There is no question that the Internet has helped small business owners expand their reach by leaps and bounds to an exponentially greater target audience. They are now able to compete with their larger counter-parts by having the same access to potential consumers. With the use of effective Internet marketing strategies, small business owners now have the means to promote their brand that they didn’t have prior to the Internet revolution. The increased usage of social media marketing opens up even more doors to small business owners by enabling them to interact with and engage in online conversations with prospective customers/clients.
However, just like the side effects of medications we take to cure an illness, there are some negative consequences for some to the powerful functionality of the Internet. The Internet has completely transformed the way we live and do business today.
Take for instance, the small local business owner who has enjoyed a successful business based on word-of-mouth advertising and maintaining a good reputation in the community. What if this same business owner either doesn’t have a website or has an outdated one? In the past, this wouldn’t have mattered but now in today’s times with people using the Internet more and more for purchases, doing research on items before they buy, price shopping, etc. , this small business owner might find that he or she is losing customers to the competition that has more of an online presence. What choice is there but to “keep up with the Jones” and either create or update one’s website in order to maintain a competitive edge? Even though word-of-mouth advertising is still the single most cost-efficient and effective form of advertising, not having an online presence or less of one than your competition will have a negative impact on your bottom line. A website visit is often the first interaction a consumer has with a business, and without one or an ineffective one, some small businesses are at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Remember telephone booths? Remember when there were phone booths on almost every major street? Now the only place you can find a phone booth is on a street on Disney property. Many people are giving up their land line phones in favor of cell phones. How about phones that are attached to phone cords? How many of us even have a phone in our home that is NOT cordless? (You will wish you did if you have a power failure!)
The business world is now becoming one that is consumer-driven. Consumers want what they want when they want it. Many industries are being negatively affected by both the Internet and the new consumer of today.
Email is replacing snail mail and is having a negative impact on the US Postal Service as they continue to raise the postage rates. The cost of newspapers has increased significantly while the circulation has decreased. It is much easier for people to get their news from the Internet than to rely on a newspaper. Online news is immediate and accessible 24/7 which is much more convenient and today’s consumers flock towards convenience. Many newspapers have had to shut down while others are having tremendous difficulty staying afloat.
Travel agencies are losing business because people are no longer reliant on them to book airline flights and hotel reservations. The Internet makes it much easier and sometimes more cost effective to go online and make your own reservations. The entire market sector of the travel agencies has changed and perhaps in time will cease to exist as more and more people make their own travel arrangements.
The music and video industries have been seriously affected by the Internet. Music, movies and television are readily available for free. With sites such as Hulu which allow you to watch anything you want anytime you want, what will happen to DVD rental companies? The music industry, in particular, has been turned upside down in trying to keep up with the changing technologies and the way music is purchased, marketed and shared. The large music stores have had to change their marketing and business strategies because of how simple it is to purchase mp3s from the Internet. There has been a significant negative impact on the music industry’s revenues due to how easy it is for anyone to basically steal whatever they want whenever they want to. Copyright infringement is running rampant on the web resulting in time and resources to try to police it.
The Automotive industry has had to change their business model to keep up with the times and the increased usage of the Internet for researching reviews, online companies that help consumers find the best price, and online car auctions. The internet is now the main player where people look to sell or buy used cars, trucks and vans. Auto makers realize that if they want their cars to get good press coverage, they need to have a strong online presence.
“Survival of the fittest” is a phrase that carries enormous meaning for many industries. Those that adapt and change their business models and marketing practices in line with the effects of the Internet are those that by natural selection will survive. Those that don’t, will die off.
So what does this mean for business owners, both large and small? It means that during the natural course of evolution, unfortunately, some niches will no longer have a market, however, by keeping up with technology and the needs and wants of the consumer, it is very possible to alter your company's offerings to be able to continue giving your perspective clients/customers exactly what they are looking for.
The printing industry is a perfect example of how this can and has been done. Stay tuned for my next post about Cross Media Publishing.