A computer network is any technology that allows people to connect computers to each other. Computer networks and the Internet, which connect the world’s computer networks to each other, form the basic technological fabric underlying all electronic commerce. Through the Internet, you can communicate with other people around the world through email; reading online versions of newspapers, reading magazines, academic journals, and books; join discussion groups on almost any conceivable topic; participate in games and simulations; and get free software. Business companies now use the Internet to connect with each other and with customers. Today, all kinds of businesses provide information about their products and services and then market and sell these products and services on the Internet.
The part of the Internet known as the Wide World Web, or more simply the web, is a subset of computers on the Internet that are connected to each other in a specific way that makes them and their content easily accessible to each other. The most important thing about the web is that it includes an easy-to-use interface. The Wide World Web is, therefore, a set of rules or conventions for the exchange of information on the Internet.
The Wide World Web has three main elements, namely HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), a programming language that formats hypertext files and creates a graphical interface on the web; HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), which allows users to jump from one file to another by clicking a URL link embedded in the text, or an image, and a URL (Universal Resource Locator), a unique address that is attached to every file on the web and which can be used to recover any file instantly. The World Wide Web is navigated by clicking hyperlinks to jump from one web page to another. This allows people to browse websites on the Internet.
Internet marketing has ushered in an era of disintermediation, which is a process of getting closer to your customers by cutting out the middleman. Therefore, time can be disintermediated by automated procedures, just like people and distribution channels. This occurs when direct online transactions replace an existing distribution channel. In other cases, however, the internet has created a new form of intermediation, sites that act as intermediaries to facilitate the kind of business that can only be done online. Successful examples include the world famous auction site eBay (http://www.ebay.com), Autotrader (South Africa) and AutoByTel (USA).
Online prices are also very important. Without the huge financial expenses required to support a traditional retail chain infrastructure, and without having to go through intermediaries who would add their markup to the selling price, and sometimes without having to keep stock on hand, web retailers or e-retailers, such as they are known, they can pass the costs-benefits directly on to the consumers. This has created the consumer perception that the web is a channel where you can buy cheap things.
In the online marketing mix, entrepreneurs not only sell their products or services, but also create custom products to meet individual needs. For example, NIKE allows customers shopping online to specify their shoe size and request that their names be embroidered on the shoes. In this way, you can virtually customize your shoe to any specification. It goes without saying, however, that customers are more than happy to pay the additional premium charged for this additional service.
Online promotion is done through the use of vehicles such as banners and buttons, which are the predominant forms of online advertising; search engines that sell keywords to advertisers; ad networks, which store advertisements on their servers and distribute them to websites in their network based on a user’s geographic location, demographics, or psychographics; sponsorships, which allow advertisers to integrate their advertising with editorial content; interstitials or pop-ups, ads that appear in pop-ups while the site you are visiting is loading, and rich media or streaming media.
The strength of Internet marketing lies in its ability to customize its offer to match the interests and lifestyles of users. Unlike other forms of advertising, internet or online marketing is therefore not about reaching as many people as possible, but reaching the right people at the right time in the right context.