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Marketing is one area of business where the development of communication technology has been most keenly felt. You have already come across changes in marketing practices triggered by modern communication technology in several earlier readings. This reading looks a little more closely at digital marketing, that is, the conduct of marketing practices through electronic means. Although not all organisations make extensive use of new communication technologies in their marketing practices, this is becoming increasingly important for many.

The way in which consumers and marketers use electronic media has changed significantly in recent years. The internet has shifted from being seen as a medium through which consumers hunt for bargains, to a means of providing enhanced service and building consumer relationships. Consumers no longer just consume information. they now create it too. The reach and complexity of communication has also been transformed from one-way broadcast to many to-many conversations. This has shifted the focus and power of online communications to consumers, offering new opportunities and challenges for marketers. We will examine some of the possibilities, implications and potential pitfalls of online marketing for businesses. The reading starts with a short examination of digital marketing and e-commerce and then looks in a bit more detail at marketing using social media, a fast growing area of marketing practice.

e-commerce and m-commerce

As you have already learned in earlier readings, electronic commerce (e-commerce) and mobile commerce (m-commerce) – using the internet and mobile devices or smartphones to do business – are increasingly features in business today. Although e-commerce still only represents a relatively small proportion of the world’s entire business its importance is growing for many organisations. In 2014 the number of people worldwide who owned a mobile phone for the first time exceeded that number of people who had access to a desktop computer. These channels have enabled the direct distribution of goods and services as companies are able to contact consumers directly via their computers, mobile devices or smartphones. For example, you may have been contacted by a range of companies offering special deals or seeking to extend their customer relationship after you have perhaps stayed in a hotel, bought a car, sought insurance quotations or used a gift voucher for a leisure activity. Although internet access varies across the globe, access is growing and enabling companies increasingly to trade internationally. The ways in which companies conduct their business through e-commerce or m-commerce reflects on their brands, Digital marketing consumers are not simply functional transactions, but marketing communications that influence consumers’ perceptions, trust and relationship with companies and their brands. In many cases, internet-based interactions between businesses and consumers replace or supplement the in-store experience. Many companies therefore try to recreate the ambiance or service that consumers would experience face-to-face, for example through the design of their websites and opportunities to tailor search options or explore the available offerings with content reinforcing the brand’s values and heritage. As well as building long-term relationships with existing customers, businesses need to ensure that potential customers can find them easily online. When consumers use a search engine to seek particular goods or services, where a company appears in the results listing may determine whether or not its website is viewed. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website/web page via unpaid “organic” or “algorithmic” search results. It involves considering how search engines operate and which search engines and search terms target consumers use.