This essay reports on the current activity in e-marketing computers. It discusses the English language markets. in particularly in the US and UK.
The three companies considered here are Apple, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Dell, all regarded as notable exponents of e-marketing. The conclusion drawn is that e-marketing alone is not as yet a viable strategy for this industry in general but it has been a successful approach when marketing solely to corporate customers.
The computer industry within the English-speaking world is made up of only a few suppliers of any size. During 2005 the worldwide shipments of PCs grew in volume by over 16% according to IDC, and by 9% in terms of value. The Austin, Texas firm Dell supplies more PCs worldwide than any other company – 18.1% of the market against HP, the number two, at 14.9%.
The next largest suppliers are Lenovo (ex IBM) at 7.7%, Gateway, Acer and Fujitsu/Siemens, each having less than 5%. All of these companies’ computers use Microsoft’s Windows operating system. The core functionality they deliver to the user is therefore essentially identical.
Apple Computer, which had around 3.5% of the world PC market in 2005, ships cmputers that run its own operating system – MacOS. Whereas Apple sells most of its notebooks to individual users, Dell sells most of its product to corporate clients, as does HP but to a lesser extent.
The Windows/PC world is one where prices continually decline while performance and hardware functionality improve. Hardware is manufactured almost exclusively in the Far East while software in the English Language markets originates almost entirely from the USA. Increasingly the actual computing function is being treated as a commodity with only increased memory and faster performance as differentiators.
This can be expected to change to a degree when (Vista) the next generation of Microsoft’s OS becomes deployed. At this time the major product differentiators tends to be graphics performance, screen size/quality and connectivity options.
The combined result under Vista should be a new emphasis on the entertainment functionality of the computer and its potentially growing value as a intra-household communications controller.
Before discussing e-marketing in this industry, we need to select a definition of ‘marketing’. One which will suffice is:-
“Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, services, organizations, and events to create and maintain relationships that will satisfy individual and organizational objectives.” (Boone and Kurtz)
A Google search for a definition of e-marketing produces the following results –
“Moving elements of marketing strategies and activities to a computerized, networked environment such as the Internet. It is the strategic process of creating, distributing, promoting, and pricing goods and services to a target market over the Internet or through digital tools. (aede.osu.edu/programs/e-agbiz/pageglossary/main.html)
Any marketing effort that contains a website URL. This could range from direct mail programs, magazine ads, radio to business cards.
E-marketing can be simply defined as “Achieving marketing objectives through use of electronic communications technology.” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-marketing)
Of these definitions I prefer the last on the basis that e-marketing is still at such an early stage in its development that an all-embracing, detailed definition suggests the user is promoting e-marketing as a solution rather than describing it. Part of the objectives of this essay is to examine how many of the functions listed in the definition of ‘marketing’ are equally viable for ‘e-marketing’.
The Origins of E-marketing
The origins of e-marketing can be traced back to the 1990’s to the era of ‘dot.com’ companies who sought to place all of their promotional activities on the Internet. In those days a distinction was drawn between traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers and on-line ‘etailers’- the dot.coms.
Today, while there are still companies whose existence depends heavily upon the resources of the internet, few major companies follow the dot.com route. There has been a negative impact on such users as a result of the scores of dot.com failures.
Unless a company using the dot.com approach succeeds in creating the impression that it is stable and financially sound, there are barriers to overcome to create trust between suppliers and the company, and between the would-be customers and the company. (The outstanding dot.com success story is that of Amazon.com).
This leads to a sense that it takes a viable, established ‘bricks and mortar’ company which is already well-known to have an e-marketing system that will be considered credible. However it seems that all major and public companies now have some form of internet presence, a web page, even if its marketing functionality is limited to an email address for enquiries to ‘info’, ‘sales’ or ‘support’.
Why use the Term ‘E-’?
E-marketing falls into a range of new variants of communication activities – e-commerce, e-mail, e-learning, e-research, e-publishing. Essentially each of these terms describes a familiar function that can now be carried out using the communications medium of the internet. Just as a change of language can change the way the speaker expresses his thoughts and how the reader understands the message, so the use of a different communication technology can add to or subtract from the value proposition being presented.
By the same token, it has been necessary for practitioners to learn how to use this communications medium to communicate their message, and to learn to understand how their messaging is perceived through this medium..