Of all the industries, whose methods and practices have been turned upside-down by the Internet, B2C marketing has arguably experienced, and enjoyed, the greatest changes. Customer profiling, response analysis, transactional messaging, recommendation engines – with all these tools available, B2C marketers have never had it so good.
But… how much has the new technology altered the basics of what marketing really is? The answer is: not much.
While the fundamentals remain the same, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can still apply them in the same way. The world of e-commerce has certainly broken down some of the old established truths, so every now and again it is worth stepping back and taking a fresh look at what you learned about B2C marketing through the lens of technology.
The 4 Ps of Marketing in the Internet Age
In practical terms, this means revising the old marketing processes, concepts and emphasis and reconstructing them into new forms that are more appropriate for the new world of communications.
As an example, we can consider McCarthy’s famous ‘4 Ps’ classification, which has provided a standard method of describing marketing programs for over 50 years.
The first P is for Product. Here the Internet can be the medium for purchase (e.g. typical online retailers) or the medium for the product itself (social media, cloud storage, etc.).
In the first case, you need to make up for the loss of the physical shop experience: touching the product, trying it on/out, speaking to the shop assistant. So make sure you have enough images, or even better a video, and have a clearly visible forum for questions. And of course think about the cross-selling opportunities. Very few products are used in complete isolation, so there is no excuse not to give the customer the benefit of your experience in terms of what other customers have also bought.
If the product is itself Internet-based, even better. You can offer trial versions, demos, upgrades…the opportunities are endless. But whatever product you are marketing, don’t forget the search engines! The best presentations are worthless if customers cannot find you and this is the task for SEO-copywriting, which brings us on to the next P.
Promotion is where the Internet really comes into its own. Search-engine optimization (SEO) is a must-have for all online businesses and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is also a very cost-effective tool. And of course social media and email are great ways to get your products known.
However, keep abreast of the latest social network trends. Tapping into this huge resource can be as dangerous as it is rewarding, and the trick is to let the network members promote your products for you. By all means create profiles in all relevant social media resources, and become involved in their activities (engaging in groups, adding friends, commenting, etc.), but don’t fool yourself that you are in complete control of how your products are presented and discussed.
Don’t be afraid to put prices of goods and services on your web site and in promotional materials. It has been shown that that promotional content with price information, whether text ads, banners or anything else, has a higher response and conversion rate. And since price is usually the defining criterion when customers browse for products you will do yourself no favors by hiding it.
In this context, Place means positioning in the major search engines. Most online businesses actively invest in SEO, either in-house or outsourced, and this is probably the single most important factor when it comes to planning your B2C marketing strategy. Promotion through advertising display, using media advertising and banners as promotional material can also be extremely effective if they are properly prepared and implemented.
So, a lot of the old marketing concepts are still alive and well in the Internet age. But there are also a number of innovations that have indeed changed the landscape for eMarketers. Over the past few years, companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have revolutionized the online advertising market, offering services for local advertising and communications for small and medium business.
Return on investment has increased while costs became lower. This type of marketing has become the basis of modern capitalism, allowing anyone who has an idea, product or service to reach a global audience, regardless of how specialized their market it.
Another new element in eMarketing is Big Data – the ability to collect, analyse and act on enormous amounts of customer and product information. Already, recommendation engines are making inroads into eMarketing strategies and the goal of reliable, predictive one-to-one marketing is no longer seen as a pipe dream.
In conclusion, the Internet may be changing the way we market our products, but it hasn’t changed why we market them. The old concepts still hold true, but there is no turning back from the new methods that marketing technology make possible. As technology continues to grow and evolve, so must the B2C marketing landscape.