Saturday, May 15, 2010

Online Marketing: It's time to join hands

Rohit Arora, TAPMI

Internet has emerged as a prominent tool for marketing against the conventional offline methods in last few years. There is no doubt on the fact that online marketing has been accepted widely as one of the most promising tools for marketing since then. Still, in spite of its wide reach and low cost it has been somehow restricted to online companies only. A majority of offline businesses have not really accepted the fast growing digital world to promote their products and offline methods are still the first choice there.

A survey report by shows that the advertisement expenditure on internet is very low in comparison to the offline media expenditures like T.V. and print advertisements. And among the leading supporters of online marketing channels, IT sector spends the highest amount on online advertisements. FMCG sector, consumer durables and consumer utilities sector which account for around 70% of the total ad expense account for a share of mere 30% in online ad expenditures.



If we divide our customers into two segments - those who use internet and those who do not. The companies by selecting either of the strategies over the other lose out on any one of the segments. Integration of both the online and offline efforts of marketing, would not only allow the companies to extend their reach to all erstwhile untapped customers but also to communicate better and maintain a good long relationship with the existing customers.

A survey of 2300 internet users conducted by iProspect with JupitorResearch in 2007 showed that 67% of online search users are driven to perform searches as a result of exposure to some offline channel and 39% of them bought the product they were seeking. The same study also found that 68% of people use a part or the full name of the company/product or the service in the search engines to find the desired result. The results show that most of the offline materials don't really help the customers to find the company's Web site. People who already search online and take the pain of looking for the product using a search engine without guidance can be easily targeted by the companies by providing clear, explicit directions.

Integrating the efforts

As of now, attempts by any traditional brick and mortar company to advertise their online proposition have been mostly limited to incidental advertising where the website URL is added as a footnote with no attempt to drive a web response. Same stands true for the purely web based companies who clearly neglect the potential of offline marketing. Apart from a few exceptions like, etc. most of the online companies forgo the opportunity to avail the effective offline channels.

Offline media for marketing like T.V., radio and print media are still the most effective channels to grab customer mindshare, albeit much costlier than online media. But if the cost involved can be justified by the increase in number of online traffic and increased awareness among the customers then why restrict the marketing efforts to online media only?

At the same time, the amount of information that can be provided by a website regarding the product can never be communicated by a 20 second commercial or a print advertisement. Most of the internet users were prompted to use search engines for product or company information by the lack of same in offline advertisements.


But the curiosity so generated is momentary and hence can be lost if the customer doesn’t find the appropriate website within a time period.

Internet based promotions make an impact on both customer and business-to-business marketing. Today’s marketers must use an optimal mix of integrated online and offline promotional techniques.

Quaero & ESPN’s approach combines both the online and offline sources, to develop the most holistic view of the customer possible. It integrates offline data from ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Shop, Rewards Card, and demographics, with all online sources such as pages and video viewed, activity level, ads viewed and clicked, geography, domain, operating system language, etc.

The integrated database provides ESPN a complete view of customer activities and behavior. The data and all the resulting analytics are then used to enhance customer interactions.

A very successful initiative to integrate online efforts with brick and mortar business was the ‘Gang of Girls’ initiative by Sunsilk in year 2006. By March 2007, the number of registered members in the website had crossed the half million mark, with almost 30,000 gangs. According to HLL, the initiative had resulted in both increase in sales and market share.

Similarly, a retail shop can encourage its customers to visit its website where they can discuss the value offerings with other consumers, provide feedback, rate the products, join various communities, communicate their expectations, play games and can be informed about the latest additions in the shop.

The main focus of the website here is not to make the sale but to drive the same customers towards the physical location of the shop. It will not only help in retaining the current customers but will also help in making new customers online, through socialization and word of mouth publicity.

Ineffective Integration

Most of those companies which have tried to integrate their online and offline marketing efforts have not been cautious enough while implementing it. Their advertisements either failed to direct the viewer towards the correct URL or were wasted because of lack of useful data on the website.

While companies use internet as a medium to increase awareness about their products and building brand image, engaging the customers in different activities have not been among the prime agendas of their online marketing activities.

Few of the other common mistakes which companies need to avoid while integrating their marketing efforts are:



Product website more of a trend than a marketing tool

· URL published with advertisement not properly highlighted

· Discontented consumers owing to poorly designed website loaded with irrelevant information. Using URL just to count the number of visitors in order to find out the effectiveness of the advertisements.

Mistakes like improper information on the website can make a large impact in integrated marketing because the advertisements direct the users to a world where every bit of information is just a single click away. Absence of a customer-oriented website may push the customer towards alternatives making it important to plan properly before integrating the two biggest channels of marketing.

Famous American writer Jared Sandburg wrote, “One of the Internet's strengths is its ability to help consumers find the right needle in a digital haystack of data.” It’s just a matter of time when the industry will realize the need to guide consumers towards the search of that needle. Marketers of future will need to look for innovative pathways to reach their customers and integration will definitely be one of them.

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