Opportunities for the use of Internet and Digital Media for Marketing

Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to analyse the use of the internet and digital media in relation to the specific individual elements of marketing. According to the Charted Institute of Marketing (2015), marketing is defined as ‘the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably’ (p.3). Forsey (2018) takes this a step further as marketing is broken down into six broad categories, product development, market research, product distribution, sales strategy, public relations, and customer support. Taking these different categories into account, there are a variety of ways in which the elements, market research, public relations and customer support have been affected by the internet and digital media.

Market Research

According to Hague (et.al, 2004) without carrying out effective and efficient market research, companies of all sizes cannot hope to be successful in their marketing strategy (p.4). As time has moved on and technology has advanced, particularly the internet and in turn digital media, methods of carryout market research have changed. These changes can be shown through a variety of different methods. Firstly, according to the Global Internet Report (2017) over 3.5 billion people across the globe now have access to the internet. This has therefore given companies that use the internet to carry out market research an unlimited sample size for their research. Differing methods of gathering research can be broadcasted worldwide to thousands of potential customers at once through the digital media platforms of email and social media. An example of this can be shown through the technological giant Apple. In 2011 the company launched a new site called the ‘Apple Customer Pulse’. This site allowed targeted users of Apple’s products to submit instant feedback to Apple after receiving an email invite from the company (Ong, 2011). This idea of companies receiving instant digital responses for internet market research is expanded upon through Patino (et.al, 2012).It is suggested that internet research can be collected quickly and easily whilst also minimising the need for the traditional methods of market research as they can be time consuming and expensive. The cost of carrying out market research is also an important factor when discussing the impact of digital media and the internet. This is because these traditional forms such as focus groups, face to face interviews and ethnographies can be significantly more expensive than methods using the internet. (Wilson and Laskey, 2003)

By using digital media for market research, it can also allow for the compiling of constant data and real-time insights at much less of a cost. Social listening allows for a researcher to collect constant data through monitoring what people are saying online and trends that are being set. (Crawford, 2009) An example of this is shown through hashtag searches on social media platform, Twitter. Using the site, researchers can set up different searches with hashtags in relation to a brand, industry or product. Instant notifications can then be received when customers, clients or competitors use these key terms. (Mishra 2017). This therefore, allows researchers to both identify current trends and anticipate any potential future trends in the market.

Digital media now allows researchers to segment their market in order to personalise digital marketing strategies to each individual specifically (Dawn 2014). Researchers can monitor customer habits on their site using web analytics, predictive algorithms and tracking software such as cookies. Then based on these customers habits, companies can contact each individual customer using common forms of personalised marketing such as emails, web content, recommendations and promotions. An example of one such strategy can be shown through global web retailer Amazon. When a customer buys a product on their website, an algorithm within the website then recommends similar products to the customer when they return to their homepage. Amazon also often emails the customer with the same information asking if they would like to purchase these similar products based on their previous purchasing habits (Srihari 2015). This emphasises just how significantly the internet and digital media has changed the way in which market research is carried out as each customer can now be segmented and marketed to specifically.

Public Relations

Public relations can be defined as the practice of managing communication between a business and its stakeholders, whilst also supporting marketing objectives (Forsey 2018). The internet and digital media have also had a significant impact on public relations and can be shown in varying ways. Firstly, the internet and digital media have given everyone the ability to share their viewpoint or an opinion on a particular subject with the whole world, in a matter of seconds. According to Papasolomou & Melanthiou (2012) this is both beneficial and detrimental to PR managers. Being able to reach hundreds or thousands of people in very little time makes PR managers jobs more straightforward, however, this can create difficulty if there was a company received some negative press. An example of this can be shown through the global clothing retailer Adidas. In 2017 they were responsible for sending an insensitive email to all the participants of the Boston Marathon. The subject line of the email read ‘Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon’. However, they failed to realise that it was just four years after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, and despite Adidas issuing an apology, recipients of the email voiced their displeasure on social media. This made the entire world aware of their error, thus damaging their global brand. (Windsor, 2018) This ­­­­emphasises how meticulous marketeers must be in the planning of marketing strategies and how fast PR managers are required to be in reaction to negative press.

The internet has also opened up the lines of communication much more between brands and key stakeholders. According to Bussy & Ewing (1998) these key stakeholders vary from business to business but often include customers, shareholders, investors, employees, suppliers, governments, and the media. This communication with these stakeholders has become known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and must be embraced in order for companies to remain competitive (Kim et.al, 2016). In the past, the lines of communication with stakeholders have been through traditional media such as press releases, radio and television. However, the internet has changed the way in which PR managers communicate with stakeholders. Digital media platforms such as Social media, blogs, websites, email and e-newsletters are all now prominent methods of communication and these methods allow stakeholders to communicate back. Gruing (2008) identifies this as the theory of two-way symmetrical communication and suggests it can be used to negotiate, resolve conflict and encourage mutual appreciation between a company and its stakeholders. An example of this can be shown through global coffee brand Starbucks. Taecharungroj (2015) analysed the communications strategy employed by Starbucks on the social media platform Twitter and concludes that social media can allow customers to form a relationship with a brand and promote brand loyalty. However, this is contrasted by Lovejoy (et.al, 2012) as after analysing 73 non-profit organizations social media activity, it was concluded that the country’s biggest non-profit companies are not using Twitter to maximize stakeholder involvement. They alternatively continue to use social media as a one-way communication channel. This shows that digital media does give brands the opportunity to build relationships with key stakeholders but not all are using it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Customer Support

One of the most important stakeholders in a company is the customers that buy or consume their product. Companies must satisfy the customer’s requirements through the delivery of high-quality service at all parts of the customer journey. (Bernazzani, 2018) The internet and digital media have had a significant impact on customer support and can be shown in varying ways. Firstly, there are many more communication channels available to customers because of the internet. Traditional methods of communication required customers to call a company or have to physically go to a company store if there was a problem with a product. Customers can now access various digital media platforms such as calls, emails, web chats, websites, blogs and social media to get in contact with some kind of customer support (Lemon & Verhoef, 2016).Businesses are now also launching their own mobile apps and user interfaces surrounding customer support. An example of this can be shown through the holiday booking service Booking.com. The business has launched its own user interface within its application available in mobile, tablet and desktop computer so that when a customer makes a booking, they can seamlessly connect with the hotel they have booked with and initiate any kind of conversation they would like. (Booking.com, 2016) This allows for much more ease of use for customers because these digital media platforms are often open 24 hours a day and can be accessed from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. This shows the importance that companies are now placing in customer support and the lengths that they are willing to go to in order to provide a high standard of service.

The internet has also given customers much more access to information. There are now digital media platforms that’s sole aim is to review specific products or brands in order to make any potential customers as informed as possible. An example of this can be shown through the website Trip Advisor. Ghazi (2017) examined the motivations as to why people post particularly negative reviews on the website and concluded that the overriding reason is that it is to warn other potential customers. Social media can also act in a similar way as a reviewing site as customers are openly sharing their likes, dislikes and experiences with brands and products on their own personal pages. It allows customers to get dozens of recommendations about a product quickly and can have a significant impact both positively and negatively on a business (Kim et.al, 2016). These varying different methods of gathering information about a brand or product make for a more knowledgeable customer base and puts them in control. Therefore, customers require that any issues with a product must be corrected with ease as they cannot be overlooked anymore.

Conclusion

Overall, it is clear that the internet and digital media has had a major impact on the different elements of marketing. As identified throughout the essay, the main ways in which these elements have been impacted is through the rapid access to a global audience, greater amounts communication channels and the customer becoming much more informed about a product or company. However, it is important to note that these impacts are not always positive. If companies do not use the tools that the internet and digital media offer efficiently and effectively then there is the potential to have a negative impact on companies of all sizes. Finally, the internet and different forms of digital media continuously developing and changing. It is key that businesses must always be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to market themselves to potential customers.

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