Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance Small Business for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
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Updated June 25, 2019
While the obvious purpose of internet marketing is to sell goods, services or advertising over the internet, it’s not the only purpose a business using internet marketing may have; a company may be marketing online to communicate a message about itself (building its brand) or to conduct research. Online marketing can be a very effective way to identify a target market or discover a marketing segment’s wants and needs. (Learn more about conducting market research).
Essentially, though, internet marketing refers to the strategies that are used to market a product or service online, including:
If you’re not using internet marketing to market your business you should be. An online presence is crucial to helping potential clients and customer find your business – even if your business is small and local. (In 2017, one third of all mobile searches were local and local search was growing 50% faster than mobile searches overall.) Online is where the eyeballs are so that’s where your business needs to be.
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, consumers spent $453.46 billion on the web for retail purchases in 2017, a 16.0% increase compared with $390.99 billion in 2016. That’s the highest growth rate since 2011, when online sales grew 17.5% over 2010. Forrester predicts that online sales will account for 17% of all US retail sales by 2022. And digital advertising is also growing strongly; According to Strategy Analytics, in 2017 digital advertising was up 12%, accounting for approximately 38% of overall spending on advertising, or $207.44 billion.
This kind of growth explains why online marketers are constantly devising new internet marketing strategies in the hopes of driving more traffic to their websites and to their offline stores and making more sales.
As of October 2018 almost 4.2 billion people were active internet users and 3.4 billion were social media users (Statista). China, India and the United States rank ahead all other countries in terms of internet users. This gives a marketer an unprecedented number of customers to reach with product and service offerings, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The interactive nature of the internet facilitates immediate communication between businesses and consumers, allowing businesses to respond quickly to the needs of consumers and changes in the marketplace. “Everyone has the internet in their pocket all the time, and this changes everything for small businesses” (Cory Capoccia, Forbes).
Online reviews have become one of the most important components in purchasing decisions by consumers in North America. According to a survey conducted by Dimensional Research which included over 1000 participants, 90% of respondents said that positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions and 94% will use a business with at least four stars. Interestingly, negative reviews typically came from online review sites whereas Facebook was the main source of positive reviews. Forrester Research predicts that by 2020, 42% of in-store sales will be from customers who are influenced by web product research.
Online reviews, then, have become another form of internet marketing that small businesses can’t afford to ignore. While many small businesses think that they can’t do anything about online reviews, that’s not true. Just by actively encouraging customers to post reviews about their experience small businesses can weight online reviews positively. Sixty-eight percent of consumers left a local business review when asked. So assuming a business’s products or services are not subpar, unfair negative reviews will get buried by reviews by happier customers.
According to Statistica, 76% of the U.S. population has at least one social networking profile and by 2020 the number of worldwide users of social media is expected to reach 2.95 billion (650 million of these from China alone). Of the social media platforms, Facebook is by far the most dominant – as of the end of the second quarter of 2018 Facebook had approximately 2.23 billion active users worldwide (Statistica). Mobile devices have become the dominant platform for Facebook usage – 68% of time spent on Facebook originates from mobile devices. Other popular social media platforms for marketing include WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
From an internet marketing perspective social media is becoming more and more important. However, many businesses are unsure whether embracing social media has improved the bottom line as it is difficult to correlate social media marketing activities with increased sales. According to Business 2 Community:
- 90% of adults aged 18 to 29 use social media (compared with 35% of those over 65)
- One third of millennials say that social media is their preferred way to communicate with businesses
- 84% of CEOs and VPs say they use social media to help make purchasing decisions
- All 100 of the top global brands maintain at least one company YouTube channel, and more than half (27 of 50) of CEOs in top global companies have appeared in a company video
- Despite the lack of metrics or executive involvement, the share of overall marketing budgets devoted to social media marketing is expected to increase from about 10% on average to nearly 25% by 2021
If you’re new to internet marketing and wish to get online as quickly and inexpensively as possible you can start with a social media platform like Facebook – you can create a business Facebook page in less than an hour. However, if you want more control over your online presence, a customized website is more appropriate. Ideally you should have both a website and a social media presence, with each linking to the other.
For more information on internet marketing see:
Also Known As: Web marketing, website marketing, online marketing, emarketing.