The Internet has gained great attention as a means of communication for marketers. The main reason attributable to such increased popularity is its tremendous growth and adoption by consumers and businesses alike (Morgan, 1996; Charlesworth, 2009). As the degree of growth and acceptance of the internet is so high, experts are facing difficulty in observing its growth process. Household access to the internet in the UK has increased by 46 percent i.e. 16 million households in 2008 since 2002 (National Statistics Omnibus Survey, 2008). In 2006 the UK had as many as 67 percent of adults had used the internet. Further research posits that the hosts of the internet are doubling every year (Kantor & Neubarth, 1996). Undoubtedly, internet marketing has gained immense attention in marketing academics as well as practice.
Even today, marketing over the internet is relatively new for many, and still more and more corporate are becoming comfortable with it (Schumann & Thorson, 2007; Eastman, Ferguson, & Klein, 2006). However, acceptance of the marketing procedure is not complete. Even though the immense potential of the internet is widely acknowledged, its usage to full potential is limited. As reported, car dealers are reluctant to adopt internet marketing even when they spend exceedingly large amounts for conventional advertising (Finlay, 2008). In the auto industry internet, advertising amounts to $28 billion but is just 11.5 percent of the overall marketing share. This is faced by many organizations like Ford (Finlay, 2008) and Chrysler (Wernle, 3008). However, internet marketing is very important to tap the tech-savvy younger generation who are more likely to become their target market rather than the traditionalist parents. This increases the need to invest more in internet marketing. Further, it is said that internet marketing has become a successful means of marketing goods and services even during the present recessionary phase implies the effectiveness of the internet as a marketing tool (Beuchert, 2009).
Researchers believe that the internet has a very high potential in influencing the buying decision of customers (McGaughey & Mason, 1998). It has its importance to marketers in terms of reaching the right information to the customers and understanding what they think of the internet as a medium of transferring that knowledge as this will increase the usability of the internet as a medium of marketing.
First, it must be understood why internet marketing needs such academic attention? The reason lies in its utility to the consumers as well as marketers as an efficient and effective medium to search, evaluate and purchase products (McGaughey & Mason, 1998). Further, its increased popularity must be properly cultivated to make it an effective marketing tool. Therefore, it is important to understand the perceived value of the internet to the customers due to its increased influence over buyer’s decision-making process. Therefore, it is important to understand what is perceived about marketing through the internet.
The trend of aversion towards internet marketing is not the sole case observed in the automobile industry. This paper aims to understand the perceived value of internet marketing. Adoption of dealers to internet marketing is slow and thus the perceived value of internet marketing seems low. In addition, there is no systematic method of assessing the opportunities related to internet marketing tools. This study will help marketing academics as well as industries to understand the present value that internet marketing holds and how this method can be made more lucrative as a marketing tool.
Even though no plausible understanding of the perceived value of marketing is achieved, there is abundant research in the area. Initial research on the internet has concentrated on its unique capabilities as a marketing tool (Blattberg & Deighton, 1991), its potential for growth (Kantor & Neubarth, 1996; Denison, 1995), its low setup cost (Berthon, Leyland, Pitt, & Watson, 1996), and its capability to allow interactivity (Blattberg and Deighton, 1991). Further research has also been done in measuring the customer’s perception of advertisements through the internet (Ducoffe, 1996; Hsu, Chou, & Hsu, 2008; Trusov, Bucklin, & Pauwels, 2009; Conway, Ward, Lewis, & Bernhardt, 2007), website adoption by consumers for online purchase in the retail industry (Harrison-Walker, 2002), and promotional effectiveness through the internet (Dreze & Zufryden, 1997). Internet marketing effectiveness in the business-to-business scenario has also been studied (Eid, Elbeltagi, & Zairi, 2006; Hsu, Chou, & Hsu, 2008).
Ducoff (1996) found that the value perceived by customers about marketing through the internet is somewhat valuable, to a great extent informing, and not very irritating. Further, it has immense opportunity and benefit to the companies using it. The research also showed that consumers have a strong association with the value of advertisements and their attitude towards advertisements on the internet.
Maddox and Mehta (1997) studied the value of including the web address of the company with traditional advertisements. They found that URLs in traditional advertisements are observed by both users as well as to non-users of the internet. Moreover, consumers perceived organizations that present their URLs in traditional ads as more customers oriented, high-tech, sophisticated, informative, and believe that they will remain in business longer. Another study by Briggs and Hollis (1997) studied the effect of banner advertisements on the internet on customer’s attitudes and responses. They found that web banner advertising is an effective means of communication. They found that banners increase brand awareness, stimulate latent brand association, and attitude towards brands. This ultimately increases the probability of purchase.
Perceived value is important to understand as it characterizes the outcomes of all the marketing activities (Holbrook, 1994; Babin, Darden, & Griffin, 1994). Perceived value has been defined as a trade-off between the give and takes components of a transaction in the mind of the customer (Clarke & Flaherty, 2005; Chaffey, 2006; Yeo & Chiam, 2008). Bush, Bush, and Harris (1998) studied the perceived value of internet advertisement as felt by the advertisers. Their study found that the “Internet appears to be a necessary part of a marketing communications strategy even though its effectiveness appears to be undetermined.” (p. 26). They found out that advertisers are not always sure if they should adopt the internet as a medium of communication even though all feel the urge to plunge into the internet revolution that is presently engulfing the market. Their study showed that advertisers feel that the internet is a potent yet uncertain medium of marketing communication. Thus, they conclude, “The Internet appears to be a necessary part of a marketing communications strategy even though its effectiveness appears to be undetermined.” (p. 26).
Another area, which needs attention, is the need for content control or virus control on the internet, which may harm personal data and can use personal information, which is one fear of the internet (Cain, 2009; Chakraborty & Chakraborty, 2007). Therefore, security issues often become a problem for e-commerce adoption and mar the perception about internet marketing.
Therefore, understanding the perceived value of marketing through the internet is essential. So to understand the perceived value of marketing to the people and the organizations it is essential to understand the organization’s marketing strategy. Therefore, organizations need to understand the effectiveness of the internet they are using in their new marketing mix. Thus, the value of the internet as an effective tool and the value that is attached to it by its users are important to be understood. As the usage of the internet is growing very fast and many marketers are keen to undertake this medium of communication, the study of the perceived value of the internet is merited.
The main aim of the study is to understand the overall perception of the internet and the value attached to it as a marketing tool. Therefore, the study extends towards various categories, and perceptions from both marketers and customers are equally important to understand the true value of the medium. As a result, it is important to understand the perceived value of the internet to the marketers and well as to the customers. As very little research has been done on the strategic aspect of the internet, marketing, therefore, framing a hypothesis on basis of the available research is not possible. Therefore, we undertake more generic research questions to advance our study to review the perceived value of the internet and address the following strategic research questions:
- How is the internet perceived as a marketing tool by marketers and companies? Is it viewed as a strategic communication tool?
- What are the potential barriers to using the internet as a marketing combination tool?
- What is the perceived value of the internet to the customers who use and do not use the internet?
- What is the future of marketing communication through the internet?
The main objective of the study is to understand the perceived value of the internet. Therefore, the study aims to understand the perspective of both the customers as well as marketers. A list of organizations is made to understand the perspective of marketers regarding the value of the internet. Then the next step is to understand the perception of customers and what they feel about internet marketing.
First, the view of the industry marketers is obtained through interviews. This helps to understand what is expected the internet marketing to do for them as a communication tool and the perception they intend to create in the mind of customers. Then a questionnaire survey is conducted using the interview data to understand what they believe about these factors, which the marketers want them to believe. This will allow us to understand the difference in perceptions and gather the real perception of the customers. Data will be gathered in the second stage through a questionnaire survey.
As the literature review suggests, various researches have been done to understand the internet as a marketing tool. However, no literature has tried to ascertain the gap between the perception of internet marketing of the marketers and that of the customers. This research on the perceptive value of the internet will determine the way this immensely popular tool can be adopted. Then this will also give a perspective as to why some are reluctant to adopt this medium as a marketing tool. There are various factors, which affect internet marketing and the perception of value that customers and marketers hold regarding it. Even with a huge adoption of the technology among the masses, the adoption of e-commerce is not that fast. Many people are reluctant to adopt the internet as a medium of commercial interaction while others are skeptical of the value of the information imparted through it. Thus, this paper tries to ascertain what perceptions customers and marketers hold about internet marketing.
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