As use of the internet continues to rise globally, companies are engaging more and more in online marketing. In December 2008 the total global internet audience (aged 15 above from home and work computers) surpassed one billion visitors according to the comScore World Metrix audience measurement service. Global online spending continues to rise with nearly 20% of retail sales now taking place online. Capgemini now believes that between 30 and 50 per cent of all retail will be online in the next five years.
The UK alone has 26m internet shoppers as users spend more time online, enjoy convenience & better deals and worry less about fraud. A company that does not have an online presence nowadays risks not being taken seriously.
Brochure-ware sites, which just replicate offline marketing materials, are slowly becoming a thing of the past and are being replaced by a move to dynamic customer-driven sites which enhance and build your brand image and incorporate customer feedback. You only need to look at the growth of customer-generated content sites such as YouTube and Facebook to realise how far websites have moved on.
Bad websites can damage your brand – if online purchase attempts fail, emails remain unanswered (surprisingly common even for major companies) or if your site is slow or too difficult to navigate all this results in a bad experience for the customer and in turn affects perception of your brand. Many sites enjoy high traffic, but the quality of that traffic is not high. If the majority of visitors leave your site in a few seconds, is that because you are attracting the wrong type of customer or is it because your site structure is navigationally confusing for them?
E-marketing, like classic marketing, focuses on the customer before, during and after a sale, with the use of eTools. These include not only the web and email (eg online banner ads, virtual exhibitions, viral marketing and online PR) but also interactive digital TV, digital radio, smart phones, all of which present the marketer with a huge array of tools to work with but also a unique challenge to communicate consistently across these very different media.
For marketing managers who are increasingly under pressure to prove contribution to the bottom line, online marketing provides a measurable return on investment. Any online ad response is measurable in real time and figures for conversions into purchases are automatically available.
It can also help measure the effectiveness of your offline marketing campaigns; for example a print ad can lead clients to a promotion-specific URL, so that you immediately know the effectiveness of the publication you used for reaching your target audience. Furthermore, you can determine if a publication’s audience is interested in your product from the number of newsletter subscriptions, and qualify if they are the right audience by looking at how many of them you converted into buyers.
When used effectively, e-marketing can not only provide you with savings in terms of money, time and effort (for you and your customer) but can allow you to get close to your customer & gain valuable insight into their needs (for free!) and add value to your product, service or brand.
Never has it been easier to listen to your customers than with the corporate website, which provides a direct contact point and cuts out the middleman (distributors, agents, retailers etc). Your company database is your most valuable asset; with your website you have complete ownership of it and the power to build detailed customer information stores. Databases can be drilled down with sophisticated data mining software to help you understand key customer behaviour and buying patterns. With this unique understanding of your clients and regular two-way communication, you can start to build real relationships with them, a key principle for effective CRM.
Better customer profiling in turn leads to more effective targeted marketing. For example, a simple questionnaire provided on sign-up to a newsletter can provide you with key information you would not otherwise have – for example, a date of birth can help you segment by age group; ‘how did you hear about us’ can help you identify which magazines your target audience reads and which promotional tools are driving traffic to your site.
Online marketing communications can be tailored to reach your ideal customer profile – for example an online pop up ad will appear only if a person meets specific criteria and then, if they are based in the US they will see country specific promotional information or if in France, the ad will appear in French.
Even if your product does not translate online, you can add digital value to your product or brand on your website. For example, if you run a health spa, your product is experienced in a treatment room with a hands-on therapist experience – this cannot be replicated online. However, you can impart expert advice on products, treatments, skincare and even send relaxation tips via email to your clients to make them feel special and promote new services in a less obtrusive manner.
Websites need to provide and promote significant customer benefits. Instead of just optimizing your site for search engine rankings, you need to create ‘sticky’ content relevant to your ideal target audience, and develop appropriate complementary strategic partnerships to drive the right people to your site. PriceRunner used the Espotting network to run highly targeted pay per click campaigns and with a cost of only £3000 to purchase 15,000 key phrases, they had a return of £1.2 million in sales.
There are so many benefits, every business should integrate some e-marketing initiatives into its overall strategy, not only to open new avenues for generating business but to support and enhance offline marketing activities and build the brand. Site performance and visitor statistics should be analysed and reviewed regularly from a marketing and customer perspective instead of only technical development, to highlight general service problems and successes. Companies need to take advantage of the wealth of customer data available to them and use this to market or reposition themselves more effectively.
First steps to creating an emarketing strategy:
1) Define your emarketing objectives – what do you want to achieve? Do you want to increase sales, build your brand, reduce transaction costs? Do you want to provide interactive customer service and use your site for relationship marketing?
2) Where are you in relation to these objectives? Get an independent objective & thorough analysis of your current situation.
3) Profile your customers – how many access or are influenced by the internet, how many purchase online? What devices do they use to get online – mobile phones, digital TV?
4) Define your strategy & tactics – which E-tools should you use to reach your target market within your budget constraints? What is your marketing mix?
5) Apply controls & review– assess your results against objectives regularly & refine your ideal customer profiles
Ask/use an expert – bad e-marketing can do great damage to your brand – better to do no e-marketing. Ensure you have done your research, ask contact with experience in the field or use a consultant.
Integrate – make sure your e-marketing strategy is not different to your offline strategy – ensure your plans & campaigns integrate & complement each other.
Revisit – regularly review your strategy – the benefit of e-marketing is that is can be changed instantly, even in a wildly different direction. If you see something is not working, stop it.
Reicheld and Schefter (2000) research summarised that by retaining just 5% more customers, online companies can boost their profits by 25-95%. E-marketing can provide your business with the opportunity to really stand out regardless of size or resources and enjoy increased loyalty and returns from your customers – which business can afford to ignore that?