OPINION: Marketing Society - Internet’s boom affects the core of all commerce

Will marketing pass the net test? For those of you who are blissfully unaware, it’s A-Level time again. Households all over the country are full of tension as a generation of would-be undergraduates try to get their required grades.

Will marketing pass the net test? For those of you who are

blissfully unaware, it’s A-Level time again. Households all over the

country are full of tension as a generation of would-be undergraduates

try to get their required grades.

But will marketing pass the test? Here is the question that probably

won’t appear in the A-Level papers - ’Marketers fail to grasp the

potential impact of technology on consumers, discuss’.

Take the thing of the moment - the internet. Philip Crawford, of Oracle,

speaking at this year’s Institute of Directors convention, said: ’UK

businesses still don’t seem to have grasped the full role of the

internet in transforming business models, slashing costs and creating a

new global digital economy’.

Indeed Jan Leschly, in his excellent Marketing Society annual lecture a

few weeks ago, raised the issue of how companies could embrace the true

potential of the net when so many directors were distant from it and see

it as the preserve of a younger generation of managers.

The failure to grasp the potential of technology is not something new;

we have all heard the quotes about how IBM only saw computers as being

central mainframes and not on users’ desks, or the one about how the

telephone would not catch on as the Post Office had messenger boys.

I wonder if, even a few years ago, many people could have envisaged that

mobile phones would have lost their aspirational chic image and become

the ubiquitous ’must have’ functional item next to a car or credit


Herein lies the problem: is it of any use complaining about today’s

marketing departments not being visionary enough when history contains

so many previous generations of managers getting it so wrong?

If consumers are willing to embrace the new technology, where does it

leave boards of directors or their marketing departments?

For the Luddites who still believe that PCs are things that secretaries

type letters on, someone ought to tell them that they are living in some

dark age - and they probably belong there. On the other hand, for those

that believe that such a proliferation of technology and computing power

in homes can be harnessed, the world is their oyster.

Whereas e-commerce has been talked about for the past few years, we are

now starting to see the first real mass-market uses for it to start to

develop. Amazon.com is an obvious example but it is by no means the end

of the story. The more consumers have real purchasing experience of

buying via the net and the more that there is on offer, the more the

trend will accelerate.

Marketers need only to look back at the fundamental changes brought

about in the food distribution chain by the arrival of supermarkets to

start to even partly envisage the potential for change that will be

brought about by the development of e-commerce on some of the current

retail distribution models in existence.

So are all you marketing people out there ready for the test of how to

exploit the opportunities provided by the net - and how will you win

over your board?

Best of luck - let’s hope you get the desired grade.


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