The World Wide Web: Its impact on marketers. This paper discusses how the World Wide Web (WWW) is currently affecting marketers, and looks at the important concerns that marketers must consider in order to use WWW effectively. The paper will define WWW as a multimedia medium, and look at its impact on the development of a marketing plan. 1 WWW as a Multimedia Medium. WWW, and the browsers that are available to interact with WWW, are a truly multimedia medium. Multimedia is defined as follows: Multimedia is the use of a computer to present and combine text, graphics, audio and video with links and tools that let the user navigate, interact, create and communicate. WWW allows for the use of text, pictures, sound and video, and with the use of a browser, the user can interact with WWW taking advantage of its hypermedia capabilities. The user can access any information that is available on WWW assuming s/he has a multi- media PC that has the MPC2 specifications. 2 Marketing. The American Marketing Association (AMA) states that "Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives." In other words, marketing is determining who your customers are, determining what they want, and providing it for them in order to satisfy your customers' needs/desires as well as your own objectives (profit). In order to achieve this marketers develop marketing plans that delineate the requirements that are needed for the product to be successful. These plans will include (but will not be limited to) a description of the target market, and the marketing mix, which incorporates product issues, promotional issues, distribution issues and price issues. The remainder of this paper will look at each of these individually and assess the impact and usefulness of WWW on each. 2.1 Target Market. A target market is a group of individuals or businesses who are (potential) customers for your product. In order for WWW to be effective the target market(s) of the organization must have access to WWW. This is currently the major obstacle in taking full advantage of WWW. Latest estimates are that *** people have access to WWW. The effectiveness of WWW will vary depending upon whether the organization is marketing a consumer product (a product intended for consumption by the final consumer) or a business to business product (a product intended for other organizations). 2.1.1 Consumer Markets: WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Direct has identified a group of consumers it has described as Technology-Savvy Consumers, or Techno-Savvies. These are consumers that are primarily male and average 42 years old, are 77% married, have average household incomes of $53,800, live in single family dwellings within 20 minutes of a big city, and use personal computers (48% use them daily). The Techno-Savvy group would be an ideal target market for products marketed through WWW. Other target markets include students and younger children who are more computer literate than other generations. In the future, more target markets will have access to WWW as it pervades our society. Assuming its perception as a rich source of product information becomes apparent, it may become the medium of choice when looking for product information. The location of the target market is also important. If the target market is widely dispersed, then WWW presence is important as location is not a concern for WWW (assuming Internet connectivity). If the target market is clustered in one area then WWW presence may not be necessary. 2.1.2 Business to Business Markets: Using WWW to target your customers in a business to business setting is intuitively appealing. Many organizations have access WWW; it can be used to display information, including product ordering. It can become a part of an inventory control system as information can be displayed in real time, and is accessible to all customers that have access to WWW, this will also help in marketing the organization's products to new customers. 2.2 Product. The type of product that can take advantage of WWW is important to understand. For reasons we will explore, Wrigley's would not realize any benefits by developing a homepage for its chewing gum, but Chrysler will for its Neon automobile. Whether or not a product will benefit from WWW depends on its target market (do they have WWW access, see above), the decision making process of the consumer and the type of product. 2.2.1 The decision making process. Consumers will go through either extensive decision making, limited decision making or no decision making (impulse purchase, chewing gum) before making a purchase. If a consumer goes through extensive decision making, then s/he requires as much information about the product as possible. WWW allows marketers to display this information so that the consumer is more knowledgeable about the product before they enter the retail environment (car show room) to make the purchase. This can also reduce both the work of the salespeople of the organization, since the consumer already has much of the necessary information, and the legwork of the customer since s/he can narrow his/her choice before going to the showroom(s). Another important factor to consider is the stage of the consumer's product adoption process. Adopting a product means the consumer will purchase that product whenever a need for that type of product occurs. Before a consumer adopts a product, s/he will go through the following steps: Awareness Interest Evaluation Trial Adoption WWW is not useful in making consumers aware of a product because it is unobtrusive. The nature of unobtrusive information is such that consumers have to seek it out; if they are not aware of the product, they will not seek out the information. However the information on WWW is very useful for consumers who are interested in and evaluating products because it is an information rich source. Therefore WWW is useful for companies that are competing for these consumers. 2.2.2 Type of product. Certain products, due to their technological nature, are expected to have a presence on WWW. Companies that market this type of product (computers, electronics etc.) are at a competitive disadvantage if their competitors have WWW presence. This is also important because the typical target market for this type of product accesses WWW. 2.3 Promotion. Promotion is used to inform prospective buyers about the benefits of the product, persuade them to try it and remind them later about the benefits. There are four elements in the promotional mix: advertising, sales promotion, publicity and personal selling. 2.3.1 Interactive media Personal selling is currently the only element of the promotional mix that allows for interactivity, with the sales representative being the medium of communication. The following is a diagram of the promotional process (not including personal selling) using traditional forms of media (TV, Radio, Flyers, Billboards etc.): Source--------->----------Media----------->------TM ^ | | | | | | | ----------------<---Feedback----------------------- Feedback takes place outside the medium, therefore there is no direct feedback as to the effectiveness of the communication. Marketers can attempt to improve this by using 1-800 #s in their promotions but this is limited in accuracy. Another fault of this system is that the information the consumer receives is determined by the marketer. The marketer determines the information requirements of its consumers by making assumptions regarding their informational needs and broadcasts this information to mass audiences. Using WWW as the medium of communication changes the promotional model: Source-------<>---------WWW-------<>-----Consumer Consumers can interact with the company through the medium, allowing for direct feedback. Therefore, marketers can directly determine consumers' responses and can offer more information based on individual customer needs. This is similar to personal selling but as cost effective as advertising. Essentially, individual consumers design the message based on their informational needs, framed around the information provided by the marketer. Marketers can also directly determine the effectiveness of their communications, as well as determine the needs of individuals within their target market(s). This is a working model for the future of advertising. 2.3.2 Unobtrusive medium Using WWW to promote your product is unobtrusive. This means the customer must access WWW to be able to retrieve the information. Traditional broadcast advertising is obtrusive in as much as it appears in the breaks of shows you are listening to or watching. As the consumer you can either view/listen to the promotion or change the channel on the medium or tune it out. Because WWW is unobtrusive, the audience will pay attention to the information that s/he receives since s/he has made a conscious decision to access it. It is up to the marketer to encourage the consumer to access this information. To do this the marketer must create an effective "advernet" plan: 1 Determine ways to promulgate pointers to the marketer's homepage where the potential customers will be exposed to them, i.e. include references to the homepage in traditional advertisements. 2 Employ graphics, sound, and video to enhance the potential customer's experience (make it fun), encouraging him/her to return to the site and mention it to friends. 3 Exploit the novelty of this medium by making a potential customer feel that s/he is getting the latest product information while using the latest technology. 2.4 Distribution. The distribution aspect of the marketing mix is concerned with making products available when and where the target market is likely to want to purchase them. This is called adding time and place utility to the product. Since WWW displays product information in real time, 24 hours a day, and displays this information wherever a consumer has access to WWW, it does offer time and place utility. In fact there are a number of Emalls (Electronic malls) that are available on WWW for consumers to make purchases. There are, however, two issues that must be resolved before WWW truly becomes a medium for distribution. These issues concern the security of transactions and the anonymity of the vendor. 2.4.1 Security of the transaction: Software companies are in the process of developing software that allows for secure money transactions. Until customers' perceptions of security are resolved through these developments, customers will be hesitant to make purchases in this manner. To address this issue marketers will display product information and leave a 1 800 # that will actually facilitate the transaction. 2.4.2 Anonymity of vendor: Anyone who can set up a homepage on WWW can, in theory, display information that gives the impression that they are a retailer of a specific product. Until there is a mechanism that can verify that the vendor is who it says it is a customer can not be certain. The customer could be sending money to someone posing as a Sony salesperson who actually simply has computer resources, knowledge and a large swiss bank account :). 2.5 Price. Price is the element of the marketing mix that is least impacted by WWW, unless the actual transaction takes place through WWW. In that instance price may be reduced for to offer incentive to customers to use WWW to make the purchase. This can happen because a transaction that is facilitated via WWW is less expensive than a transaction in a retail store, that saving is passed onto the consumer.