature in hard copy should be

offered at Web sites for consumers concerned

about their inability to see or touch products.

Initially, manufacturers may appear to have

the advantage over retailers as they move into

direct channels with consumers. Manufacturers’

brands often enjoy strong brand equity due

to heavy promotional support and years of

brand building, particularly appealing to riskaverse

consumers. Manufacturers also have an

advantage over retailers in new product development

expertise, and will likely use that expertise

to avoid direct competition by developing

products specifically for the Net. For pricesensitive

consumers, bypassing retailers and

buying “factory-direct” offers the additional

lure of lower prices.

However, consumers view the Internet less as

an avenue for discount pricing and more as a

tool for convenience (Stores, 1996). Varied

merchandise assortments have always been the

purview of retailers, and retailers will maintain

this advantage on the Internet. Buying direct

will likely mean buying from a limited assortment

and thus require a willingness to forgo

convenience for price. If consumers are unwilling

to undergo this change in buying habit,

retailers will still have an assortment/convenience

advantage. In response, coalitions of

noncompeting manufacturers will form to offer

more extensive product assortments. In deference

to the quality pledge symbolized by

brands, family brands and megabrands will

grow in importance, whether owned by producers

or retailers . In addition, private branding is

likely to see an increase on the Net as

consumers voice their confidence in known

retailers with whom they are accustomed to

dealing. Many of these retailers have a store

presence nearby for problemsolving or returns

handling. Retailers’ assurance of quality and

backing of their own brands are imperative as

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Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169

Table I Criteria for effective segmentation for the Internet

Traditional Internet

Accessibility Can the firm reach the intended market segment? Consumers initiate contact via Web site visits

Measurability Can the segment’s characteristics be assessed? Measure the number of Web Cruisers who

see an ad, directly or “click-throughs.” Ask

Web visitors for demographic information

Substantiality Is the segment large enough with enough Upscale, educated, sophisticated,

spending power? adventuresome, baby boomers

Table II Product specifications for Internet marketing

Product characteristics Examples

Familiar Well-recognized brands

Definite specifications Event tickets

Travel

Computers

Recognized vendors Known manufacturer

Known retailers

Commodity products CDs

Software

Publications

Low customer service Flowers

Online information

manufacturers move into direct channels with

their consumers.

Pricing strategy

While Web commerce is on training wheels,

price is not likely to be a paramount issue to

buyers because so few competitors offer their

products online. In addition, in the most comprehensive

study to date of Internet shopping,

frequent Web users list several convenient bene-

fits of online shopping before mentioning lower

prices. Web shopping’s 24-hour availability,

handy PC-based access, and travel cost and

time savings rated well above lower prices as

prime Internet shopping benefits (Store, 1996).

However, as more businesses come online, price

rivalry will heat up, particularly between parity

products. When that occurs, marketers will be

wise to take a dual approach to product strategy

and pricing.

The wisest long-term strategy for management

is to rely on the firm’s consumer focus and

offer products with unique benefits, particularly

since online shoppers will be differentiated by

benefits anyway. Building competitive advantage

through unique benefits will make direct

price comparisons difficult, focussing buyers on

nonprice elements. For example, L.L. Bean and

Calvin Klein offer unique products through

their long-standing reputations. A well-recognized

brand with a distinctive image is not

subject to the same intense price competition

that faces one that is unknown. And even

though Calvin Klein or Jessica McLintock or

Estée Lauder products are sold by many retailers,

by offering product lines and brands available

only through their Web sites, these national

brand manufacturers will be insulating themselves

from direct price competition as well as

from possible conflict with channel members.

Also, bundling benefits can achieve uniqueness;

for example, offering a no-questions return

policy along with a pre-arranged pickup service

or pre-paid return postage.

For more conventional products, price will

be important online just as it is in traditional

marketing, perhaps more so since everyone’s

prices are so readily ascertainable. Online pricing

strategy cannot be made without considering

competitors. The best pricing strategy can

be upset by competitors’ price changes, thereby

increasing consumers’ price sensitivity. As

consumers perceive increasing similarity

between competing stores, brands or sellers,

price competition increases. Likewise, sellers

may sometimes be forced to match competitors’

prices. A seller that lowers its price in order to

gain market share may not benefit if, as they are

likely to do online, competitors quickly follow

suit with potentially devastating effects on

profitability.

An effective low price strategy must be based

on cost advantage and high volume to be sustained.

Recognizing their disadvantage, competitors

are less likely to start a price war. Standardized,

price-competitive products will be

offered online as a convenience to customers,

while long-term strategy will be built around the

introduction of unique products for online

shoppers.

Distribution strategy

Direct marketing is the name of the game on the

Internet, offering both consumers and merchants

greater control and lower potential costs

of access due to the conveniences of the Net.

One big difference between traditional and

Internet marketing strategy is the necessity of a

direct-to-customer fulfillment mechanism. This

positions traditional mail-order and telephoneorder

(MOTO) merchants to profit from Net

marketing due to their familiarity with “remote”

customers and their existing direct-to-customer

channels. New competitors in fulfillment are

likely to appear, competing with USPS, UPS,

RPS and other package delivery services.

Because direct channels may be manufacturer-

direct or intermediary-direct, the potential

for channel conflict will be magnified. If customers

can buy the same Carnival cruise either

directly from Carnival online or from an online

travel agency, price cutting, and thus conflict,

are the likely results. A unique product, benefit,

or service will assuage channel conflict and price

competition. Addressing this situation, manufacturers

will increasingly offer one product line

through their traditional intermediaries and

another differentiated line when selling direct.

For example, direct online purchasing of airline

tickets often carries special benefits not available

from travel agents, such as extra frequent-flyer

miles. In response, retailers will concentrate on

their own unique brands and services. The

purchase of an airline ticket from an online

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Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169

travel agency may also include hotel reservations

and coupons for local entertainment.

Electronic commerce will force other distribution

changes. Traditional site location and

atmospherics give way to the importance of the

Web site as the consumer destination. Fierce

competition forces companies to develop outstanding

Web pages, since a company must be

first in the industry, first with new technologies,

or first with a unique service. Web sites should

be informative, entertaining, challenging, and

unique. They should be interactive, involving,

and easy to navigate. Many opportunities exist

to custom-make Web sites for individual consumers,

effectively implementing a benefits

approach.

Selling formats unique to the Net will develop

in response to customer needs. These cybermerchants

will respond to Internet shoppers’

focus on convenience. For example, CyberMall

is a selling site where merchants can gather to

collectively offer greater accessibility and convenience

to customers. Coalitions of noncompeting

manufacturers will have joint Web sites to

offer greater assortment. Alternatively, new

types of wholesaler, similar to retail cooperatives

like IGA, will develop to provide small businesses

with the means to have an Internet presence.

These alliances will offer technology, graphics,

creative, and fulfillment services.

Promotional strategy

The key to promotional strategy on the Internet

is a firm’s Web site, the place consumers visit to

learn about the company and its products, to

judge the firm’s creativity, to give feedback

about themselves, and, of course, to purchase

products. Actual Web page content will depend

on the firm’s goals for the site and will be based

on the nature of the organization behind it.

Some sites focus entirely on demand creation

with an emphasis on information, entertainment

and novelty, while many large businesses,

having vastly different goals and resources,

design their sites for both demand creation and

fulfillment where consumers can actually buy.

In either case, a commitment should be made to

dedicate the resources necessary to make it

exceptional, using the latest technology affordable.

Web site development should be founded on

marketing research and consumer preferences,

building into the design the information most

desired by consumers. An FAQ (frequentlyasked

questions) section might be based on a

firm’s current customer service toll-free line.

High-level marketing officers should be involved

in site creation so that it introduces a strong

marketing message reflecting the company’s

marketing vision. Unique Web sites enjoy higher

traffic, greater word-of-mouth promotion, and

more publicity in other media, such as USA

Today’s weekly column “New and Notable on

the Web.” The firm’s advertising message of

“buy our product” is joined by “visit our Web

site.” It is a place to segment markets, customize

offerings, build customer relationships and

affinity groups, collect information, construct

databases, and even test new strategies. Web

sites are the foundations of Internet marketing

strategies and should be developed with care.

Site characteristics should reflect the different

type of sales atmosphere on the Web. In

addition to being unique and entertaining, sites

should be easy to find, have excellent text and

graphics clarity, be comfortable to navigate,

have up-to-date and frequently changed information,

and should be interactive. Interactivity

can make a brand responsive to its customer

base by capitalizing on the advantage of immediacy.

Customer complaints, questions, and

comments should trigger immediate replies.

Above all, the site’s job is to deliver content

because that is what consumers on the Web are

saying they want (Piquet, 1996). Information

on products, technology, careers, distributors,

press releases, company events, ordering information,

and “what’s new” sections should all be

orchestrated into an “online experience” for

visitors presented under a strong corporate

image/personality. Sites can raise their “hit

rates” by also including original content and

entertainment. For example, a site could

include its own magazine containing frequently

updated articles relevant to the lifestyles of

target customers and how the company’s products

fit into those lifestyles. This is in contrast to

straight product information which is perceived

by consumers, and justifiably so, as “mere”

advertising. For sites geared for live commerce,

clear and dramatic merchandise images and

user-friendly order forms should be considered

also. In the end, while the tendency is to pack

Web pages with lots of images and information,

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Get linked or get lost: marketing strategy for the Internet

Alicia Aldridge, Karen Forcht and Joan Pierson

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169

they should ultimately be clear, warm, attractive,

and professional.

Summary and outlook

Marketing on the Internet gives forward-thinking

companies a unique edge over competition.

While doing business online involves risks,

smart marketers devote attention to several key

issues, thereby propelling themselves closer to

cybersuccess. For example, both segmentation

and differentiation on the Net center on

customer benefits. Customers segment themselves

by revealing, in their Web site visits, their specific

benefit preferences. Immediately, messages

can be tailor-made to fit those preferences. Web

site visits become a direct link between marketer

and customer, resulting in real-time information

exchange, and highlighting the importance

of the accessibility of a marketer’s Web site.

Product strategy centers on confirmation of

brand and merchant authenticity, or genuineness,

and adherence to acceptable business

standards, or legitimacy. Retailers and manufacturers

are likely to offer standard product fare as

a convenience to customers while developing

and introducing new products unique to their

own cyberassortment. This latter strategy helps

to alleviate the inevitable price competition and

channel conflict.

Promotional creativity focusses on the Web

site as combination advertisement, customer

visit site, marketing research tool, segmentation

instrument, customer service line, catalog, and

customer affinity-group rallying point. Firms

creating technical novelty and graphical sophistication,

while maintaining ease of use, stand to

prosper from an Internet marketing presence.

Doing business on the Internet will become

even more important in the future. More and

more companies will have access to the Internet

and, with a reduction in communication prices,

more and more customers will come to the

Internet as well. The Internet offers tremendous

possibilities and could, in the long run, outperform

conventional distribution channels. A

continuous connection to the Internet will

become a common feature in households of the

future and customers will be able to do more

and more interactively. Information will be

provided and it will be even easier to communicate

using the Web. Live video sessions will be

available and a prospective customer will talk to

a customer representative directly over the Net.

Despite recent Internet traffic jams and consumer

jitters over security, companies should

not hesitate to get connected to the Internet; if

they do not, they are likely to be overlooked by

customers in the future.

References

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169

Get linked or get lost: marketing strategy for the Internet

Alicia Aldridge, Karen Forcht and Joan Pierson

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy

Volume 7 • Number 3 • 1997 • 161–169




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