Internet Technology.

If the electronic consumer will be real, we must also be willing to accept that the technology of the Internet will present us much more opportunity by the year 2000.

Right off, I’ll be the first to admit that it is extremely difficult to guess where Internet technology might be four years from now – things are simply moving too fast. I often say that six months in Internet technology years is like 20 human years. Drawing upon my rather rusty accountancy skills, I can tell you that this means we’ll see 120 years worth of technical evolution on the Internet before the end of the century. Clearly, the Internet of tomorrow will be quite different than that of today.

Anyone who talks about the Internet in the year 2000 talks about the speed of access to the network _ the phrase used is “faster bandwidth.” Many of us will be accessing the Internet through high speed links that involve fiber to the home, cable systems, satellite connections and new wireless PCS telephone systems. Faster bandwidth will lead to a truly “multimedia Internet”, one in which sound, images, video, and animation will predominate. If you think about it, the Internet will have evolved into a new one-to-one medium in which everyone in the world will be able to establish their own TV and radio station – and the CRTC will have become truly irrelevant. That in itself will make interactive marketing both a fascinating field and a challenging opportunity.

Yet, I believe the key to interactive marketing in the future won’t involve applications that are simply newer, faster, better — it will come through efforts to use the Internet as a core technology through which an organization can re-engineer the relationship it has with its customers.

By the year 2000, many organizations will have come to realize that the FedEx Web site of today is truly leading edge – and that real competitive advantage in the marketplace can be found through the implementation of systems that link customers directly to the corporate mainframe. (If you don’t know already, through the FedEx site, you can query their system directly to find out the up-to-the-minute status of a package you have shipped.)

By using the Web as a front end to corporate systems, companies can implement business applications that permit the customer to inquire, update, and order product directly from an organization. This opens a host of new opportunities — rather than sending costly monthly paper statements, business will provide access to account information on-line. Instead of calling an expensive call center to see if a particular product is in stock, the customer will access your mainframe database through the Web to check its availability. On my own desktop, my accounting program will talk directly to my bank through the Internet to grab check reconciliation data.

Interactive marketing? It will exist in the form non-intrusive messages and customer education information built into these day to day business applications.

Marketing Activities

Yet, interactive marketing will be about much more than simple customer education.

By 2000, the effort in corporate Canada will be to seek efficiencies and cost savings in the relationship with the customer through the Web. Rather than simple Web sites that consist of pretty pictures and product brochures – pretty simple exercises, if you think about it — we will see real Internet based business applications.

The marketing world will have moved beyond viewing the Web as a “media”, and will appreciate that it is a tool that can be used to permit the customer to inquire, update, and order product directly from the company. They will have realized that the goal of interactive marketing isn’t just to increase product awareness – but that it really involves the implementation of Internet based computer links to the customer that will make it difficult or unattractive for the customer to take their business elsewhere.

Interactive marketing will be about thinking strategically about the customer relationship, using the Internet as the strategic glue. That’s the key to the future.

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