#8, January 1998
part of its research programme, Through the Loop
has been working with EAP European School of
Management to develop an understanding of Internet
usage by European companies. Research undertaken
by a multi-cultural student group has added a
significant layer to our knowledge in a
rapidly-evolving area and will provide an
important addition to the knowledge we can apply
to client assignments.
it is widely acknowledged that US companies are
leading the field in Internet usage and
understanding, the focus of this project is to
analyse European companies. We are looking to
discover the level of sophistication amongst
European companies in the development of Internet
awareness and implementation.
research undertaken by EAP included face-to-face
and remote interviews as well as a detailed
analysis of Web sites within a number of selected
product and service categories.
research showed that 40% of large companies had a
Web site compared with only 20% of small
companies. These were developed either in-house or
through an external consultancy. However, there
was no clear correlation between company size and
where the Web site was developed. The fact that a
lower number of small to medium companies had a
Web site suggests that they are not fully aware of
the extra benefits of a Web site to a small
company. A Web site can enable a smaller company
to look bigger than it actually is and communicate
globally at very low cost. It narrows the size
research identified three main reasons for a Web
order to have a presence but no precise
additional communications channel though not
adding anything substantial, in content, to
integrated into the company's marketing
strategy including on-line transactions or
other forms of real-time customer interaction.
of the companies analysed had identified the
younger audience on the Internet and were using it
is a channel to reach this target market, for
example, carrying recruitment opportunities.
the companies surveyed, only a few offered
Internet access to all employees. Those more
likely to have full access tended to be senior
managers with those lower down the hierarchy
having restricted or no access. However, many
companies were planning to extend the level of
access offered as the Internet is seen to enable
time and money savings to be gained. There is
still the feeling, however, that the Internet
tends to be a distraction for many employees.
analysis of Web sites identified Best Practices
for Web marketing. Again, this extends the work
previously undertaken by Through the Loop in this
area. Six sectors were chosen for analysis:
first best practice identified is user
friendliness. This was seen to be crucial to
success, in particular it could play a major role
in encouraging repeat visits or recommendation.
Well-designed Web sites have a clear index to the
main areas of the site, allowing easier navigation
and understanding of the Web site structure. The
non-hierarchical nature of a Web site makes the
navigation more important than, for example, in a
magazine. The use of graphics as an aid to
navigation is seen to be a bonus for a number of
reasons such as ease of understanding in a
the issue of user friendliness we have included
adding value through external links. This adds to
the image and credibility of the site. A site that
is able to use the Web to its advantage will gain
added exposure and credibility.
friendliness is a wide issue and covers a number
of other areas. The first page visited is arguably
the most important of the whole site. Not only
must it download quickly to avoid alienating any
users on slower connections but it is an advantage
if the page provides an indication of the content
within the site.
the Style of Communication More Informal
Web allows a company to develop personalised
relationships with consumers. This not only
addresses the "cold" nature of distance
communication compared with face-to-face but it
also creates user ease through a more human feel.
Barclays Bank and Commerzbank's use of images of
consumers is seen to be helpful in this respect.
They help consumers identify with the products and
services on offer.
creation of "brand ambassadors" is also
a possibility for a company marketing on the Web.
This involves working with Web sites not under the
company's control and could include consumers''
own Web sites. A number of on-line retailers are
using this approach by rewarding Web site owners
for encouraging visits to the e-store.
and Maintain Consumer Interest
content and layout of the site should be
attractive to the consumer so that he or she is
encouraged to spend time investigating what is
offered. The style should match that used in other
forms of communication for the brand or company.
Once an initial visit has been made, then it is
necessary to encourage the consumer to return to
the site. There are a number of devices used for
this such as regular updating and weekly or
monthly e-mail newsletters.
Web has a major difference compared with
traditional communications channels as it is a
two-way medium. TV, radio and press, on the other
hand, are "push" media that deliver set
messages to viewers or listeners. Direct mail is
able to perform greater segmentation to reach more
accurately targeted audiences with semi-personalised
messages. In addition to this, direct response
feedback mechanisms do not use the same channel
and are rarely instantaneous. The Web allows
companies to develop individual messages for
consumers and respond in real-time to individual
requests. Furthermore, the cost of providing a
response can be significantly cheaper than more
traditional means such as call centres. An example
of customisation is Clinique. This asks users to
input the characteristics of their skin and beauty
product preferences. The Web site can then not
only recommend the most appropriate products from
the company's range but also provide the
opportunity to purchase on-line. This type of
approach will also build a customer database and
collect valuable research data.
feedback can be provided through a mix of
automated and human-generated e-mail. An important
point to note here is not only must an e-mail be
answered but the answer is expected to be very
quick. On the Web timescales are severely
survey has shown that use of the Web by European
companies is certainly rising although the US is
still seen as more advanced. However, an
increasing number of companies are seeing the
potential of the Web and those which were on-line
earlier are steadily improving their on-line
marketing. Companies are moving along the learning
curve. They recognise that on-line marketing
represents a different way of communicating and
that their offer must evolve as they and consumers
learn more about the capabilities and
opportunities inherent in the medium.