The steps in the 4S web marketing mix was developed in the late 90′s, as an educational tool, but has proven quite suitable as a process for designing a new web site, (like we are), or for evaluating and improving an existing one. This is a spin on the “4Ps Marketing Mix” framework to adapt to today’s virtual world. The concept is to enable e-commerce full integration of all virtual activities into the physical strategy of the company, its marketing plan and its organizational process.
Here are the four critical managerial ingredients of e-marketing from the 4S model with their explanation:
1. SCOPE: Defining the main strategic issues which currently are limited by the online presence. This scope will always change and evolve as the site grows and technology increases. Those issues include, but are not limited to markets, competition, customer profiles, effects of the online operation to the brick and mortar, effects on internal processes and identification of the role the online presence will take as a whole.
2. SITE: Defines the operational aspects of the online presence. The site must attract the target customer and be an effective interface between the firm and the customer. Must meet automation demands versus man power alone. Must have a feel of a virtual experience that allows the customer the freedom to interact, while being private, and yet gain loyalty.
3. SYSTEM: Technical factors which undermine the security and safety of both the customer transaction and the company’s image, margins and time commitment in an fully integrated online presence is not to be lightly considered. Technology today often aids the customer friendly field with the initial cost of building, maintaining and modifying being seemingly high until the full marketing plan both internally and externally are allowed to move cohesively.
4. SYNERGY: The online presence and the company’s network must be integrated. Duplication of archaic systems to avoid added expenditure simply adds to expenses elsewhere. Synergy will maximize market impact and effect traditional methods to an exponentially positive degree. This then requires:
• Front Office Integration: The virtual world and the traditional world must be seamless in undivided in the marketing plan. If not, the plan will never have the internal support needed for launch and growth.
• Back Office Integration: The back office processes must be integrated immediately simultaneously. Existing back off ice organizational will most likely need upgrading. If not, the virtual experience by the customer will be lost or questioned.
• External Integration: Banking, inventory control systems, purchasing, logistics and R&D may be items the business outsources in part or in full and integration with those systems is critical. Management must continually monitor for economies of scale and efficiency while not sacrificing the balanced scorecard, metrics being managed or the virtual feel by the customer.
In summary, the strengths of the 4S web marketing mix are that it identifies the critical strategic, operational, and technological issues of a great online presence. With a fairly low entry level, the constant upgrade of technology to maintain the customer feel demanded today, the integrated approach ends up making massive improvements in collaboration both internally and externally with vendors. In sectors where conditions change quickly this educational and managerial tool shows great value if continually monitored. Lastly, on a positive note as viewed by some, marketing managers now become high level strategists and not just tacticians.
The limitations of the 4S web marketing mix are that it is primarily developed for Business to Consumer (B2C) applications. Business to Business (B2B) applications may or may not be able to use or gain from the mix method depending on what products or services are being offered. The firm’s knowledge of online consumer behaviors needs to be top-notch in order to optimize the web element of the overall marketing plan. This knowledge may not be available internally. That knowledge internally may be laden with the traditional 4Ps mix which do not take into account factors unique to online marketing and its integration needs.
Thomas von Ahn | Chief Elephant Slayer | Viral Solutions LLC
Content derived from publications and interaction with by Dr. Efthymios Constantnides at the University of Twente.