فهرست



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. <** 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. 163 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 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. 164 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 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 165 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 166 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 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 167 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 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, 168 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 Amirrezvani, A. (1995), “The merchants of cyberspace,” PC World, April, pp. 155-64. Egan, J. and Pollack, K. (1995), “Cashing in on the Internet: building the Web is good for business,” US News and World Report, November 13, pp. 81-2. Grove, A.S. (1996), “Is the Internet overhyped?,” Forbes, September 23, pp. 108-170. Henry, S. (1996), “Clients want Web expertise,” Washington Technology, March 7, p. 12. Hof, R.D. and Verity, J.W. (1994), “The Internet: how it will change the way you do business,” Business Week, November 14, pp. 80-83. Johnson, J.H. 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(1996), “Microsoft enters Net shopping,” USA Today, October 30, p. 4B. Schulz, D.E. (1996), “Integration and the Internet,” Marketing News, Vol. 30 No. 2, p. 7. Stores(1996), “Internet shopping! New competitor on new frontier?,” Stores, April, MCI-MC, p. 23. Sussman, V. and Pollack, K. (1995), “Gold rush in cyberspace,” US News and World Report, Vol. 119 No. 19, pp. 72-80. USA Today (1996), “ATT spins influence on Web commerce,” USA Today, October 9, p. 6B. Weber, T.E. (1996), “ATT will insure its card customers on its web service,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, p. B5. Zieglar, B. (1996), “NetCount seeks to tally users of Web ads,” The Wall Street Journal, October 11, p. B17. 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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