E-marketing is the use of information technology to conduct marketing. Applications include advertising, promotions, sales, marketing research, customer service, and public relations. E-marketing is facilitated by the Internet and wireless telecommunications. Websites, e-mails, and text messages are the primary platforms for e-marketing messages, which can be accessed via computers, tablets, and cell phones.
The purpose of marketing is to connect businesses with people. The Internet is particularly useful because of its global reach and around-the-clock accessibility. Businesses can quickly and easily tailor messages for the public at large and for particular groups or individuals. Electronic communication media deliver messages quickly and provide opportunities for interactive exchanges.
A major marketing goal is conversion, which is the transitioning of a message recipient from viewing to action. Desired actions include visiting a website, providing contact information, entering a contest, subscribing to a blog, or making a purchase. Measuring conversion rates is difficult in conventional marketing. Companies may never know if a print advertisement spurred sales. Nevertheless, online activities are extensively tracked and measured. For example, companies know how often their advertising links are clicked and how often such clicks result in sales.
Many businesses establish websites as part of their e-marketing campaigns. Company-owned websites provide a forum for communicating with potential and existing customers, investors, and employees. A website may be informational only or provide online sales. Pages can be devoted to company news, press releases, or other public relations purposes. Some business websites include blogs at which spokespersons educate visitors and engage them in online dialogue.
Millions of people participate in social media, making it a very appealing conduit for e-marketing. Platforms such as Facebook and Google+ provide companies with opportunities for online networking. Businesses with Twitter accounts can tweet to followers about company activities and products. Companies can post informational video clips or commercials at video hosting services such as YouTube.
Businesses also purchase advertising space on websites owned by other companies. Hosts of such sites include media outlets, clubs, and various content providers. Banner ads typically appear at the top or sides of host website pages and include clickable links to take visitors to sponsors' websites. The ads are tailored to correlate to the content of the host websites. For example, an informational Page 250 | Top of Articlewebsite about dogs might include banner ads from pet supply companies and veterinarians.
Affiliate marketing is another tool used by e-marketers. Affiliates are typically content providers that include links on their websites to the websites of allied companies. Businesses pay affiliates for directing online traffic their way. The affiliates may be big or small entities and even individuals. Often they have a vested interest in the company's mission. For example, authors might provide links to online bookstores that sell their publications.
Search marketing is e-marketing accomplished via search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. A search engine generates a list of website links based on user-entered keywords. There are two types of results. Organic results are links to websites chosen because of their relevance and other measurable qualities. Nonorganic results are links to the websites of companies that have paid search engine operators to feature them. These links are sometimes called text ads; they seek to lure searchers to the sponsor company websites.
Search engines rank organic results based on complicated metrics. These include the quality of the website content, the underlying computer language, and the reputation of the website owner. Obviously, businesses want their websites to appear high in the results list to better attract visitors. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of enhancing website content and architecture to improve search results ranking. SEO is considered a key part of search marketing campaigns.
Companies that operate search engines may also offer advertising space on their search results pages. Typically, the space is located to the right of the results listing. Businesses pay to display text ads or more complex ads containing photographs or videos. Relevancy to search topics is a major goal. Thus, different ads are shown depending on the keywords input by searchers.
One of the oldest methods of e-marketing involves e-mail communications. Businesses interested in attracting new customers may buy lists of e-mail addresses. This practice, however, is controversial. Spamming is the wholesale sending of unwanted e-mails and is considered disreputable. Even well-meaning businesses can get into trouble if they are not careful. Internet service providers and recipients may brand certain incoming e-mails as spam and block future e-mails from the senders.
Businesses often rely on e-mail marketing to communicate with people with whom they already have relationships. This includes existing customers and website visitors that have “opted-in” (agreed) to be contacted. These people are likely receptive to future marketing messages. As a result, e-mails sent to them will likely yield higher conversion rates than e-mails sent to people who are unfamiliar with the sender.
Interactive marketing is e-marketing focused on interaction and personalization. It involves engaging individuals and conversing with them based on known data about them. Demographic data include age, gender, location, and family type. Internet habits are particularly important. These include keyword searching history, the websites they have visited, and the online purchases they have made.
Search marketing and banner ads can be fine-tailored to advertise subjects known to be of interest to specific individuals. For example, if a person has searched extensively for information about colleges, the ads will be college related. Companies also use personal data when marketing to existing customers. They may address website visitors and e-mail recipients by name and suggest purchases based on their previous purchases.
EMERGING MEDIA PLATFORMS
Increasingly, people access the Internet via smartphones, tablets, and web-enabled televisions and cars. Mobile media, in particular, provide users with almost constant connectivity even when they are away from their computers. Emerging media platforms present attractive e-marketing growth opportunities. Messages can reach wider audiences in more diverse circumstances and locations.
Emerging media present some technological challenges. One of the most vexing is the small screen size of smartphones. Regular websites have to be specially configured for optimal viewing. Search marketing and banner ads appear tiny on smartphone screens. Apps are considered a much more effective e-marketing tool for this medium. Businesses can create their own apps or place advertisements on the apps of other companies.
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Kim Masters Evans