Benefits of Marketing Online
The benefits of marketing on the Internet include:
Increased market reach: The Internet offers firms a global online marketplace that extends far beyond the traditional geographic markets serviced by physical location limitations.
More customers driven to existing channels: The Internet can be integrated into a firm’s overall marketing strategy to help increase customer traffic at existing locations.
Improved customer service: Use of the Internet can contribute to highly effective two-way communication between firms and customers, serving as an extension of existing customer service programs.
Enhanced market research: The Internet can serve as a market research and product development tool for firms through the use of online surveys, chat groups and feedback forums, enabling retailers to obtain data on their customers’ preferences, ideas and attitudes.
Reduced costs: Depending on the nature of a firm’s existing operations, the Internet can provide cost savings through lower inventory, transaction, customer service, administration, and/or communication costs.
Mass customization: The Internet can provide firms with a more efficient and profitable means of processing orders and configuring products to suit the specific needs of each customer. This, in turn, allows firms to optimize their inventory management practices.
Development of one-to-one marketing relationships: The Internet can enhance a firm’s ability to target customers with specific marketing messages, to better interact with them on an individual basis.
Value-added applications: A powerful feature of the Internet is the ability to capture information in a relational database that can be used to provide value-added services to customers. Information can be provided on related products or services based on a customer’s particular preferences. For example, your site can provide links to other Internet sites that may be of interest to your customers.
The objectives you set for your Internet site will determine how you will integrate your site with your existing operations. For example, if you are attempting to sell through the Internet (i.e. create a new distribution channel), the site you develop will be geared toward presenting your products/services and will include a purchase order function. On the other hand, if your objective is to build awareness, your Internet objective will likely be to inform Internet users about your company, your brands and your products/services (a promotional tool). The most critical element is to have a clear and concise statement of your Internet objective(s) as they relate to your business objectives.
In setting the objectives for your Internet site, your approach should be shaped by the five primary functional applications the Internet can provide:
- information gathering
- improved Customer Service
The following are some examples of objectives and overall strategies:
- Increase your company’s revenues by selling from a secure, transaction-capable Internet site.
- Increase awareness of your company by developing an information-based Internet site.
- Increase the awareness of selected operational aspects within your company by developing a communication- and information-based site that features specific marketing programs including (but not limited to):
- new product lines/merchandise/services being carried/offered in stores;
- recent store acquisitions, renovations or expansions;
- new and existing store locations and hours of operation; or
- in-store or other promotions targeted exclusively at Internet users (e.g. using electronic coupons to drive store traffic).
Once you have selected your objectives and strategies, you will need to define measurable goals to monitor, on an ongoing basis, the success of your Internet site. Some of these measures include:
- number of site visitors
- amount of time a visitor spends at your site
- click-through rates
- the number of pages visitors view, per visit
You should also measure your site’s success based on traditional business measurements. For example, return on investment can be measured if you can quantify the incremental revenue gains your company is directly achieving from your Internet site. Other examples include the number of newly generated (physical) store visits from new customers, improved customer satisfaction levels, higher in-store closure rates, increased frequency of store visits, or other retail ratios and measurements.
By determining your evaluation measurements, you will begin to define your Internet site’s functionality. For example, if you want to measure increases in (physical) store visits you may want to use electronic coupons to help identify customers who decided to visit your store as a direct result of visiting your Internet site.
For traditional businesses to achieve success on the Internet, it is best to view the Internet as an extension of your existing operations. In addition to the resources that are typically allocated to maintaining a physical store (e.g. maintenance, repairs, staff training, and merchandise mix) you also need to allocate the costs associated with maintaining an Internet site (e.g. money, staff time, technical skills) in your budget.
Checklists and Helpful Tips
These checklists are provided as general guidelines to highlight the main steps involved in the development and maintenance of your Internet site. You can customize these checklists to better suit your company’s specific needs.
- Plan your Internet site
- Establish site objectives and strategies.
- Determine you site goals and components to be measured.
- Develop the financial plan/budget for your site, including capital expenditures, operating and maintenance expenses.
- Determine the staff and management resources needed to develop and maintain your site.
- Determine financial performance measurements to be used (if any) to evaluate your site’s viability.
Always, develop the site with your target market in mind.
When developing you site’s content, consider the following and how the site will be used for:
- customer service
- technology use
- product selection
- service/product integration
Plan your site’s functionality in terms of:
- ease to use
- graphic intensity – easy and speed of downloading
- plug-ins e.g. sound, video
- degree of interactivity
- tracking users
Always remember to consider your target market and their hardware/software capabilities and knowledge of the Internet.
- Develop your Internet site
- select and register your domain name(s)
- determine your site hosting specifications (internal, external hosting)
- hardware, software, server platform
- if external, who will provide Internet services
- Determine the look and feel of your site
- corporate branding
- professional image and design
- use of colour, graphics, logos
- overall flow, tone
- use of interactive tools
- Determine outsourcing or internal development priorities
- content creation
- Register with search engines
- major content providers (e.g. Sympatico)
- geographic specific (e.g. CANOE, MyBC)
- industry-sector specific
- identify and create relevant hypertext links
- select appropriate meta tags and descriptions for your site
- establish relationships with related sites (e.g. Internet malls, search lists and engines, hypertext links to other sites)
- Plan transaction capabilities
- Determine the extent of your site’s selling functions:
- products/services offered
- additional items offered within product lines
- merchandise presentation methods (e.g. catalogues)
- types of ordering methods (phone, fax, e-mail, online)
- Determine acceptable payment methods
- credit cards
- debit cards/bank cards
- cash on delivery (C.O.D.)
- Establish site security
- Determine order fulfillment process
- Determine the extent of your site’s selling functions:
- Develop post-implementation and ongoing maintenance approaches
- update site content (preferably at regular intervals, so customers know when to check back for updated information)
- update site design
- manage functionality on your site
- gather and analyze your site user information. Develop new and improved products/services based on your key findings.
- Market and promote your site on and off the Internet
- advertising: traditional and Internet media
- promotions (e.g. electronic coupons)
- print address on all promotional materials (business cards, brochures)
- Helpful tips
- Have a clear purpose.
- Communicate a central theme.
- Provide customers with choices.
- Use technology cautiously.
- Encourage participation by visitors.
- Track site visits.
- Maintain and update site content, frequently.
- Strive to capture and sustain interest.
- Use an effective domain name.
- Reinforce your brand and corporate image.
- Make it easy to navigate.
- Things you need to know
- where the site will be hosted
- what platform the server is running
- how much disk space is available
- how fast the Internet connection is
- what features the Internet server supports
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