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Using Web Technology as a Means to Strengthen Competitive Advantage

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Many firms underestimate the value of using their websites to gain significant competitive advantage in their given markets. Most businesses only utilize their website as a means of displaying their corporate profile, list of products as well as things like their contact details and email address. At the risk of “preaching to the converted” I thought I would highlight some of the ways that a firm’s website, when used as an effective Internet Marketing Channel, can enhance competitive advantage.

It is fairly safe to say that managers should always view web technology in light of the whole marketing mix instead of merely as an extension of their existing advertising efforts. I have seen this happen again and again and therefore feel it is my duty to attempted to highlight some of the ways that a website can positively impact each of the these marketing mix elements:

Distribution (Place)

Ways to enhance your distribution networks may include using the web portal to enhance logistics, create new marketing channels (for example affiliate channels) or provide better or faster product access for customers. Be careful however when creating new e-commerce sites as it is important to conduct a thorough online market analysis of your product to ensure that you are also competitive as far as other Internet based competitors are concerned. Internet retailers such as Amazon are growing in size and dominance and should be taken into account when planning any online strategy. Affiliate marketing channels may also be something to look into in terms of gaining more traffic to your site. New incoming marketing and information channels can be easily established by creating an affiliate program which entails other firms listing your site URL on their pages which in turn can equate to more traffic for your site. Look at your existing business referrers; can you enhance or strengthen these channels through the use of effective and relevant hyperlinks?

Promotions

The growth of the Internet’s accessibility is inevitable and firms would be well advised to start the web advertising function as soon as possible. The reason for this is that “staying power” is paramount with more and more people starting to use the web. Firms that have been around the longest and which have high levels of interconnectivity will always maintain a pretty big competitive advantage over newer entrants. Once a firm’s web page has established a decent ranking and is featured on other related sites, the ability for firms to utilize this coverage to reach out to new domestic and international markets can be quite powerful. The success of large Internet advertising campaigns is well documented. For me the last US election was a real eye-opener as Internet marketing played a dominant role in key advertising campaigns with staggering amounts of marketing messages being delivered via the Internet to target audiences.

Email marketing lists are also a great way to stay in touch with your customers and their effective use can provide a valuable marketing and information channel. The benefits are two fold with the ability for marketers to use them to heighten brand awareness whilst strengthening customer relationships. Newsletters and other marketing can be used to let customers know about new products or services as well as provide segment relevant information to them designed to offer value and a “good read”. A word of caution though, make sure you clearly outline your privacy and anti-spam policy so as not to breach any anti-spam laws. You will need to get your customer’s consent first as well as provide an unsubscribe link so that they may choose whether they want to receive your communications.

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