ON SIDE WITH ON-LINE

by

On-line communications and statistics should be, and are, the friends of those in business. However, one needs to look behind the statistics for understanding, value and worth.

For many, the staple diet of statistics in the mass media about the growing presence and influence of on-line channels of communication and supply is both intimidating and overwhelming. Equally, those data can be misleading or incomplete, not revealing the full story.

Take for example the fact that up to 67% of people now go on-line when intending to buy or are buying a wide range of products and services. Seldom reported is the fact that the fastest growing sector of on-line contact for purchases is mobile – that is, via mobile phone and tablets. (Perhaps we need to heed the advice of former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to take a Bex tablet and have a lie down).

The latter factors represent opportunity for bricks and mortar retailers. They establish and reinforce the reality that many consumers are going on-line when actually out in the marketplace, in retail precincts, shopping centres and in stores. Understandably, they are cross-referencing the comparative values and prices available in-store and on-line.

Effective, courteous and professional customer service, complemented by the appeal of convenience and immediacy – an imperative for “now” consumers – are compelling reasons for consumers to conclude the sales in store immediately. Such advantages need to be promoted and exploited. Indeed, astute service providers involve themselves in the practice of consumers going on-line by providing comments, background information and making informed value statements. It is imperative, and is impressive to many intending buyers.

At present some 37% of the 24 million mobile phones that operate in Australia are smart phones. It is estimated that this figure will increase to over 50% by June, 2012. Hello!

The very best of businesses are also utilising on-line channels to personalise messages to discrete target audiences and individuals. It is now the most effective and efficient means to reach out, connect with and engage consumers.

2010 was a benchmark year in marketing and commerce. For the first time ever in Australia, investments in below-the-line advertising (emails, text, telephone, direct mail etc) exceeded those of above-the-line advertising, which include the mass media of television, radio, print and outdoor signage. Again, the market leaders of the latter group are embracing and utilising on-line to complement and enhance their value packaging. Television New Zealand is at the forefront of the movement.

A NEW SHOP FRONT

It seems ironic that many shopping leases which are signed and, albeit often reluctantly, accepted by business owners, stipulate that at the expiration of each three or five year term lessees are legally obliged to outlay from $30,000 to $1 million for store, layout and fitting upgrades.

This stands in stark contrast to the standards and outdated presentations of many websites and online presentations (our own included). The internet has become the new shopfront. First impressions are influential in image building, revenue generating and relationship development. Tokenism is not sufficient.

For the 47% of Australia’s 2.3 million operating businesses which do not have a website, a simple message: Get one, and fast.

However, be selective in your choice of consultants. I for one find it hard to accept the periodic faxes received at our premises with the offer headline:

 “Websites For Dummies”

Classification as a dummy does little for one’s self-image and ego. Furthermore, dummies are inclined to accept anything that is offered. Neither is a sound foundation for positive, mutually rewarding and sustainable relationships.

 DON’T OVERDO IT!

Many on-line communicators lose appeal, relevance and business by testing the tolerance of their targeted prospective, existing and past clients.

Daily transmissions are seldom responded to daily. That surely is making a definitive statement. Weekly transmissions too can be testing. Therefore, to be effective in marketing, one will need to ignore the advice of health professionals. That is, be irregular. Communicate when you need to and when you have a compelling offer, often with a time limitation. Such missives will have impact, will resonate with recipients and will generate additional revenue.

 BE GRAPHIC

Extensive attitudinal research has consistently concluded that graphics in email transmissions are often deemed to be irritating distractions or some simply overwhelm the message. Often it is the graphic that is recalled rather than the essence of the message/offer, the product the service or the company itself.

Moreover, graphics consume a lot of computer capacity and time.

Therefore, good graphics are like good fashion - understated. They can and should make a definitive statement.

 COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Astute, contemporary marketers possess, exhibit and share comprehensive and compelling detailed product knowledge. The most prolific visitors to websites and recipients of texts, emails and direct mail from the major and significant operators in a sector, are the astute business people (competitors) themselves.

They subscribe to the philosophy:

“Know Thy Enemy”

 Effective, current intelligence is the essential prerequisite for sound cash-flow generating strategies.

 YOU STILL NEED TO SELL

The highest ratios of sales conversion remain with the personal contact between the customer and a service provider. Statistics don’t lie, always. Where possible, appropriate and economically viable, encourage consumers to talk to an individual service provider. A convergence between the emotional and the human quotients does wonders for the bottom line.

 RING THE BELL

The essential message brings to mind a recent past Australian Federal Government funded advertising campaign about national security. Steve Leibman, the veteran television personality implored people to:

 “Be aware, not alarmed”

 That is sage advice, particularly about on-line.

 THE AUTHOR

 Barry Urquhart, Managing Director of Marketing Focus is a business strategist, an analyst and an International conference, keynote speaker. His latest presentation is:

 “Insights on ‘The Big Picture’ - Future-Proof Your Business”

Website:         www.marketingfocus.net.au


About

Barry Urquhart, MD Marketing Focus, Perth, is the author of Australia's top two selling books on customer service and is an internationally recognised authority on consumer behaviour and creative visual marketing.

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