Online Marketing There Is a Convergence Thesis

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¶ … Online Marketing

There is a convergence of important trends taking place today that has fueled this author's interest in online marketing. The first noteworthy trend is the growing recognition that global warming and diminishing sources of fossil fuels are going to demand alternative and "greener" approaches to consumer products in the future. The second important trend has been the proliferation of online retail outlets that offer the widest range of consumer goods in history, with virtually any type of consumer product now being available from auctions sites, clearinghouse-type sites such as Craigslist.com and Amazon.com as well as billions of organizational Web sites. The convergence of these two trends has helped fuel the growth of the online retail store of which this author is a cofounder and current co-owner that specializes in a wide range of consumer products, including solar-powered and home improvement items. While these types of online retail outlets continue to increase in popularity among American consumers, there are a number of factors that must be taken into account in launching and administering an online retail store in order to ensure its success. To this end, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature to identify what aspiring entrepreneurs should know preparatory to launching their own online marketing enterprise, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

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TOPIC: Thesis on Online Marketing There Is a Convergence of Assignment

The online retail store of which this author is cofounder and co-owner currently enjoys monthly revenue of about $100,000 and has five employees. The enterprise markets a wide range of consumer products, including heavy-duty tools, various solar products including solar lights and pumps; patio products such as patio heaters, as well as a choice selection of medical and car products. The store typically markets its range of merchandise using online auction sites such as eBay and Amazon, but the enterprise also maintains a user-friendly and constantly updated organizational Web site as well. The selection of an online retail setting for this enterprise is highly congruent with Black's (2005) observation that, "Online marketing has become, and will continue to become, a full and complete business model for some companies. Internet firms such as Amazon.com, eBay, Yahoo!, and Netscape have proven that this type of business model can succeed. Research suggests that online sellers are making successful efforts to increase consumer usage of their Web sites" (p. 50).

Competition in all of these product categories, though, is fierce and in order to succeed where others fail, it is vitally important to understand what people want and how they prefer to go about acquiring it. In this regard, Black (2005) emphasizes that, "Advances in technology and increasing ease of using the Internet are leading to a proliferation of online business. Consumers with access to computers can now research products easily and in a fraction of the time required in the past. However, a considerable gap exists between the practice of Internet-based marketing and sound theory-based insights and principles for guiding that practice" (p. 50). Indeed, some of the items offered by this author's online retail store such as the heavy-duty tools, for example, require a marketing approach that can help replace the "look-and-feel" of these products that consumers enjoy in a brick-and-mortar setting. A good example of this issue that is that while most hammers are much the same in design and function, most consumers in the market for a hammer would still like to pick them up and see how they feel in their hand and swing it a couple of times to determine if it is a good choice for their purposes. To help recreate this aspect in an online setting, at least one good picture or two of the merchandise is absolutely required and a comprehensive and accurate description of its physical dimensions and features is also needed. While Web sites allow consumers to purchase items immediately, in auction listings, it is also important to provide customers and potential customers with the ability "buy now" rather than place a bid as well as to easily request additional information concerning a specific product, return policies, volume discounts and so forth that might not be otherwise readily available in the main Web site or auction listings. In this regard, Hagel and Armstrong (1999) emphasize that savvy online marketers provide the following features in their online advertising content: "Online, an individual can see an advertisement, click on it to obtain more information, and either ask for material to be sent to an e-mail box or, in many cases, order immediately online" (p. 140).

A decision must also be made whether to design, develop and launch a Web site in-house or to outsource this requirement to a third-party provider. In the past, these aspects of operating an online retail store were more complicated but a number of Internet service providers now provide a set of comprehensive design tools that can be used by almost anyone in designing and developing their own attractive and fully functional Web site that make this decision easier (Parrish, 1999). Nevertheless, some entrepreneurs who lack any substantive experience with the Internet (if there are any left out there!) may want to consider enlisting the assistance of professional Web site designers to help them with their initial design and development efforts until the gain the experience and expertise they will need to keep the site up-to-date and functional. In addition, because online marketers want and need to know what their customers are buying and when they are buying it, it is important to integrate some type of customer relationship management tools into the Web site as well that may be beyond the ability of even seasoned online marketers that will require the assistance of Web site consultants. According to Calvert (2008), "Not surprisingly, marketers want to know who is visiting their Web sites to find out how effective their marketing strategies are. Using so-called cookies, or electronic bits of data placed on a computer from a Web site, coupled with registration forms to those sites, marketers can create an extensive data file about each individual user's preferences for places and products" (p. 205).

Auction listings, of course, do not require this level of expertise but there are still a number of important factors to take into account to ensure that listed items sell because online marketers are charged a fee whether their items sell or not. To help identify what products are selling well, who is selling them and how they are selling them, online auctioneers can review a complete listing of completed sales on sites such as eBay by clicking on the "completed auction" feature in which all completed auctions for the past 2 weeks are listed. A thorough review of auction listing for like products can provide the novice entrepreneur with a good idea of what works and what does not, and what price ranges are being successfully charged for similar merchandise.

Likewise, it is useful to keep track of how many shoppers are viewing an auction listing to gauge its effectiveness in attracting potential buyers and this data should be analyzed post-sale to identify what marketing approaches are most effective and where opportunities for improvement exist. Auction sites such as eBay provide sellers with this type of valuable information in their "My eBay feature" that monitors all of the seller's activity on eBay. This feature contains a listing of all of the items currently being auctioned, items that have been sold, the shipping addresses for the customers of all completed sales, as well as messages from potential bidders concerning auction listings. Perhaps one of the most important factors in attracting and finalizing sales in auction sites such as eBay is to use the features and tools these sites provide to their maximum advantage. For example, one of the seller tips offered by eBay is to use all of the 55 characters allowed for listing titles and to include as many applicable keywords in the titles as possible in order to get buyers to review an auction listing in the first place (Top 10 tips, 2009). Rather than listing a solar-power patio lamp, for example, as "FAB! Hot item! Patio Lamp!!! Must see!!!!!," a superior listing title would simply be, "Attractive Solar-Powered Patio or Deck Lamp. Fully Automatic." This latter listing title contains essential key words and is sufficiently descriptive to attract potential buyers who might just skip on by the former listing example.

Conclusion

The research showed that online retailing has moved from its infancy just a few years ago to become a major component of retail sales today and all signs indicate that these trends will continue to accelerate in the future. Indeed, the use of a Web site to promote a company's products or services is about as close to a "no-brainer" as it gets in marketing today, but for enterprises that rely on online approaches exclusively, there are some important factors to take into account to help ensure success. These factors were shown… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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