Internet as a principal sales channel. Online marketing. E-commerce
The importance of the Internet as well as its effect upon all aspects of daily life is constantly increasing, particularly in business, where it provides significant solutions for many aspects, it can alter many traditional practices and processes that would include distribution.
Distribution channels are conventionally the company or association of parties which are responsible for delivering a product from the maker to the customer. Internet has shaken the traditional distribution channels in developed countries and markets, becoming itself a new distribution channel.
Digital Marketing is the way in which the marketing of products, goods or services are advertised, promoted and sold to customers using digital technologies. Since Digital is global, audiences can be increased with significant sales and publicity benefits. It can be used in a number of different ways and combined with various technologies, and may include different platforms:
- Internet - Websites,
- Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP),
- Cloud, WEB API,
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO),
- Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LindekIn)
- Visual displays Touch Screens, Plasmas, point to point sale systems
- Interactive resources - apps,sms mms mobile apps
The benefits are vast and replaced by what was previously mainly paper based marketing for example flyers, catalogues and marketing brochures these can now be digitalized to allow video, text and online interaction with customers using internet, display screens and email marketing. By means of websites and social media, the customers can communicate their needs to suppliers instantly, as well as print and save their preferences.
The consumer has more choice and the visual impact is much more appreciated than receiving lots of paper materials and having to scroll through catalogs or directories. They are allowed to listen, watch and read reviews, plus comment on experiences and rate or review suppliers, providing more choices for consumers in choosing the right products. In addition, the cost for the supplier is reduced, as printing materials (which are often out of date) can be instantly updated and this allows easier communication of special offers to customers or launch of new products.
In 1990 the first search engine named “Archie” short for Archives was developed by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal Canada. The system offered File Transport Protocol (FTP) archives, allowing people to find specific files from a searchable database of FTP servers for specific file titles.
FTP is still used for a number of things including updating websites and sharing files. The system was considerably more complex than the current search engines we know (e.g. Google and Bing). It was based on scripts and coding to search; this was not so visually appealing and relied on users having a knowledge to find relevant information. Other students from McGill University, Bill Heelan and Peter Deutsch, later further developed Archie to allow keywords to present the relevant websites and is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
The image to the right shows which platforms were developed over the timeline. These all were significant in development of how we now use and interact with the internet.
Evolution of the web from web1.0 to web3.0 was rather quick. In short, web1.0 was about connecting and getting information on the net. Web2.0 served consistently for connecting people and Web 3.0 is considered a web of knowledge
Technology Advances soon followed, allowing much more attractive and interactive content, as before 1999 the internet was mainly static and read only. Web 2.0 was introduced to allow browsers to have plugins supporting point & click, visual appearances and an increase in more advanced new technologies. Web browsers changed the way material was presented; the most popular were Microsoft Internet Explorer (free with windows), Mozilla Firefox, Safari (Apple), to name but a few. This allowed increased access to new markets and the ability to target key audiences.
Non-technical users were able to join the ICT revolution and companies benefited from an online presence via websites, increasing revenue and using this to drive down costs on the typical marketing budget.
Digital Marketing Strategies were implemented and over time phased in new aspects such as user registration via accounts and email marketing. Some advances included pay per click abilities, making the graphical user interface easier to navigate, paid advertisements on other websites to drive traffic to website and increase sales.
A key element was using SEO which can be tailored to be specific about customers demographics, interests, past buying preferences. Examining search results using cookies to learn habits and to track customers surfing history, allowed a prediction of which customers are likely to visit the sites and what was driving web traffic to promote this further.
1. Create an online presence - creating an online presence is massively important for digital marketing as it allows the word about your business to be spread quicker and more easily, and it allows your customers to make ‘purchasing decisions’ based on what they see of your online presence.
2. Stay updated with the latest trends - Keeping up to date with the latest trends allows you to remain relevant in the digital marketing world, as the digital world is constantly changing.
3. Use your creativity - It is important to be creative in the digital marketing industry, as you want your work to stand out and be noticed. Your work is the first thing that your customers will see, and that is what will prompt them into deciding whether it is you that they want to make a purchase from.
4. Create your own personal projects - Having your own personal projects is important as that dictates what makes you stand out.
5. Network! - Networking allows you to gain intelligence on the market and identify key marketing players.
6. Be eager to learn new terminology - Learning new terminology is very important in keeping up with the development of the digital world.
7. Learn about analytics – some basic knowledge of analytics can make the difference by helping you boost your business marketing, resulting finally in revenue increase. Analytics are very useful to SME in assessing what’s working and fixing what’s not.
8. Get some experience and be prepared for entry level work – learn to understand the motivation behind data collection and analysis, as well as to evaluate and choose appropriate web analytic tools and techniques
9. Build your own personal brand – personal branding is essential for your business. Once the personal brand is established, display a photo that is recognizable on all platforms and create a logo to use that as well to help in building brand recognition.
10. Say “yes” to anything – be open and willing to approach changes easily, as current world is itself in perpetual change.
The key to marketing is using the correct tools. The tools for enhancing users’ experience often can be incorporated in websites for example:
- a YouTube coding embedded into site can demonstrate how a product can be used effectively, often leading to confidence and allows you to decide whether to proceed to a sale or watch more content.
- Twitter also has reusable code whereby an icon is placed on the site so you can directly like or join a group - to hear from experts or share this with others and comment on your own experiences.
- Plugins can range from e-commerce carts to online extracts of a programme, which then can be purchased in full if you like the features.
• SEO - Search Engine Optimization - People use SEO every day to search for restaurants, cinemas, holidays, etc. SEO allows you to appear at the top of a search engine results pages (SERPs). Using customer content to Find Keywords relating to your business, which leads to your website, SEO is essential for your website to attract customers.
• PPC - Pay-per-Click - PPC is where the search engine (i.e google) gets paid a sum of money from the advertiser every time one of their adverts are clicked. So, if you were to pay £10 for a click, but sell a product for £200, that’s a £190 profit. PPC is great as it allows your adverts to appear at the top of a search page, which guarantees that your advert will be the first seen by the customer. Whilst using PPC, your company will need to set a budget for how much you will be paying the search engine. If your budget gets depleted, the search engine will stop paying the costs until the funds are paid.
• Social Media Marketing - Social media is an incredible marketing opportunity, it is the most easy, cost-effective way to advertise your product, as it is completely free to set up social media platforms, such as: Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. Your page will be your brand, not only does it ensure an easy way to communicate with your customers, but it will create a brand loyalty, therefore enabling your product to become more established in itself.
• Web Design - Web design is so important in digital marketing as it is essentially the place where most of your customers will interact with you and your business. Your website will tell them everything that they need to know, and the best way to sell your product, as your website will be the face of your product. When creating your website, you will need to take into account; your design, your responsiveness and the speed of your sight - is your sight responsive and does it load quickly? Does your website reflect your product? Are you doing well on SEO? All these things need to be taken into account when designing your website.
• Content Marketing - Content marketing is imperative when marketing your product. It allows you to keep your customers interested, not necessarily by promoting the product itself, but by posting frequent posts on social media, creating videos, blogs, etc. you will encourage interest in your product. Furthermore, content marketing will;
Engage your audience
Educate your audience
Create links and build new relationships
Builds brand awareness
Creates new leads for your business.
• Email marketing - Email marketing is where your audience is put into lists, and a tailored message is sent out, ‘providing them with something of value’. Email marketing is more effective than social media marketing as more than 2.5 billion people worldwide use email. Emailing creates a certain audience individuality: unlike social media where your product is aimed at your whole intended audience, an email promoting your product is sent out individually. Email marketing also ensures you can track exactly who opened your email and who unsubscribed by using email marketing software, which in turn, will help to improve marketing strategies.
• Influencer marketing - influencer marketing is where a business collaborates with a relevant influencer to promote its brand and increase revenue. Influencer marketing is a relatively new marketing strategy, with social media being so popular, where everyone can sell their product, marketers needed to find a different approach. Influencers are real life consumers and everyday people, who have established an impressive fan-base. Influencer marketing will:
Magnify brand awareness
Target your intended audience
Improves audience engagement
Increases SEO ranking
Increases business opportunities.
Any digital marketing activity should be performed in absolute compliance with the provisions of the law, such as the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 - a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union and the European Economic Area, which also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas.
According to EC, “as of May 2018, with the entry into application of the General Data Protection Regulation, there is one set of data protection rules for all companies operating in the EU, wherever they are based.
Stronger rules on data protection mean
• people have more control over their personal data
• businesses benefit from a level playing field” (see more here)
For marketing online, there is the choice to opt out or in data storage.
Selling online incorporating payment methods:
E Commerce plug in
3rd Party payments - Paypal
Tracking and predicting your Customers and Sales
Using tools to track and predict sales is becoming ever increasingly popular, the ability to gauge what customers will most likely use or buy products is seen as an effective manner to preempt customer interest and increase sales.
Creating an account a google analytics is simple; once the account is created, you have the possibility to collate a large amount of data about your website for example:
• the number of people on your site at a certain moment,
• their geographic locations,
• the keywords and sites that referred them,
• which pages they're viewing,
• Real time conversions as they happen.
The account set up is very easy: you create your account by specifying what domain the website is named and then copy tag codes to each website page you want to analyze. Thereafter information will be fed back to the analytics portal or you can view this via an app. These tools are very useful to drive your website in the direction of more sales or to specific demographics; by combing tools such as pay per click, advertisements or SEO and social media, you can increase your web traffic and this, in turn, leads to more hits.
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Electronic Commerce (E-commerce) is the manner in which goods and services are sold using a web-based platform to handle sales transactions.
• B2B - Business-to-business - Where a business sells products, services or goods to another business i.e a beautician will buy their beauty products from a beauty warehouse online.
• B2C - Business-to-consumer - This is when a business sells a service or product straight to the individual consumer, i.e you buy a dress from an online retail site.
• C2C - Consumer-to-consumer - A consumer will sell a product to another consumer, i.e. selling old pieces of clothing or furniture on Facebook marketplace to another consumer.
• C2B - Consumer-to-business - This is where a consumer sells to a business i.e on Instagram an influencer will offer to promote a business or a business’ product for a fee.
• B2A - Business-to-administration - A business will sell to public administration or the government, i.e business could sell software to an administration.
• C2A - Consumer-to-administration - This is the transaction between and individual and public administrations i.e If a consumer needs to access information online, like how to pay for e-health, their enquiry will go to the administration and they will get a reply. It is a way to keep the consumers and the governments connected.
Shopping online is the manner to allow your customers to purchase goods and services electronically and pay using credit card, PayPal via an e-commerce system.
In some cases, the users have an account and are able to login and see past orders, delivery times, communicate with suppliers and return goods using the web-based platform. Some websites offer the option of doing all listed above as a guest, without having an account, and confirmation is then sent to your email. The benefits of this instant purchasing options are as follows:
Customers can see progress of orders, print receipts, track orders for delivery, see past orders. This allows the supplier to be providing automated sales and is known as the term business-to-consumer (B2C). the overhead costs are reduced with staffing, data entry, stock control and auditing. In addition, the added bonus of data analysis can lead to targeted marketing to customers and ensure products are marketed regularly by offering discount codes, free shipping and linking to social media, thus increasing sales and productivity.
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.