The dawn of Online Marketing - my personal view on the short history of this modern facet of marketing
When I was first doing my Business and Computing degree, the Internet was just on the horizon, slowly and silently flowing into Malta. The term Internet Marketing, digital Marketing, online Marketing and e-Marketing were not yet coined and more than anything the Internet was mostly considered as a technological development that would link businesses and make the exchange and dissemination of information much faster. It was an information highway through which information can travel and cyberspace was where information could reside.
However in little time (I like to see it in the blink of an eye), we soon had search engines and directories flourishing and providing an indexing service for the information residing in cyberspace.
Soon companies saw the advent of the web as an opportunity, where they could post (or host) some HTML pages about their organisations. In those days, these pages were simply the equivalent of an electronic brochure, with text and images and links (or buttons) from one page to another. There was no interactivity and practically everything was static. Contact information was also there and it was in no time at all, structured query forms started to be used as a ‘Contact Us’ Mechanism.
If one had to compare the pages of those days to the elaborate and smooth presence that we are now used to, one can understand that even the technology that allows us to build pages has improved by leaps and bounds.
At this point in time, the Internet as a medium or as a channel was not yet being used by the masses. In fact, people were still discovering what it was, what was available and how this could be beneficial to them. Whilst it was clear that email and online chat was a great way of communicating, society was understanding that online one could access a lot of information…..
Some time down the line……… That lot of information soon became a tidal wave of information. As more and more people got connected to the Internet, more businesses realised that they could not survive the digital world without a digital presence. The digital presence needed to provide information (reliable, accurate and up-to-date) and deliver services (facilities like quick contact, web-chat, search facilities within the website). Naturally we also had the pioneers in online retailing and while not everyone was equipped to jump on that wagon from day one of introducing the online marketing executive to the marketing team, nearly all companies had dreams of online selling.
All this happened within the same environment during which we had the famous Dot.Com bubble, a bubble than when experts in Online Marketing look back attribute to one particular and recurring flaw. In those days, business people thought that attracting huge numbers of visitors to one’s online presence will lead to profit. They did not really thing what was needed to bring them back a second, a third and fourth time….. in short they did not look at ways of retaining the customer. Hence they dished out big money in the short run and had big traffic of first-time visitors (and sales), never stopping to think out the strategies needed to address the lifecycle of the customer.
Clearly websites are one of the first relationship-building mechanism that we experienced in digital marketing. Companies launched websites that clearly exposed and articulated their products and services. Rich media like immersive photos, videos, and interactive gadgets ensured that the customer experience online was engaging and interesting enough! Along with the websites, came mechanisms like e-newsletters that helped to keep contact with the interested audience.
The age of Social Media.