According to a study conducted by Nielsen/NetRatings, a premier service of The Nielsen Company, there are 450 million internet users in 21 countries, and out of them 250 million people can be termed as active users that is these users spend on an average more than 10 hours a month on the internet. The study further reveals that one third of these active users regularly use the internet to make purchases. Thus, for an astute entrepreneur, all these 250 million people are potential customers. Now, the big question is how to convert these prospective customers into permanent customers. The answer is simple ‘internet marketing’.
What is Internet Marketing?
Also referred to as online marketing, is all about using the power of internet for marketing. A component of e-commerce, it amalgamates the technical and creative aspects of the internet, and uses methods as email marketing, viral marketing, display advertising, search-engine marketing, affiliate marketing and interactive advertising to pin down the potential customers.
Several business models are associated with internet marketing. However, the two main ones are business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B). In the former case, the products are sold directly to the end customers, while in the latter case the companies do business with each other. A third lesser-known business model associated with internet marketing is peer-to-peer (P2P). Here the individuals barter commodities between themselves.
In addition to business models, internet marketing is also related to some formats. For instance, name-your-price, where the customers have the privilege to choose their price range and then buy the items that fall in that range. Another format where it finds its place is online auction. Here the buyers place a bid on the enlisted items. Find-the-best-price is yet another format that can be associated with internet marketing. In this case the buyer can search for the website that sells a particular item at the lowest price.
From the perspective of an entrepreneur, marketing on the internet is less expensive as compared to other media like television, radio or print media. Secondly, the entrepreneur can easily expand into the local, national and international market. Furthermore, there is no need to spend valuable resources on the sales force. Lastly, the entrepreneur can easily track his or her success and thereafter modify it according to their needs. In other words, internet marketing inculcates a sense of accountability in the advertiser, which in its turn increases the return on investment.
Now from the customer’s point of view, it provides detailed information about the product. The availability of requisite information making decision-making process a lot easier for the customer.
On the downside, it is quite intricate for those entrepreneurs who are not well-accustomed with the working of the internet. Here written words are more important than spoken words. The design and content of the website play a massive role. The entrepreneur may lose his customers if the website is not properly designed or if the customer struggles to download the information due to the complexity of the web page. At times, slow internet connections also make entrepreneurs to lose their money. Moreover, inadequate development of electronic payment methods also mars the effectiveness of internet marketing campaigns.
Most customers who avoid buying from the internet do so because firstly they cannot touch, smell or taste the product before buying, and secondly, they face problems while returning the product that they don’t like. These two factors also ruin the impact to a great extent.
Security lapse is another snag associated with internet marketing. Recently, some companies involved in online business have been caught selling customer information. These incidents prompted many customers to stay away from online companies. Customers are still hesitant in spite of assurances and installation of foolproof methods.
Despite the drawbacks, internet marketing is garnering huge profits for several industries particularly banking and music industries. Flea markets have virtually perished. Unique items, which were available only in the flea markets once upon a time, can be found on any online auction sites.
In fact, traditional marketing media as television, newsprint, etc. are also losing money due to the soaring popularity of online marketing. According to a report, in the year 2006, US companies spent $17 billion on online campaigns. If we try to confiscate the drawbacks, internet marketing can prove to be a potent tool to convert prospective customers into permanent customers and to engender endless streams of profit.