Contemporary marketing has evolved into a large concept which includes the aspect of “idea marketing”. As the definition of marketing has evolved, so has the need for marketers to use technology to support the process. This paper discusses global online marketing, its advantages, and the ethical dilemmas associated with its use. It also then discusses whether global online marketing can take over the traditional marketplace and whether this would prove to be beneficial for both consumers and marketers.
Marketing is an evolutionary concept which has been constantly growing over time, specifically in the more recent decades that have brought along significant technological change. While the definition of marketing has evolved in this era, so have the manner in which it is conducted and the mediums that it is conducted through (Rossiter, 2001). This significant change has caused the uprising of several questions which include has the meaning of marketing changed with the onset of the internet?, is the internet an ethical tool to use in attempting to persuade consumers to purchase products?, and whether online marketing has taken over the traditional marketplace and how?
This paper will focus upon the topic of global online marketing and whether this phenomenon has replaced the traditional marketplace. The paper will begin by focusing upon the changing definition of marketing and how technology has accommodated it, continue with an analysis of online marketing, the benefits provided to customers/marketers through online marketing, and the ethical dilemmas associated with its used. The paper will then analyse how global online marketing has become the norm and the benefits and/or consequences of it replacing the traditional marketplace along with recommendations regarding how the internet can be used to the consumer/marketers’ advantage and how its negative impact can be reduced. The paper will conclude with a summary of the main points mentioned
Evolution of the Definition of Marketing and its Impact on Technology:
Marketing has been a concept which has gradually outgrown its previous definitions as various external factors have affected the way it is interpreted and understood by marketers and scholars alike. While there is increasing debate regarding the definition of marketing, Peter & Olsen stress that most scholars in the discipline of marketing are satisfied with Kotler’s definition of marketing which says, “Marketing is human activity directed at satisfying needs and wants through exchange processes” (Kurzabard & Soldow, 2007, p. 37). However, for those who were slightly unsatisfied with this previous definition of marketing, the American Marketing Association described marketing as, “The process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, & distribution of ideas, goods, & services to create exchanges that satisfy individual & organizational objectives.”(Kurzbard & Soldow, 2007, p. 38).
However, most of the previous definitions applied to marketing, emphasized that the main goal of marketing was the exchange of goods and services (Kotler, 1972). Nonetheless, we often see people campaigning in the streets for support for a particular cause or we are approached by people who ask for donations for a particular charity. While we may have no particular association with the cause or the charity and we expect nothing in return from them personally, we are influenced or affected by the ideas presented to us. This can also be regarded as a form of “non-business marketing” and can be associated with Kotler’s classification of marketing into three levels of consciousness, the first regarding it as a business subject associated with buyers, sellers, & other economic products & services, and the second extending marketing as appropriate for all organizations that have customers (including non-profit organisations) (Kotler, 1972).
While the definition of marketing had previously evolved to include the activities of non-profit organizations seeking to gain customers/donaters/supporters, etc., it can now be classified to encompass much more than that. This is described by Kotler’s (1972) consciousness three which describes marketing as “an organisation’s attempt to appeal to its public, not only its consuming public”. While this level of marketing may not have been given a high level of support in 1972, contemporary business practices urge organizations to be socially responsible, encourage motivational behaviour with employees, and also require coordination with suppliers. Thus, it is now just as essential to market an organisation appropriately to employees, society, suppliers, the media, and several other stakeholder groups of the organisation.
Some stakeholder groups can be effectively dealt with personally, such as banks who are offering the organisation a loan. This institution can be personally marketed an idea which leads the bank officer to sanction the loan and would result in an exchange between the two parties as the bank gives the organisation money and the organisation agrees to pay the bank interest on the borrowed amount. However, how can the director of an organisation employing thousands of employees worldwide influence the employees to accept a new employment contract promoting a different combination of incentivesHow can he/she personally motivate them or congratulate them on a job well done?
Coming back to the traditional view of marketing as a profitable process between buyers and sellers, we can apply the following scenario. How can an organisation encourage an overweight customer to try a newly formed formula which would help her reduce her weight when she is not even aware of the product and perhaps the fact that she even requires itIt would first be essential for the organisation to form the idea within her mind that she is overweight and then inform her about the existing product. However, it is obvious that this task cannot be fulfilled in person as that might be considered rude and highly inappropriate. This is where technology intervenes and begins our discussion on the concept of “idea marketing” and global online marketing.
Global Online Marketing and its Advantages:
The evolving definition of marketing and the need of contemporary businesses to satisfy various stakeholder groups have led to the increased use of technology in marketing processes. Thus, as a business seeks to satisfy stakeholders or project certain ideas towards them, it uses the aid of technological tools such as portals, customer relationship management software, employee management software, and websites. A charity uses the aid of a website which informs all of its stakeholders regarding its cause, how it seeks to implement it, and all other parties that it is associated with. In the same manner, a business organisation uses the aid of a website to illustrate all of its processes including sections mentioning its relationship with its suppliers, social responsibility practices, and sections featuring its financial statements and the dividends paid to shareholders. Similarly, customer relationship management software is used to gauge and understand consumer wants, market potentially desired products to consumers, and facilitate communication between the organisation and the customer (Pines, Peppers, & Rogers, 2009).
While the internet aids in satisfying these needs of contemporary business organizations, it also serves the current definition of marketing which includes “idea marketing” and is said to have a core concern of “producing desired responses” (Kotler, 1972). Thus, while it would be difficult to convince an overweight customer that she needs to try a new weight loss formula or to attempt to sell an exceptionally revealing piece of lingerie to a woman who is conservatively dressed, doing this through online marketing would make it more convenient and acceptable to both the customer and the marketer. There may also be instances in which the customer may feel uncomfortable in walking into a store and asking the salesman which type of brassiere would make her breasts look more erector explaining the condition of a particularly nasty occurrence of acne on her upper thigh and asking what type of ointment would help cure it?
Online marketing would help in this regard as it enables open communication between the customer and the marketer and enables the marketer to expressly form ideas into the customer’s mind. As Kotler (1972) mentions, the marketer “seeks to influence” in any manner and then eventually seeks to “produce a desired response” which may be in the form of support for a cause or an idea or in the form of the purchase of a product.
Thus, global online marketing is usually conducted through social media platforms, websites, and personal email in certain situations. The marketer uses these platforms to illustrate their message with the aid of pictures, virtual demonstrations, and articles which may seek to persuade or inform the customer regarding various uses, benefits, and opinions regarding the product (Pires, Stanton, & Rita, 2006). This allows the flow of information from the marketer to the customer and allows convenience to both parties. For example, it is not easy for a marketer to stop people in the street and coerce them to view the design of a new mobile phone and ask them for their opinion on it. For all the marketer may know, the person may not be the least interested in mobile phones or may not need a new one. It is also then not easy to stop all of the people in the street and tell them about the various types of reviews that the newly designed phone has.
Accordingly, online marketing enables the marketer to efficiently and effectively aim at the target audience and project their message towards them. It also enables the marketer to give the customer as much information as they deem necessary in order to persuade the customer to support a particular idea or purchase a particular product. More importantly, it enables the marketer to quickly transmit this information to the customer such as in the instance of a sale or a contest occurring for a particular product or brand (Burton, 2001). As Kotler’s (1972) explanation of generic marketing and the strategies involved in producing a desired response from the customer includes designing the product in a more attractive manner, presenting the product to the customer on more attractive terms, adding symbolic significance to the product, and making the object more accessible, online marketing assists each of these processes. While online marketing helps the marketer provide the customer with information, illustrations, and persuasion of the product’s attractiveness and also mentions the terms on which the product can be bought or acquired (such as discounts or a giveaway contest), it can also help add symbolic significance to the product by featuring an article or video, showing the product being used by a celebrity or on a particular occasion. Moreover, it has enabled marketers to get feedback regarding their product and effectively communicate with customers through an economical platform. One very important function that online marketing is now performing for the marketer is making the product more accessible for the customer (Rossiter, 2001).
Through e-commerce, marketers have been able to target a large amount of consumers and made the product highly accessible through the click of a mouse. Thus, through the aid of cookies and through previous purchase behaviour, businesses are able to gather information regarding what the consumer needs or is interested in and then make customly designed offers which suit the customer’s needs. This has enabled an increase in sales and has also enabled the marketer to save costs which are associated with setting up and managing physical shops and employing large amounts of labour. As emphasized by Pines, Peppers, & Rogers (1995), it has also enabled marketers to anticipate consumer wants and personally develop a learning relationship with their customers by understanding what their customers need and enabling them to retain their customers forever. Online marketing enables mass customization in an economical manner, which is not a process that can be fulfilled in a traditional shop in a cost-effective manner and if done manually would probably lead to a confusing and disorganized situation (Gummesson, 2002).
However, global online marketing has not only facilitated the marketer, but has specifically empowered the customer as well according to Pires, Stanton, & Rita (2006). It enables the customer to ask questions and access information without the obstacle of embarrassment, lack of demonstration, and at their own leisure. Thus, while a traditional shop may close at 6 pm, a potential customer may require information regarding a product after he/she gets off from work. Online marketing enables the customer to easily and effectively gain this information through technological means at any time he/she pleases. Moreover, online marketing has enabled the customer to access as much information as he/she deems necessary and guide the marketer regarding his/her needs and demands. The customer is able to provide feedback and make comments regarding a product. Moreover, the customer is also able to customly design the type of product he/she needs or suggest the type of offer that would attract him/her towards purchasing a particular product. This enables the customer to take charge of his/her preferences and purchases and adds to the customer’s convenience. This is also said to result in a higher satisfaction level within consumers (Gummesson, 2002).
While there are numerous advantages of global online marketing, there are also certain disadvantages or ethical concerns associated with its use.
Ethical Concerns of Global Online Marketing:
While a consumer may significantly benefit from targeted offers which suit his/her needs/wants, it is also of concern, how marketers are able to make these offersOnline marketing software enables a marketer to install cookies on the consumer’s computer and keep track of the types of websites that the consumer regularly visits and the types of purchases he/she makes. Accordingly, while keeping track of the consumer’s behaviour, the marketer is able to show the consumer advertisements of offers that may interest him/her. However, how often have you opened a website and made a secret purchase which you did not want anyone to know aboutThen, how is it ethical for a business to know what you have been doing onlineThis raises the concern of privacy and plagues many consumers who are not highly enthusiastic about being followed online (Philip, 2000).
Moreover, how would you feel if you made a purchase of lovely pink bunny slippers online and the very next day when your friend was using your computer, an advertisement featuring a similar product popped upIt would most likely be a cause of immense annoyance and embarrassment which is also an ethical concern of global online marketing. It is deemed highly unethical to bombard consumers with advertising material when they are least expecting it or especially when they least desire it. Moreover, several studies have also claimed that bombarding a consumer with offers for a particular product when they do not desire such interruptions can lead to resentment towards the product and create a negative image of the product for the consumer. It is also highly inappropriate for organizations to bombard the consumer with advertisements when they are not sure whether the consumer is in appropriate company to view those advertisements or whether it is the appropriate occasion (Golding, 2000).
An additional ethical concern is the processing of online transactions which involves the collection of financial information such as credit card numbers and bank account details. Research has proven that 48% of consumers are highly suspicious of this process and refrain from online shopping because they are unwilling to divulge such information online. This is a major concern because some of this information is used unethically or fraudulently which then leads to severe consequences for the customer. Moreover, customers are also highly skeptical of online hackers who break into such websites and gain such financial information regarding consumers, thus then using it in a negative manner in order to cause the consumer financial loss. This is known as cyber crime (Fuat, 1997).
The dilemma of not knowing who you are communicating with and the credibility of the person/organisation is the main ethical concern which is highly distressing for customers and is a hinderance which organizations are attempting to overcome. Despite the ethical concerns of using online marketing, a large proportion of marketers/businesses have successfully adopted it and it is becoming increasingly accepted amongst consumers. It may be said that global online marketing is taking over traditional marketplaces.
Is Global Online Marketing Taking Over Traditional Marketplaces and Should It?
The use of online marketing is becoming widespread despite the initial reaction of consumers of suspicion regarding whether it can be ethically used or not. Allegedly, the concept has turned the whole world into a global marketplace as businesses are easily able to sell and market their products to customers in different countries. Many businesses have adopted the concept and made it the prime focus of selling/marketing to customers, an example is Amazon. While the concept has largely taken over the traditional concept of a marketplace and may be replacing the traditional marketplace at an increasing rate, there are many reasons why it cannot fully take over and also many reasons why it should not (Hunt, 1994).
The advantages of global online marketing include convenience, access to information, accessibility, ease of use, and access to a large market which can be targeted effectively. It also enables making partnerships with other firms on the basis of sharing data. However, the ethical dilemmas concerning it include privacy issues, suspicion regarding the revealing of financial details, and bombarding the customer with unwanted advertisements at inconvenient times. Similarly, the reasons that global online marketing cannot fully take over the concept of the traditional marketplace include the fact that half the world still does not have internet access and many businesses are targeting certain groups of consumers that are not privileged with access/knowledge of using the Internet. For example, consumers in many Third World countries and in other inaccessible areas do not have access to the Internet and are often even unaware of how to use a computer. It would be highly ineffective for a marketer to attempt to target and reach these audiences with online marketing. Another important reason that global marketplaces cannot take over traditional marketplaces is because some products require physical viewing and cannot be purchased after viewing online demonstrations or reading descriptions of the product. This may be specifically true in the case of automobiles or even in the case of clothes which need to be tried on before purchase. Moreover, while in some situations the client may feel more relaxed in talking about or asking questions about the product online, there are some sitatuons which require personal involvement and personal contact between the client and the marketer (Hunt, 1994). For example, many brides-to-be would not be highly happy about conversing with the computer regarding their preferred wedding dress and would appreciate personally talking to a sales representative.
While these are some of the reasons that online marketplaces cannot take over traditional marketplaces, there are also some reasons which suggest that this should not happen even if it is becoming the norm. First of all, online marketing is taking over the advantages of the value chain and is possibly taking over the concept of a retail store, thus putting many retail stores at a disadvantage. This can mean a loss of business for many people who are in this part of the value chain. Moreover, online marketing means that there is less need for physical labour and a different type of expertise required which may also significantly increase the rate of unemployment and may be a major concern (Woodall, 2001).
Another problem with online marketing is that the image it portrays to consumers and the manner in which it glamorously displays products coaxes many consumers to spend hard-earned money on products that they do not need. It often causes consumers to purchase goods that they would not have purchased otherwise and is a rising concern for many countries as it has led to problems of shopaholics. In other cases, consumers are often sold products that they thought were somethingelse or looked differently online, but were given products which are vastly different from their expectations (Woodall, 2001).
The paper discusses how the evolving definition of marketing has resulted in the need to use technology to support marketing practices. It has established that there are various advantages associated with using online marketing which include convenience, accessibility, and the amalgamation of essential information for both customer and marketer. However, the paper has also pointed out that there are certain disadvantages to the use of online marketing and reasons why it cannot take over the concept of a traditional marketplace.
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