Internet marketing differs significantly from conventional marketing communications because of the digital medium used for communications. The Internet and other digital media such as digital television and mobile phones enable new forms of interaction and new models for information exchange. A useful summary of the differences between these new media and traditional media has been developed by McDonald and Wilson (1999) – they describe the ‘6 is of the e-marketing mix’.
Note that these can be used as a strategic analysis tool, but they are not used in this context here. The six Is are useful since they highlight factors that apply to practical aspects of Internet marketing such as personalization, direct response and marketing research, but also strategic issues of industry restructuring and integrated channel communications.
John Dighton was one of the first authors to summarize this key characteristic of the Internet. He identified the following characteristics inherent in a digital medium (Dighton, 1996) which are true for much online marketing activity, but not all:
- the customer initiates contact;
- the customer is seeking information (pull);
- It is a high-intensity medium – the marketer will have 100 per cent of the individual’s attention when he or she is viewing a web site;
- a company can gather and store the response of the individual;
- Individual needs of the customer can be addressed and taken into account in future dialogues. Figure 1.10(a) shows how traditional media are predominantly push media where the marketing message is broadcast from company to customer and other stakeholders.
During this process, there is limited interaction with the customer, although interaction is encouraged in some cases such as the direct-response advert or mail-order campaign. On the Internet, it is often the customer who initiates contact and is seeking information through researching information on a web site. In other words it is a ‘pull’ mechanism where it is particularly important to have good visibility in search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN when customers are entering search terms relevant to a company’s products or services.