When reviewing options for online strategy, it is useful to consider that this involves more than the narrow focus of a strategy to develop website functionality. Although developing a website can be a central part of the strategy, digital marketing should also examine broader issues of how to:
- Maximise the benefits of partnering with online intermediaries such as portals and social networks or influencers such as bloggers
- Harness social media marketing both through use on its own site though user-generated content and within the main social networks like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter
- Use email, mobile, apps and database strategically as communications and relationship building tools which must integrate with other marketing communication
Developing a digital marketing strategy may also involve redesigning business processes to integrate with partners such as suppliers and distributors in new ways. This point is made by Sultan and Rohm (2004) who, based on a study of three organisations, identify different forms of aligning online strategies with business goals, their framework identifying these strategic objectives:
- Cost reduction and value chain efficiencies. B2B supplier AB Dick used the internet to sell printer supplies via the internet to reduce service call.
- Revenue generation. Reebok uses the internet for direct licensed sales of products such as treadmills which do not have strong distribution deals.
- Channel partnership. Partnering with distributors using extranets.
- Communications and branding. Car company Saturn developed the MySaturn site to foster close relationship with customers.
The operational activities which need to be implemented and managed as part of strategy can be usefully divided into those focusing on:
- Customer acquisition
- Customer conversion, proposition and experience development
- Customer retention and growth
Improving the capability to execute many of these activities will be decided upon through the review process of creating a digital marketing strategy. An output from the digital strategy will be a series of strategic e-commerce initiatives in the areas of customer acquisition, conversion or retention. These e-commerce initiatives will typically be prioritised and placed as part of long-term e-commerce roadmap defining required developments over a longer period, say one to three years.
Main types of strategic initiatives
|New customer proposition||New site features or other online communications which are directly related to offering new product or service that will generate revenue.||Bank introducing new product requiring different quotations
Portal introducing a price comparison service
Magazine or music service offering new pricing options
|Customer acquisition||Strategic projects designed to enhance a site’s capability and deliver different online marketing techniques aimed to attract new customers.||SEO
|Customer conversion and customer experience||Investment in new customer features designed to engage the audience and increase conversion rates and average order values.|
New functionality e.g. new online store; special functionality e.g. real time stock checking.
Strategic initiatives aimed at improving the customers’ brand experience.
|Implement online shop / secure payment
Introduce customer reviews and ratings
Merchandising capability for offer tailored promotions
Interactive tools to help product selection
|Customer development and growth||Investment to improve the experience and delivery of offers to existing customers.||Personalised recommendations and services for existing customers
Email contact strategy focused on the customer journey and level of brand awareness
Communities, social media, blogs and RSS feeds to encourage return visitors
|Enhance marketing capabilities through site infrastructure improvements||These typically involve ‘back-end’ or ‘back-office features’ which won’t be evident to users of the site, but will help in the management or administration of the site.||CRM or personalisation
Content management system
Performance improvement improve management information, web analytics systems including system for multivariate and AB testing
Improve customer feedback facilities
In terms of scope, it is important to consider the extent to which digital marketing strategies blend together many elements of marketing and information technology strategies. In common with marketing strategy, digital marketing strategy must determine the best value propositions to offer to online customers and how to integrate with other channels to achieve strategic goals. But in common with IT strategy, many of the decisions of digital marketing strategy involve selection of the most appropriate investments in software functionality and hardware technology and resources to provide an improved customer experience and to provide an infrastructure to gain better results from digital channels. Furthermore, media selection becomes a more strategic decision when planning a digital marketing strategy. In traditional marketing, media is selected based on its potential to deliver the objectives of a specific promotional initiative. However, digital marketing strategies often require a longer term view when making media investments, as techniques used to attract visitors to a website are often continuous or ‘always-on’ activities.
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.