Is the Internet a new toy for marketers or does it offer a new kind of consumer experience that marketers of the electronic age will have to grapple with to stay on top? Perhaps it's both. Either way, Internet marketing is going to set its own course and agenda, and for companies transferring their businesses on-line, an expert approach may be the best way to capitalize on the trends and know-how to push forward their own objectives.
An Asian-based consulting company proposes to do just that for their clients. Founded in January this year, and focusing solely on the Asian Market, Mercatela focuses on integrating e-marketing into the process of taking a brick-and-mortar company on-line.
Integration can be done at two levels, within marketing itself among the components of research, advertising, PR and content, and within the whole IT process - in which case, marketing is integrated into a company's over-all e-business strategy and its technology.
According to Karen Paterson, director at Mercatela, the complex web of inter-relatedness cannot be avoided. Not when the Web offers such potential for businesses to personalize their relationship with customers.
"When you're on-line," said Paterson, "your view of the brand becomes so much more important because it can become so personalized, …right down to the individual."
How personalized or individual can it get? Say getting an e-mail a week before your son's birthday to ask if you'd like to buy this particular eye-catching gift delivered at a specific date? That's the kind of personalization you can get with Internet marketing.
"The Internet is very interactive, because you can provide customers with information and they can provide you with information," said Paterson, "it's very much a two way stream."
And don't expect it to stay the same, because the technology surrounding the Internet will not.
"Interactive marketing is going to change as technology transforms," said Paterson, "with WAP phones, PDA's, and all that are going to be marketing too. It very much depends on what your technology is able to do. And that's why it's really important to have technology as a part of your creative and marketing."
Certainly, a company can choose not to have the kind of services that Mercatela provides. However, it would require, then, that the company find its own IT solutions, its own PR representation, marketing consultant, advertising agency and creative shop, and to explain to each of them a business initiative that, presumably, began as one unified vision.
As Paterson pointed out, "whatever marketing you do is just to tie in with your web-site and your IT, all of it works together as one part, and if you farm it out to other people, … nobody will be able to really give a fully integrated picture."
Industry analysts predicted the market for Internet professional services to reach around US$4 billion in Asia-Pacific in 2002. Mercatela's growth target is to capture one percent of that market.
The company already has a number of customers, including East Corp, and LaFarge. There is, however, no customer as yet for its marketing division; but Paterson expects signing-on within the month.