Taking a look at how shopping has changed
How the Internet Affected Marketing
"Everything that can be invented, has been invented." Charles Duell, U.S. Patent Office, uttered those immortal words back in 1899. Little did he know of the knowledge revolution of the 20th century that would culminate in a world-changing technology: the internet. The internet has affected most facets of society today and particularly the marketplace. The internet basically did two things: made connections and provided information. (Kotler and Keller, 2006, p.11) In the vast majority of cases, companies had to adapt their marketing to this new information age or get left behind.
The internet enabled a company to instantly make available its goods or services to its customer. Here is a scenario: Potential Customer Bob is visiting a friend's house. He sees a book on his
friend's bookshelf that looks interesting. After reading the title, Bob returns home and fires up his internet. A second or two after typing the title into a search engine, Bob is filling out his order information and purchasing the book for delivery. Were it not for the convenience of being able to locate the bookseller online, Bob might have never purchased the book.
Customer Bob might never have bought a book from that particular bookseller in a physical store. Maybe he's agoraphobic or has no transportation mode. Regardless, he made his purchase because he found the store contact information, product information, and ordering information
via the store website on the internet. In this scenario, the internet totally
enabled that transaction. Without the internet connection, the customer would
not have made the purchase.
On the other hand, customers also have the option of using the internet to just find out where the physical stores are located. By going to a store's website, a customer can find locations and
easily map them out on a mapping tool to see the most convenient location for him or her. I have done this with certain stores that I like to frequent when I have been in new areas. By having a website for a business, the company can provide customers with the key information they would need in order to purchase. Meaning, ideally, if a customer goes to a company's website, they
should be left with no excuses of not knowing how or where to purchase the company's goods or services.
For most of history, customers only bartered for what the tradesmen had available at that particular time in their current location. If a customer wanted to order some merchandise, the customer had to actually find and visit the manufacturer to work out a deal. After the
proliferation of mail service, business deals become somewhat faster. The telegraph and telephone made it faster still. Yet, until the internet's arrival, customers faced a true chore in tracking down contact information for companies not in their local area. (Baye, 2005, p.244) The internet has
streamlined all that. Inversely, companies can simultaneously reach all its customers with a simple email. (Gilster, 1994, p.151) Or, they can specifically tailor their online advertising to a particular target of the potential customer base.
Prior to the 1990's when the internet started its phenomenal proliferation, consumers had their work cut out for them when making decisions about buying goods and services. As a result, pre-internet customer purchases were probably based upon less information. Unless a customer
conducted exhaustive surveys and went around researching stores and products,
the customer probably bought off of incomplete information. (Green, 1995, p.227) When the nternet made search engines part of society's dictionary, it allowed what would be hours and days
of research to be conducted in a few minutes with a few keystrokes by a potential customer.
A common example, a potential car-buying customer can now know the exact price information, crash safety data, engine power, miles per gallon, dealer incentives and rebates, and anything
else he would want to know about a car-- before he even talks to a car dealer. Previously, except for the few who spent the time and effort on the research, all car buyers had to go on were anecdotes from their acquaintances and the less-than objective words of the car salesman. Customers are much better prepared and are equipped to make wiser purchasing decisions now.
Ironically, it is possible for consumers to still make poor decisions even with the huge amount of information readily available. With all the real estate education available free online, thousands
of home purchasers over the last few years still signed with adjustable-rate mortgages and are now unable to make their payments.
Since a large number of consumers now had the ability to easily and quickly find contact information and potentially purchase their products online, companies had to modify their marketing efforts to consider this. How a company presents itself in its website is a very important
decision it must make, particularly if it is a publically owned company. The corporate culture, investor information, product information, ordering information, supply information and partnering information are all things included on every corporate website nowadays. Since research websites are there as well, companies must be more forthright and are less able to seem mysterious
and unknowable or untouchable as in the past. The corporate website has the potential to be a company's biggest marketing tool. (Brealey, Myers, & Allen, 2006, p.5)
In addition to facilitating the customer through providing a useful website, a company now can research, identify, seek out, locate, and advertise to a target segment customer base. Whole businesses came into being just to advise companies on their internet marketing strategies
because they are now open to a global potential customer base. (Some apparently
did too well in the hype-creating department. Horowitz, 2004, p.95) If a marketing manager for a
company wanted to know how to best use the internet to market Acme's Top New Digital
Camera, he could access an website that sells and markets cameras and contains reviews, such as www.Amazon.com, and within minutes have several useful, specific ideas to help his cause.
In the 25 to 30 years of its mainstream life, the internet has empowered the consumer by opening lines of communication with companies and by providing the ability to easily share in others'
knowledge about a product being considered for purchase. Likewise, the internet has caused companies to market their products with much more disclosure and enabled them to reach a diverse, global customer pool.
Kotler, P., & Keller, K. (2006). Marketing Management,
12th ed. South Asia: Pearson Education.
Baye, M. (2005). Managerial Economics and Business Strategy.
New York: McGraw Hill Irwin.
McAllister, P. (1994). The Internet Navigator. New York: Wiley
Horowitz, D. & the editors of Business 2.0. (2004). The
Dumbest Moments in Business History. New York: Portfolio Books.
Green, M. (1995). The Consumer Bible. New York: Workman
Brealey, R., Myers, S., and Allen, F. Principles of Corporate
Finance. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.