It’s been 25 years since CERN made the Word Wide Web technology available to everyone royalty free. The internet has come a long way since then, now allowing us to look at photos of other people’s food, watch animals do silly things, keep up with your friends and family, and order things from the comfort of the sofa.
By changing the way people buy, the internet has changed marketing.
As a result, businesses have had to change the way they market themselves and sell to take advantage of the latest technology and consumers shopping habits.
Those that failed to do that went out of business, such as HMV (though they have since returned), Jessops, Comet, and Woolworths, who all disappeared from the British high street in the past few years.
Let’s take a more detailed look at how the internet has changed marketing.
How the internet has changed marketing with Websites
Anyone can set up a website now, which has given businesses an easy way to reach their target audience and explain how their products and services can solve their problems.
When someone recognises a want or need, their search for the solution will often begin online.
In 2014, research found that 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase.
If your company hasn’t got a website, your target audience are unlikely to find out. As consumers we’re quite lazy and want businesses to provide us with all the information for us to peruse at our leisure, rather than us having to go through the yellow pages, or walk up and down the high street trying to find someone who sells what we’re looking for.
In fact, we don’t even want to work that hard to find information when we’re searching for it on the internet from the comfort of our home.
The research process often involves reading or watching reviews from professionals and fellow consumers to help us evaluate which product is best for us. A study in 2014 found that 61% of people read product reviews before making a purchase.
There are multiple places we can find reviews for products we’re searching for, including:
- Websites that sell the product / service – both your actual website, and third-party sites you may sell through like Amazon or Etsy
- Impartial review sites like TripAdvisor, or Yell
- Social media
- Search Engines
All of these things allow us to figure out which product will meet our need, and we will probably spend more time watching reviews than actually looking at the product on the seller’s website.
On top of all of this, businesses now need to make sure that they have a responsive website to fit the demands of consumers. In the UK, the smartphone is the most popular device people use to access the internet. Those businesses who don’t keep up and have a responsive website could find themselves falling behind.
Without the internet you couldn’t: order presents online, buy a DVD cheaper than it’s sold for in physical stores, buy a book and begin reading it in seconds, or order takeaway food without having to speak to someone on the other end of the phone.
The internet has allowed business owners to escape the risk and expensive costs of owning a physical shop. A website is cheaper in comparison, and allows businesses to reach more people.
Physical stores are geographically restricted, but on the internet you can reach and sell to people all over the globe. On top of that, you can sell or receive enquiries 24/7.
For business owners, a website is an absolute no brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to be able to receive orders outside of business owners and not be restricted by your location?
Business can reach more people, and customers can shop without leaving the house – everyone’s a winner.
How the internet has changed marketing using advertising
The first advertising banner went live in 1994, and Google AdWords was born in 2000, allowing businesses to advertise and reach their target audience based on the keywords they searched for and the websites they visited.
Online advertising isn’t limited to search engines and websites anymore, adverts are now found on:
- Social networks
- In apps
- Music streaming services, like Spotify
- On devices – Amazon’s Kindle Fire shows adverts on the lock screen unless you pay to remove them
Businesses can now target and retarget their audience with adverts based on their demographics, websites they’ve visited, things they’ve searched for, and more.
Social media provides businesses with yet another way to reach, target, and communicate with their audience.
As well as allowing businesses to communicate with their audience, it’s another way of encouraging your audience to visit your website.
Businesses can also use social media as a customer service method, meaning they can quickly address and resolve issues without the customer having to send an email or make a phone call. As well as helping individual customers with their issue, it can also make the company look good if they handle it particularly well.
Social commerce even allows people to buy a product without even visiting the businesses website.
While email was certainly around long before the internet, email marketing as we know it today wouldn’t exist without the internet. Without it, how would businesses collect contact information?
Email marketing has evolved to allow businesses to do a lot, such as:
- Letting customers know about special offers
- Introducing new products and services
- Making personalised recommendations based on previous purchases or searches
- Share tips to get more out of a product and service
- Encourage customers to leave reviews and refer others
- Invite people to events
… and it works!
One of the best things about using the internet for marketing is that you can nearly always track your activities and ask yourself ‘so what?’ This means businesses can easily identify what activities are working well, which ones aren’t, which helps them to learn more about their audience and market to them better.
The internet has changed marketing, the way businesses sell, and the way people buy hugely, and it’s still continuing to do so. Successful businesses will be ones who keep up with the way that consumers are buying.
It’s interesting to think about how this blog post might read in another 20 years time? How do you think the internet may change marketing in the future?
You can find more useful posts about marketing in our blogs.
If you have any marketing needs for your business, why not contact our friendly team to see how we could help you? We offer no obligation initial meetings, so we can have a real talk about your aims, and how we may be able to get you there.