Internet marketing is a component of electronic commerce. Internet marketing can include information management, public relations, customer service, and sales. Electronic commerce and Internet marketing have become popular as Internet access is becoming more widely available and used. Well over one third of consumers who have Internet access in their homes report using the Internet to make purchases. Internet marketing first began in the early 1990s as simple, text-based websites that offered product information. It then evolved into advertisements complete with graphics.
The most recent step in this evolution was the creation of complete online businesses that use the Internet to promote and sell their services and goods. Internet marketing is associated with several business models. The main models include business-to-business and business-to-consumer (B2C). B2B consists of companies doing business with each other, whereas B2C involves selling directly to the end consumer. When Internet marketing first began the B2C model was first to emerge. B2B transactions were more complex and came about later. A third, less common business model is peer-to-peer (P2P), where individuals exchange goods between themselves. An example of P2P is Napster, which is built upon individuals sharing files. Internet marketing can also be seen in various formats. One version is name-your-price. With this format, customers are able to state what price range they wish to spend and then select from items at that price range. With find-the-best-price websites, Internet users can search for the lowest prices on items.
A final format is online auctions where buyers bid on listed items. Some of the benefits associated with Internet marketing include the availability of information. Consumers can log onto the Internet and learn about products, as well as purchase them, at any hour. Companies that use Internet marketing can also save money because of a reduced need for a sales force. Overall, Internet marketing can help expand from a local market to both national and international marketplaces.
Limitations of Internet marketing create problems for both companies and consumers. Slow Internet connections can cause difficulties. If companies put too much information on their website, Internet users may struggle to load the web page. Also, Internet marketing does not allow shoppers to touch or try-on items before purchasing them. For both companies and consumers that participate in online business, security concerns are very important.
Many consumers are hesitant to buy items over the Internet because they do not trust that their personal information will remain private. Recently, some companies that do business online have been caught giving away or selling information about their customers. Several of these companies have guarantees on their websites, claiming customer information will be private. By selling customer information, these companies are breaking their own, publicized policy. Some companies that buy customer information offer the option for individuals to have their information removed from the database (known as opting out). However, many customers are unaware that their information is being shared and are unable to stop the transfer of their information between companies.