Cyber Dialogue looked at what factors motivate the average user's search for a product or service and how they came to find a 'site perceived as legitimate'. The route tends to be a search using a search engine and a visit to, for example, a retailer that sells the desired product. Only after the initial search will customers go directly to a brand or specific site.
Less than one in five admit to going to a site of a brand they know first off. Thus part of the experience in finding a site is to find added information. Virtual presence building takes many forms and is a two way street. Getting a company with a site to accept your banner advertisement or hyperlink (or even minisite) is one of the many ways of building the virtual presence of your company.
It is also a way for your site to add information about your suppliers and, especially to attract endorsement-by-association with a big, well known or trusted brand. It works.
When looking for a particular product on-line, 38% of the Cyber Dialogue respondents went to a site sponsoring a brand they were familiar with, having conducted the broad search first.
Kevin Mabley, senior analyst with Cyber Dialogue, says that although price and quality are key motivators, in order to acquire customers within the fragmented online marketplace, a company must leverage its brands offline. Those companies with existing reputations have the task of familiarising current customers with the added feature; on-line entities have to go offline to other media to get the word out.
Virtual community acquisition and retention requires trust, and Mabley says the customers like to know what to expect when they go to a site and want to feel part of a community. The formation of a community on-line, in almost all cases, builds trust, he says.
He continues 'Consumers are more likely to return to a site if it's identified with a brand they recognise and trust. Of course, coupons, discounts, and free products never hurt when building an on-line customer base.'
There is yet another case for creating promotional synergies between on-line promotion and off line publicity. Contributing to the WebAttack conference last year Scott Reents commented on research showing how people are using the Web and are deserting other media – usually television. But then went on to identify how different media and the Internet can work together.
He noted that one-third of Internet users report watching less television as a direct result of their Internet use but that this was a relatively small decline in absolute hours of viewing (13% according to other research). Netzines, he noted are more likely to pay for television content, including cable, satellite or premium cable channels.
But the synergistic advantages are, in his view, more important. His research into US television habits showed that 24 percent of Internet users have accessed a URL they saw advertised on TV, which makes TV almost as important as word-of-mouth advice and recommendation.
As an indicator of what we may expect in the UK he noted that 8.5 million media junkies in the U.S. report going on-line while watching TV and they are people who are more likely to use advance technologies such as Shockwave and chat.
These cross media synergies also work in reverse. An on-line company looks to offline promotion to attract first time visitors. Internet companies in the UK are increasingly looking to offline media to boost on-line brand awareness according to Fletcher Research. On-line firms will spend up to $62m on offline advertising by the end of this year according to director of research at Fletcher, William Reeve. For example Excite UK recently launched an advertising campaign which included TV, radio, print and 240 billboards on the London Underground. European director of Excite UK, Evan Rudowski, commented that of the £10 million allocated for advertising and brand promotion in 1999, 70 percent will be spent offline.
According to Ilika Shelley of Western International Media,34 the major on-line sites will spend up to £2 million on advertising this year, 80 percent of which will be spent on offline media.
Reasons for offline promotion are the ability to foster brand awareness among those who are new to the Internet and those who intend to go on-line in the near future. The cost is relatively cheap and because people are familiar with offline advertising, brands who advertise offline typically reap disproportionately high brand awareness on-line.
As the on-line population grows and more income is derived via the Internet, corporate managers will find that there is an imperative to change the way their company advertises.
According to MSBC In the USA, on-line companies were planning to spend $1 billion on advertising in the fourth quarter of 1999. They needed to make their product or service a household name for the impending Christmas shopping spree. In they anticipated this expenditure would help the company seem attractive to potential investors.
Due to the high cost of on-line branding many start-ups launch an advertising campaign in the hope of raising capital to fund further ventures. Already we are seeing companies fears that if they do not make noise for the Christmas season they're dead. The majority of advertising expenditure in the US follows the announced methods in the UK.. It will be in traditional media, billboards, sub-ways, buses, print, radio, TV.
On-line advertising spend will not be adversely affected. The inevitable conclusion is that by developing on-line content for these viewers, networks can extend their brands and test methods for blending interactive and broadcast content.