Internet marketing is the use of the Internet to advertise and sell goods and services. Internet Marketing includes pay per click advertising, banner ads, e-mail marketing, search engine marketing (including search engine optimization), blog marketing, and article marketing.
Definition and Scope
Internet marketing is a component of electronic commerce. Internet marketing can include information management, public relations, customer service, and sales. Electronic commerce and Internet marketing have become popular as Internet access is becoming more widely available and used. Well over one third of consumers who have Internet access in their homes report using the Internet to make purchases.
Internet marketing first began in the early 1990s as simple, text-based websites that offered product information. It then evolved into advertisements complete with graphics. The most recent step in this evolution was the creation of complete online businesses that use the Internet to promote and sell their services and goods.
Business Models and Formats
Internet marketing is associated with several business models. The main models include business-to-business and business-to-consumer (B2C). B2B consists of companies doing business with each other, whereas B2C involves selling directly to the end consumer. When Internet marketing first began, the B2C model was first to emerge. B2B transactions were more complex and came about later. A third, less common business model is peer-to-peer (P2P), where individuals exchange goods between themselves. An example of P2P is Napster, which is built upon individuals sharing files.
Internet marketing can also be seen in various formats. One version is name-your-price (e.g. Priceline.com). With this format, customers are able to state what price range they wish to spend and then select from items at that price range. With find-the-best-price websites (e.g. Hotwire.com), Internet users can search for the lowest prices on items. A final format is online auctions (e.g. Ebay.com) where buyers bid on listed items.
Some of the benefits associated with Internet marketing include the availability of information. Consumers can log onto the Internet and learn about products, as well as purchase them, at any hour. Companies that use Internet marketing can also save money because of a reduced need for a sales force. Overall, Internet marketing can help expand from a local market to both national and international marketplaces.
Limitations of Internet marketing create problems for both companies and consumers. Slow Internet connections can cause difficulties. If companies put too much information on their website, Internet users may struggle to load the web page. Also, Internet marketing does not allow shoppers to touch or try-on items before purchasing them.
For both companies and consumers that participate in online business, security concerns are very important. Many consumers are hesitant to buy items over the Internet because they do not trust that their personal information will remain private. Recently, some companies that do business online have been caught giving away or selling information about their customers. Several of these companies have guarantees on their websites, claiming customer information will be private. By selling customer information, these companies are breaking their own, publicized policy. Some companies that buy customer information offer the option for individuals to have their information removed from the database (known as opting out). However, many customers are unaware that their information is being shared and are unable to stop the transfer of their information between companies.
Security concerns are of great importance and online companies have been working hard to create solutions. Encryption is one of the main methods for dealing with privacy and security concerns on the Internet. Encryption is defined as the conversion of data into a form called a cipher. This cipher cannot be easily intercepted unless an individual is authorized by the program or company that completed the encryption. In general, the stronger the cipher, the better protected the data is. However, the stronger the cipher, the more expensive encryption becomes.
Effects on Industries
Internet marketing has had a large impact on several industries including music, banking, and flea markets. In the music industry, many consumers have begun buying and downloading MP3s over the Internet instead of simply buying CDs. The debate over the legality of downloading MP3s has become a major concern for those in the music industry.
Internet marketing has also affected the banking industry. More and more banks are offering the ability to perform banking tasks online. Online banking is believed to appeal to customers because it is more convenient then visiting bank branches. Currently, over 50 million U.S. adults now bank online. Online banking is now the fastest-growing Internet activity. The increasing speed of Internet connections is the main reason for the fast-growth. Of those individuals who use the Internet, 44% now perform banking activities over the Internet.
As Internet auctions have gained popularity, flea markets are struggling. Unique items that could previously be found at flea markets are being sold on Ebay.com instead. Ebay.com has also affected the prices in the industry. Buyers and sellers often look at prices on the website before going to flea markets and the Ebay.com price often becomes what the item is sold for. More and more flea market sellers are putting their items up for sale online and running their business out of their homes.
In November 2004, a lawsuit was filed against Bonzi Buddy software. The lawsuit alleged that Bonzi’s banner ads were deceptive. These ads often looked like Microsoft Windows message boxes. Internet users would run across the ads and when they attempted to close the boxes, they found themselves redirected to a website determined by Bonzi.
On May 27, 2005, Bonzi Buddy agreed to change the format of its ads so they did not resemble Windows message boxes. The boxes will now contain the word “Advertisement” so computer users know what they are looking at. The boxes will also no longer carry buttons that do not perform the correct actions.
Sales tax issues have also recently become debated. The current laws require that buyers of online products pay their state all due taxes on these goods at the end of the year, along with their other state taxes. However, most consumers do not appear to be making these payments. Thirteen states have now begun encouraging Internet businesses to collect sales tax on every sale. These states are currently not forcing the companies to collect the tax. However, it appears that if companies do not begin collecting the sales tax on their own, states will begin forcing the companies to do so. The states are claiming that each year they lose $15 billion in unpaid sales taxes associated with online purchases.
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