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Communicating
Communicating in the new in the interactive
interactive marketspace marketspace
Wilson Ozuem
Holborn College, London, UK 1059
Kerry E. Howell
Plymouth Business School, Faculty of Social Science and Business, Received July 2006
Revised March 2007
University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK, and Accepted May 2007
Geoff Lancaster
London School of Commerce, London, UK

Abstract
Purpose – The proliferation of the internet and world wide web (WWW) in recent years has resulted
in the creation of new social and marketing spaces, and a new form of interaction and identity
formation. This paper aims to investigate this phenomenon.
Design/methodology/approach – Whilst cost benefits and profit derivation from the internet and
other hypermedia mediated communication environments have been the focus of much research, the
majority of these assessments have left many assumptions unarticulated. Questions of how
contemporary communication content and interactivity is different from the singular “one-to-many”
communication models have been avoided in this research. This paper investigates these deficiencies
and goes on to suggest how academics and practitioners can realign their thinking in the light of these
findings.
Findings – Computer mediated marketing environments provide organisations with a medium that
can be used to deliver content in a variety of ways to consumers. This capability highlights the
distinction between the information in marketing communication and the vehicle used to deliver the
information: that is, content differs from communication.
Originality/value – The paper highlights how versatility of the internet as an instrument for
mediated communication means that organisations can integrate different modalities of marketing
communications into a strategy that combines on-line and off-line tactics to meet strategic objectives.
Keywords Internet, Marketing communications, Marketing information
Paper type Research paper

Introduction
The pace of change brought about by new technologies has had a significant effect on
the way companies and consumers relate to one another. New and emerging
technologies challenge the traditional process of transactions and the way
communications between consumers and companies are managed. The advent of the
internet is having a major impact in the way in which communications between
companies and consumers are conducted and maintained in the evolving marketing
panorama. Many of these changes have been characterised and explicated in
unconnected links with marketing communication processes, which influenced European Journal of Marketing
Vol. 42 No. 9/10, 2008
consumer behaviour in the evolving interactive marketplace. Current understandings pp. 1059-1083
tend to question whether the recent and most remarkable changes as a result of q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0309-0566
internet ubiquity warrant a paradigm shift in the practice of marketing, especially in DOI 10.1108/03090560810891145
EJM marketing communications and competitive advantage (Castells, 2001; Molenaar, 2002;
42,9/10 Slevin, 2002; Tapscott et al., 2000).
In this context, it is interesting to recognise the profound influence of consumers
changing their behaviour in the province of marketing communications. Ordinarily,
internet technologies breed higher order communication between organisations to
consumers and consumers to consumers. The essence of this communicative
1060 continuum within the medium tends to breed interactivity. Likewise, interactivity
breeds vibrant and active communicative environments where users act and conduct
their activities akin to analogous experience. Considering the dynamics of the internet
as cohesive information repositories, as well as a marketing medium, the ways in
which companies have encouraged consumer purchasing in the past, are now
transmuting into a collaborative position where consumers are no longer under the
influence of orthodox communications media.
Whilst there is a plethora of literature that explicitly accentuates the interactive
marketplace, Hoffman and Novak’s (1997) new marketing paradigm for electronic
commerce has become the main pointer in this exploration. Two bases of the changes
in the interactive marketplace that have been identified by these authors are broad
categories of the consumption process (presence and telepresence). This is analogous to
consumers in hypermedia computer mediated environments, who experience
“telepresence” (Steuer, 1992) or the perception of being present in the mediated,
rather than real-world, environments. Following this line of thought, it is suggested
that there is an expansion of perception and the experience of presence beyond the
presence. Hoffman and Novak (1997) urged the decoupling of hypermedia mediated
environments from the speculative, but offered few suggestions as to how this might
be accomplished. When one talks about computer mediated environments, much that
drives interaction does not exist in users’ conscious experience. Rather, consumers
experience seemingly introspective and unipolar environments. Hoffman and Novak
(1997), in particular, influenced practitioners and researchers to start grappling with
consumers’ interactive trajectories in the evolving marketspace environment.
Increased understanding of computer mediated marketing environments
championed by internet technologies should, in turn, enhance the design of
reflective and effective marketing communication programmes between marketers
and consumers, which might lead to effective relationships within the consumption
process.
This paper assumes that in computer mediated marketing environments, the
commercial and operational facets that internet technologies provide, mean that
marketers should enjoy a malleable medium that can be used to deliver content
through a variety of means. This capability highlights the distinction between the
information in marketing communication and the vehicle used to deliver this
information: that is, content differs from communication. Furthermore, the versatility
of the internet as an agency for mediated communications, means that marketers can
integrate different modalities of marketing communications into a strategy that
combines on-line and off-line tactics to meet strategic objectives (Coupey, 2001; Varey,
2002).
Background Communicating
The integration of conventional and hegemonic media into a hyper electronic in the interactive
marketplace heralds a new vista in the consumption process by providing a flexible
and dialogic access between marketers and consumers in a way that challenges the marketspace
functionalist view of communication. This is achieved by providing opportunities
where consumers are no longer passive recipients of communication, but active
participants in shaping the way they react to it. Despite the conundrum of asymmetric 1061
marketing communication models as propagated in the technical-rational view of the
nature and purpose of knowledge that is postulated in the pedagogical scientific
approach, marketing practitioners are prevalently incorporating this emerging
marketing medium as nothing more than informing technology. As a result,
practitioners seek assumed “cause/effect” and “action/outcome” situations in which
marketing communications are manipulated towards the achievement of rational
objectives by departing from the realities of social exchange that is a fundamental
component of the communication medium (Hackley, 2001a; Varey, 2002, 2005).
Driven by the perpetuation of mainstream quantification models, practitioners are
indecisive about setting aside unsuitable conventional monological models. This
absence of understanding, resulting in the continued deployment of mechanistic
communicational models, may impede practice. This undermines development in
marketing theory and practice resulting in the dominance of economic thinking and
values, and a limitation of marketing to transactions involving exchanges (Buttle, 1990,
1995; Varey, 2000a, 2000b). The result is that mainstream marketing tends to diffuse
within professional practice with lesser cognisance of the interactive nature of the
mediated marketing environment (Hackley, 2001b, pp. 106-7). In a recent study, Varey
(2005) cautions that the nature and role of communication has been taken for granted.
Likewise, marketing communications is more consolidated and associated with
product promotional activities. Therefore, there is a need for conceptualising
marketing communication in the evolving interactive marketplace with the primal task
of facilitating understanding in culturally and socially-constructed environments.

Approach
Much has been reported on the cost effectiveness of a web presence in the business to
consumer (B2C) area and the predominant aspect of internet marketing business to
business (B2B). (Hagel and Armstrong, 1997; Hoffman and Novak, 1997; Shapiro,
2000). However, research in web marketing theory and practice is not well developed.
What does exist indicates that the written text, a predominant trait of world wide web
(WWW), and the creation of virtual communities are important aspects of the web
marketing process. Whilst the literature pertaining to a web presence is not exhaustive,
it does provide some possible clues for conceptualising the nature and segments that
have evolved from this paradigm. Prior to this study, there was not a great deal of
information available about marketing communication trajectories in cyberspace as
virtually all models advocate the passive, one-to-many, communications. Web presence
research has taken place in managerial, organisational, health therapy and educational
settings and has focused on cost effectiveness and social support derivations (Berthon
et al., 1996; Nettleton et al., 2002; Wellman, 2000).
The internet is a model of distributed computing that facilitates interactive
multi-dimensional many-to-many communications. As such, the internet supports
EJM discussion groups (Usenet news and moderated and non-moderated mailing lists),
42,9/10 global information access and retrieval systems such as the near ubiquity of the world
wide web (WWW). The WWW, the first and current networked global implementation
of a hypermedia computer mediated environment (CME), is now established as an
important newly emergent commercial medium and marketing environment (Hoffman
and Novak, 1997). The proliferation of the internet and WWW in recent years has
1062 resulted in the creation of new social and marketing spaces, and a new form of
interaction and identity formation. Whilst cost benefits and profit derivation of the
internet and other hypermedia environments have been the focus of much research, the
majority of these assessments have left many assumptions unarticulated. They have
avoided questions of how communication content and interactivity afforded by the
internet is radically different from conventional monolithic one-to-many
communication models. Consumers, hitherto receivers of unidirectional modes of
communication have been transformed into potent participants in the emerging
networked economy.
The potential of the networked economy, as a consequence of the internet, has not
only created a global economy, but has fashioned a means of communication through
the popularity of the WWW. The inherent potential of the internet as a commercial
medium to speedily reach an extensive market has been widely documented in the
literature (Armstrong and Hagel, 1996; Blattberg and Deighton, 1996; Deighton and
Barwise, 2001; Evans and Wurster, 1999; Hoffman and Novak, 1997; McKenna, 2002).
For example, Kiani (1998) contended that the increasing popularity of the web has
given many consumers, marketers and users a new experience. Nonetheless, the fact
that this is recognised as a central issue in the marketing communications literature
suggests there is still a lack of rigorous cross industry empirical research on
interactivity and benefits of accessing the evolving marketspace.
Hoffman and Novak (1997) perceptively point out that the WWW has unique
characteristics that make it central to the perceived paradigm in the way in which
goods and services are likely to be marketed in the future. Hoffman and Novak (1997)
proposed that the web is a virtual, many-to-many hypermedia environment
incorporating interactivity with both people and consumers. Accordingly, the web is
not a simulation of a real world environment, but is an alternative to the real-world,
where consumers may experience telepresence (Steuer, 1992), or the perception of being
present in the mediated world, rather than a real environment. Hoffman and Novak
(1997) maintain that users of the medium can provide and interactively access
hypermedia content and communicate with each other. The authors assert that two
unique properties, machine-interaction and person-interaction, have contributed to the
rapid diffusion of the web as a commercial medium during the past decade.
Corresponding to Hoffman and Novak’s (1997) ontological perspectives of the
uniqueness of the internet, Blattberg et al. (1994) counter that marketing is shifting into
a new phase they called fifth phase. The authors, by tracing the historical development
of the market, and identifying five different stages of market development, explained
ways in which the information revolution would probably transform business and the
function of marketing.
The internet is a new form of mass communication. Mass communication, while
itself is a relatively new phenomenon, has always involved controlled broadcasts to
passive audiences. As in most marketing communications, the mass audience has
never had any significant input, or control, over the content of mass communication. Communicating
With the burgeoning internet, these characteristics of mass communication have in the interactive
forever changed: on the internet we find many organisations broadcasting information
to incalculable numbers of audiences. With this background in mind, the authors marketspace
approached the research problem using a theoretical sampling approach to analyse
data which is explained in the next section.
1063
Methodology, methods and analysis
The methodology used in this paper is constructivist ethnographic and based on two
inter-related phenomenological perspectives. It is an approach in which analytical
categories evolve and expand as the data are iteratively analysed; a key components of
this approach is that it is data driven. In this way, value laden research and
subjectivity are accepted and critiqued. However, the question is by whose values are
observations to be guided? They may either be etic (values of the researcher) or emic
(values of the researched). A further problem is how one comprehends the observed
when their values are not those of the researcher. For this research, participants were
involved in the process as we attempted to overcome the power imbalance between the
researcher and the researched and provide a democratic structure to research. Human
beings create reality through participation, experience and action (Denzin and Lincoln,
2005, p. 206). It requires the researcher to move back and forth between the researched
and the literature, and involves multiple iterations of looking for themes and patterns
within and across respondents[1]. That is, we conducted a deep within-subject analysis
to help identify central themes, and then looked for patterns across subjects. Several
iterations were needed to challenge, expand and refine the evolving themes and form
them into a coherent and consistent interpretation. Writing and data analysis were
intimately intertwined; writing was part of the analysis.

Reason for this approach: philosophical underpinnings


The methodological approach used in this paper is based on the phenomenological
perspectives of Heidegger (2004, 1996, 1994) and Merleau-Ponty (1999). Heidegger
posited an “existential analytic” which dealt with what we are in terms of “Dasein”
which is to be of the world where it is manifested or made explicit. Dasein is the event
of world manifestation and as soon as a being such as Dasein exists then a world
exists. Dasein is existence; its essence is an entity that is becoming through fashioning
its own existence. Fundamentally, “we are ourselves the entities to be analysed. The
Being of any such entity is in each case mine. These entities, in their being comport
themselves toward their Being . . . Being is that which is an issue for every such entity”
(Heidegger, 2004, pp. 22, 67). All research and analysis are driven by an attempt to
understand self in relation to humanity as elements of becoming. For Heidegger “an
understanding of being is already included in conceiving anything which one
apprehends as an entity”. Similarly, but from a different perspective, Merleau-Ponty
(1999) saw any inquiry as being guided by what is sought. Consequently, the meaning
of an entity must already be known to the inquirer prior to the investigation and must
already be available to us in some way. “Phenomenology can be practised and
identified as a manner or style of thinking, that it existed as a movement before
arriving at complete awareness of itself as a philosophy” (Merleau-Ponty, 1999, p. vii).
Phenomenology is only accessible through its method. Accordingly, let us bring
EJM together the strands that have “grown spontaneously together in life” (Merleau-Ponty,
42,9/10 1999, p. viii). From the start, Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology is a rejection of science
(positivism). One is unable to understand oneself as more than a bit of the world. One is
a sociological, biological entity that cannot shut out the world and exist in the realm of
science. “All my knowledge of the world even my scientific knowledge is gained from
my own particular point of view, or from experience of the world without which the
1064 symbols of science would be meaningless” (Merleau-Ponty, 1999, p. viii). Science is a
second order expression of the world. Hence, if we are to rigorously scrutinise science
we must begin with this and understand it as built on the world as it is directly
experienced. Science will never be the same as the world because it is an explanation of
the world. “I am not what science defines me, as I am the source. My existence does not
stem from my antecedents, from my physical and social environments; instead it
moves out towards them and sustains them; I alone bring into being for myself an
existence I can understand” (Merleau-Ponty, 1999, pp. viii). A scientific point of view
that considers that existence is a moment of the world is not only naı̈ve, but dishonest.
It takes for granted consciousness through which a world forms itself around an
individual, and begins to exist for that person. When we return to things themselves,
we return to a world that precedes knowledge; a world in which all scientific schemes
are an abstract sign-language, e.g. as geography is in relation to the country-side, i.e.
we have already learned what a river or a field is. The ethnographic approach in this
paper is based on these ontological and epistemological assumptions. There is direct
interaction between the researcher and the researched as they continually interact,
even though existence is fashioned through the mind. Indeed, technological change and
communicative capability reflect these issues and illustrate examples of humanity
becoming in the world (Howell, 2004).

A constructivist ethnographic methodology


In Western society ethnographic interest regarding the origins of humanity, society
and civilisation stemmed from an analysis of (what were labelled) less civilised
cultures than those exemplified in occidental society. This notion emanated from
imperial and colonial understandings usually perpetrated by explorers, missionaries
and early entrepreneurs. Indeed, the initial conceptualisation of the West as benefactor
was replaced by distinct ideas of evolutionary progress linked to the ideas of Spencer
(2001, 2005) and Darwin (1982). This intensified the positivist ethnographic position of
superior researcher analysing the “other” from an objective standpoint. Echoing
Merleau-Ponty (1999) and post-modern constructivist approaches to ethnography we
consider that such a standpoint is very difficult if not impossible when analysing
human activity. Indeed, based on the phenomenological perspectives, identified above,
the ethnographic approach here considers human understanding to be subjective and
relative. Ethnographic studies should define human-kind and provide social scientific
descriptions of people and their cultural bases; in such a way we can develop
comprehensions of “self” in relation to “other” in terms of becoming.
The difficulty is that the researcher’s world-view and decisions about which data is
important, and which are not, guide observations. Fundamentally, research is value
laden. The question is by whose values are observations to be guided? As discussed
above they may either be etic or emic. A further problem is how one comprehends the
observed when their values are not one’s own (a difficulty with the colonial
comprehension of the so-called primitive practices observed from a Christian value Communicating
laden perspective). Furthermore, one may argue there are problems relating to in the interactive
post-modernism in terms of generality and validity.
In relation to the shift from a positivist understanding of ethnography toward the marketspace
constructivist, Denzin (1994) identified three periods of ethnographic study: antiquity,
middle ages, and modern. We were now entering a fourth; the post-modern, and the
ethnographic method for this period should be “dedicated to understanding how this 1065
historical moment universalizes itself in the lives of interesting individuals” (Denzin,
1994, pp. 42, 120). Some people feel that the post-modern ethnographic approach
merely presents the words of respondents and accepts their perceptions of reality. This
is not the case. This approach involves an analysis of respondents’ words. Whilst
respondents’ voices were pre-eminent in our analysis; we did not study their voices
uncritically. Rather, through analysis, we added our voices to their voices. We listened
to and preserved their voices, but our analysis did not end there. Through a deep
understanding of the evolving relationship between marketers and consumers within
the social context of computer mediated marketing environments, we developed
interpretations that went beyond the immediate voices of respondents to generate new
insights (Lancaster, 2005).

Methodology, data collection and analysis


The authors selected a qualitative constructivist ethnographic methodology as being
the most appropriate for achieving a deeper understanding of evolving
computer-mediated marketing environments. A participatory/constructivist
approach was adopted to explore a range of perspectives on users’ interactive
marketspace. This was based on the premise that users’ knowledge and understanding
of their own situation and experience as the essential components within the field of
internet marketing. The study was conducted from a perspective that stressed real-life
experiences of users’ interactive marketplace. Collecting data in an area of study which
during recent years has witnessed an exponential rate of publicity and hype created
some initial concerns.
First, as the object of study is positively (negatively, in some cases) nascent, there
was a concern with keeping abreast of what is in the offing within the electronic
marketplace. The object of study has been inundated with, and surrounded by,
numerous publications. Second, the topicality of the object of investigation has in some
ways created voluminous accessibility to data where participants were more willing to
expend more time than earlier scheduled. The initial concerns helped the authors gain
more grounded understanding in overcoming the latter. Respondents were
purposefully contacted by the researchers to participate in depth interviews. Letters
of solicitation were sent to prospective interviewees. In some situations, were
participants’ telephone numbers and email were readily available, telephone calls were
made personally by the researchers explaining the aim of the investigations to
respondents. All participants gave their informed consent to participate in the study.
They were assured that their participation was voluntary and that they could
withdraw from the study at any time. Participants were assured that confidentiality
would be maintained and that the findings would be anonymous. This practice is in
line with recommendations by Jansick (2001) that researchers should consult
participants to be studied throughout the research process. This ensures that the
EJM concepts and methods that were adopted were culturally valid and sensitive to the
population concerned (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005).
42,9/10 A purposive sampling approach (Strauss and Corbin, 1994) was used to seek out
groups and individuals where understanding and repositories of knowledge of the
“interactive marketplace” were likely to be evident. The present authors constructed a
sample that was meaningful theoretically because it built on certain characteristics or
1066 criteria where social explanations can be constructed on depth, complexity and
roundedness in data, rather than the kind of broad surveys of surface patterns
questionnaires might provide (Mason, 2001). In total, 31 in-depth interviews were
conducted by the researchers using a method described by Oppenheim (1992).
Interviews were audio-taped with participants’ permission and lasted one to two hours
with breaks as required. A short questionnaire to collect demographic data was also
completed by respondents. Interviews started with the explanation of the study and
allowed respondents to seek clarifications if necessary. Respondents were asked to talk
about their usage and experiences of computer-mediated marketing environments. At
the end of each interview, key points made by respondents were reiterated to check
that this was the true meaning of the points made earlier in the interview.
The explanatory frameworks of the sample used were modelled on the number of
responses obtained, rather than the cumulative figures of those contacted. It was noted
that only those who were familiar with the concept, or in some cases, those who have
used the medium one or more times, would logically provide some indicators towards a
theoretical framework. Some responses were discounted from the sample as inclusions
of these opinions would have had diminutive and interstitial inputs or, in some cases,
no valuable inputs to the explanatory framework. The composition of the data followed
two strands (control and interactivity) as perceived benefits in the computer mediated
marketing environment (see Tables I and II).
As the analysis of these data developed, it triggered some interlocking categories
which replicated and compounded some of the key issues in the two major themes, but
which were too complex and differentiated to be categorised using the two primary
themes. Although, responses could be broadly placed in one theme or the other, the key
issues arising from the responses were mutually exclusive. In most cases, responses
were reticulated in key issues which impacted on the primary themes, but which to a
certain degree, could be independently “thematicalised”. Initially, the presentation of
data was considered in two rudimentary themes, but two more themes emerged as
permeating the data-set i.e. themes which were not mutually exclusive to either

Major theme Perceived benefits Key issues

Control In digital-based marketing environments, customers Co-creating


are not passive recipients of marketing and selling, Presence
but instead central players who experience increased Flexibility
control in the on-line marketspace. Individuals do not Direct
conform to the social conventions of grooming and Desirable
acceptable behaviour as shopping can be conducted Power
in various ways Trust
Self determination
Table I. Freedom of choice
Major theme (control) Meditative
Communicating
Major theme Perceived benefits Key issues
in the interactive
Interactivity In the digital-based marketing environment,
customers can initiate an interaction at any time and
Iterative
Collaboration
marketspace
from anywhere connatively, as well as before, Interface
during, or after purchases. This makes the Immediate or not
conventional exchange paradigm very limiting when Evolving 1067
participating in computer mediated marketing Feedback
environments. Interactions are based on a form of Learning
digital networked environment which encompasses Iteration
potential relationships or specific exchanges Emerge
Informative
Dialogic Table II.
Exploration Major theme
Convenience (interactivity)

category, but which appeared throughout the transcripts. The permeating themes are
depicted in Tables III and IV with categorised key issues.

Analysis and findings: self, subjectivity and the interactive marketplace


As noted, this paper takes a constructivist ethnographic methodological approach that
considers the field to be immediate, and part of the researchers’ experience and

Permeated theme Perceived benefits Key issues

Reach Individuals in on-line storefronts can participate in Democratic


distal and proximal transactions beyond the reality Community
of the physical marketplace. Users who participate in Transparency
transactions transcend the confines of the Price
marketplace and usually engage in the marketspace Choice
Scope
Collaboration
Marketspace
Diversity
Networks
Empowerment Table III.
Heterogeneous Permeated theme (reach)

Permeated theme Perceived benefits Key issues

Information In web-enabled marketing environments, there is a Choice


widespread availability of information that can be Personalisation
conveniently accessed at any time and from Medium
anywhere. The costs of searching are minimal and Differentiation
the speed of obtaining information is in real time Immediacy
Accessibility Table IV.
Variability Permeated theme
Flexibility (information)
EJM understanding. It is not conveniently waiting to be “discovered” by the tenacious
42,9/10 researcher, but part of our local knowledge by which we make sense of the world. This
phenomenon is not reported in methodological texts, but is part of our interpretations
in line with the authors’ modes of dissemination.
The field also comprises the physical and cultural domains where discourse exists.
This includes both physical characteristics as well as incorporating the social
1068 processes in which discourse is embedded. Indeed, the internet extends this and
changes the convergence of communication and social interaction. People congregate
in virtual neighbourhoods to discuss a range of topics. For this paper, mediated
discussions such as newsgroups were explored to gain a comprehension of issues
involved in going on-line. Essentially, the researchers became part of an on-line
community and participated in the formation and continuation of this social structure.
Data were collected from these sources (i.e. individuals involved in these
communities) using purposive sampling. Individuals were contacted by post, telephone
and email. This correspondence explained the nature of the study and how the data
would be used. Interviews with 17 participants are reported consisting of eight females
and nine males. Where possible, the age of the participant has been reported. Each
interview was transcribed and interpreted using a number of processes and reflective
activities. The researchers reflect on data from different perspectives of self in relation
to immersion in the field. Human personality if formed through plural and fluid
phenomena and we all have different cultural perspectives. In our analysis, we accept
subjectivity and accept the unfeasibility of universal truth:
We seek a model of truth that is narrative, open ended and conflictual, performance and
audience based, and always personal biographical. . .writing from an unstable place [we] are
neither insiders nor outsiders (Denzin, 1994, p 265, authors’ brackets).
The internet has created a complex environment that is neither local nor global, and the
analysis in this paper reflects this new phenomenon as verified in our methods of data
collection and findings. We offer an understanding or interpretation of inter-subjective
experience in the interactive marketplace. This provides analysis through an
exploration of the authors’ cultural beings and relationships with a new environment,
as well as the individuals interviewed and their relationships with the emerging
interactive market place.

A new paradigm of control


Control refers to the ability of users in computer mediated marketing environments to
access content at will, modify content to pertain to needs, and communicate with
companies or their agencies concerning these needs. Participants are exposed to
seemingly twin perceived benefits: distal and proximal transactions, as they utilise
virtual storefront proximity and on-line shopping environments. Providing consumers
with a timeless avenue to access product information as desired at any given time, this
medium allows users to exercise their willpower exclusively, even in the most
intractable of transactions. The uniqueness of such dealings depends on the time
flexibility of on-line content. Study participants indicated that in their on-line usage
they have less control compared to their off-line marketplace activity. A respondent
who was a web developer and lecturer in a British university stated:
Internet content has less control over it. There is a lot of material within the medium which is Communicating
not suitable for children. What I’m trying to say is that stuff on the television or radio is more
regulated than the internet. In the old media, people are more accountable to what they project in the interactive
out to the public: they are more stringently regulated. In the internet, there is no stopping in marketspace
getting any data, that is, both raw and refined information. . .shopping is no longer a question
of time as witnessed in the conventional stores. Access to these stores can be reached at will
regardless of location.
1069
This participant saw control as a considerable benefit of (if not the very reason for)
being at the marketspace storefronts. He seemed to view web-enabled business
environments along a continuum from one connative transaction to a perception of
limitless shopping adventure. His description envisaged an expanded definition of
transaction, but he also expressed pessimism about the lower control of the medium,
although he emphasised that it provided remarkable shopping experiences. Computer
mediated marketing environments allow other users to make cogent reference to
particular products being advertised in the conventional broadcast-based media. The
medium was perceived as providing non-constrained information accessibility as users
could research product information utilising its global reach. The respondent went on
to say that consumers could access companies’ diverse databases, adding that
information and content were not restricted to a particular audience. Content within the
computer mediated communication could be modified and altered by users according
to their needs. Marketing content is a co-creating process and recipients can be
consumers or organisations depending on their motives.
A 35-year-old management accountant, reflecting on her on-line activities noted:
Clearly, the web content offers important advantages over its predecessors. First, it
represents a much more efficient way for consumers to manage how much they want, by
allowing consumers or users to purchase only the functionality they need when they need it.
With this, consumers have unlimited power regarding the amount of information allowed.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the web supports more flexibility than catalogues,
TV and radio. Consumers are more likely to think outside the box when involved in the
internet, than (they would) with conventional media. Because there are huge choices to make,
it creates flexibility, which is rarely witnessed on TV or radio. By thinking outside the box,
one is not subjected to any particular programme such as news and advertising as on radio or
TV when consumers hardly have a choice to make. Such fundamentally new and superior
traits have given consumers more power than has earlier been witnessed on radio and TV.
As indicated by this respondent, computer mediated marketing environments offered
her greater control than traditional marketing communication channels, such as TV or
radio. According to this respondent, computer mediated marketing gave her the power
of self-determination and the willpower to access product[2] information regarding her
needs and enabled her to make purchases when necessary. As this participant
indicated, computer mediated marketing opens up a vista of opportunities which are
unlimited in nature, unlike monolithic communication channels such as TV or radio.
For her, there were tremendous advantages in using the internet. Despite initial
concerns noted by the respondent, she was explicitly optimistic that the evolving
communication technologies are integrating some elements of sensory authenticity –
appeals to sight (enhanced by colour and higher definition); sound (by better high
fidelity through developments of stereophonic systems) and kinaesthesia (by means of
multiple, portable, high-fidelity cameras) into a hyper shopping environment. In the
EJM absence of haptic sense (touch), this respondent’s optimism about computer mediated
42,9/10 marketing environments was largely rooted in content integration.
While the respondent considered “thinking outside the box” as a useful metaphor
for describing the medium, as she interacts and transacts in the computer mediated
marketing environment, she more literally perceived the medium as being an integral
component of existing broadcast-based media rather than a distinctive new channel of
1070 communication.
Another key issue to emerge from control was its meditative features, as noted by a
chartered occupational psychologist:
I think you get a better and more meditative medium than radio or TV. By meditative
medium, I’m referring to the relaxation and freedom to choose what you want to buy or to
listen to the areas that interest you most. Whereas on TV or radio you just assimilate and
absorb whatever content you’re given at any moment. While on the Net, you choose, but in
radio or TV you’re told. Although you can choose channels, all the same, you still have to take
whatever you’re given at that particular moment. Choice is highly limited when one is in need
of some pressing information. For example, if you want to know about weather, you have to
wait until a certain time on TV within a given time interval. On the Net, you can immediately
and swiftly get this information within seconds.
As was noted by this respondent, internet transaction gave him that meditative[3]
control unlike radio or TV, as once programmes or advertisements are missed, it is
difficult to access by choice such programmes until the sender decides to repeat or
sequence the action. The sequential feature of internet transaction is the most
formidable innovation of communication technologies and such internet marketing
was described by this respondent as a meditative medium because of its controllable
content.
Another emerging theme from one respondent was the swiftness by which the
computer mediated marketing can be conducted. It is a marketing environment where
delay of response has now given way to immediate action. As pertinently noted by a
28-year-old shopkeeper:
On so many occasions I have used the internet for transactions. The most remarkable one was
when I was renewing my passport. The passport office needed certain documents. I find out
that the web is the quickest and swiftest place to forward such documents. I have done this
several times (in different contexts). There are limitations on what personal details I can
provide to on-line companies. It depends on the degree of trust I have for the company. Really,
the internet has improved communication and created closer bonds between my extended
relatives in India and myself. Since I’ve been connected, communication has become
commonplace as it can happen whenever I want it.
The power of the web-enabled marketing environment has improved communications
and deepened the way consumers communicated with companies and individuals. As
consumers use this medium to coordinate their daily activities beyond the confines of
traditional communication channels, computer mediated marketing environments are
enhancing their bonds with friends and organisations. Once connected, communication
is a matter of personal decision-making as consumers learn the inherent advantages of
the medium. The rise of computer mediated marketing environments is changing the
balance of power by putting technology and tools in the hands of consumers. These
empowered individuals can navigate information from several locations and make
purchases to suit themselves. Products purchased no longer rely on a physical interface
between buyers and sellers as internet connectivity is redefining marketing as a virtual Communicating
negotiation where corporeal presence is not necessary in some transactions. in the interactive
One of the intriguing issues that emerged with regard to control was indicated by a
respondent who was a trainee solicitor: marketspace
. . . internet content has recently come of age. Much injustice has been done to this medium
owing to the get rich overnight mantra. We have underestimated what the Net could offer us
because of the failures of some individuals who unknowingly or knowingly wanted to reap 1071
without sowing. internet content is much more detailed than TV and radio put together. To
say the least, it is there all the time for consumption. As long as you’re connected to the Net, it
can be accessed at will, in all almost all locations. One is never switched from the medium like
radio or TV. One can read, listen and get information as and when desirable.
For him, understanding a web-enabled business environment was based on a
fundamental understanding of computer mediated communication as a conduit for
information exchange. The medium is an encyclopaedic information repository that
one can control if one has the skills to operate the system effectively. One can control
the form and flow of information to accomplish certain tasks that are done separately
in the conventional media. Consumers participating in computer mediated marketing
are not constrained by store opening hours. This distinctive feature, as noted by some
respondents, is broadening the scope of transactions. Because of the virtuality of
on-line transactions there is no specific time of opening as consumers can access these
on-line storefronts at any time and anywhere. Similarly, a 32-year-old social worker
stated:
I get more valuable information on the Net than in the Store. In the store, they may be biased
towards their (current stock) items, but on the Net, you’re not confined to a certain store.
There is that freedom to choose and move around the world. The choices are numerous and
the information one gets is too large in certain ways. In this case more is better than less.
Computer mediated marketing environments have enduring human needs and desires
that outweigh traditional marketing transactions. On-line activities have become
commonplace among cyber consumers. The nascent medium, with its limitless
sequence of accessibility, is unscrambling consumer control of the marketing
environment. As respondents indicated, the contours of marketing are giving more
control to consumers; this espouses greater freedom to consumers than the traditional
marketing concepts.
In summary, while there was a consensus among the respondents that computer
mediated marketing environments allow more freedom to consumers, there was a
concern that, in the not too distant future the liberty accorded to consumers would be
sidestepped by some of the risks currently being perpetuated in the environment. The
next section discusses interactivity and its implications for computer mediated
marketing environments (see Table I).

An elasticised form of interactivity


Users and participants in computer mediated marketing environments interactively
engage in message substance modifications. This produces matrices of real-time
interactions and modifications which involve consumers and companies participating
in a process driven, co-creating environment. The iterative landscape of such
EJM participation involved collaborative effort and relationship building. As noted by a
42,9/10 55-year-old internet technologies lecturer:
Basically, the whole idea of the uses of the internet is self-taught. The whole idea is that there
is so much material on the internet. I often visit the library and most cases I read magazines.
Everything I know and teach about the internet is learnt from the internet itself. All that I’m
doing is to propagate the whole thing. Just take it away and put more on it.
1072
Individuals in computer mediated marketing environments were able to access
retrospective content and modify it. As noted by some respondents, users have twin
accessibility traits: input and output. Consumers can interact with each other whilst
simultaneously having direct access to companies. Consumers participating in
computer mediated marketing environments are adventurous in exploring product
details. For them participating in on-line activity boils down to research as they use the
medium to fulfil some off-line needs. A legal assistant, noted:
Yes, in some cases it gives me much more than what I expected. There are certain web sites
that give me certain stuff that I needed without any fuss. It’s not the best stuff that one can
easily find or feel free to purchase in the market, but I like the sites because of their
uniqueness in providing information which stores will not have the time to explain or discuss
in detail with you. I prefer to use the internet for certain products when I know I will not have
time to visit stores. On-line stores provide that novel interface for eclectic dialogue.
For this respondent, the on-line marketspace provided him with a selective interface to
search for information and to interact with others. He cited access to information in the
computer mediated environment as a valuable interactive phenomenon where one can
freely interact with others. As noted, one can participate in the web-enabled business
environment because the medium provided that anonymous interface where covert
shopping needs are made possible. Individuals participating in the medium can use
different persona to interact and purchase items when they are not willing to disclose
their true identity. This would be more difficult in an off-line marketplace. It was noted
that anonymity was often perceived by some respondents as one of the most vital
benefits of the web-enabled business environment. On-line shopping experiences create
avenues for “identity play” as consumers could adopt any persona as and when
desired. As asserted by some respondents, on-line shopping allows anonymous
transactions and enhances exploration of certain items shrouded in gender
identification. Corresponding to the idea expressed by most respondents, a
19-year-old student asserted:
Satisfaction depends on your knowledge of the product. If you know about the product, I
would say that the internet is more informative. There is much more information relating to
products from manufacturers than in-store. For instance, when a GP prescribes some
medication, you can search for the manufacturers’ web sites and get more detailed
information about the product than the leaflet enclosed when you bought the drug.
According to this respondent, satisfaction with the medium depended on one’s
knowledge of computer usage. To a certain degree, the on-line marketplace is a tool for
furtherance of off-line transactions. Since the proliferation of the internet as a
marketing medium, it has circuitously given consumers opportunities to explore
product information in tandem with the manufacturers’ background. The nature of
asymmetrical communication prevalent in some of the push based media is resurfacing
on-line as an interactive medium, where consumers explored available resources as and Communicating
when it suited them. The appositeness of computer mediated marketing, as noted by in the interactive
many respondents is redefining consumers’ locale in the marketing activity. However,
consumers, once the recipients of purely orthodox media, are beginning to exercise marketspace
autonomy in the decision-making process. As noted by a 51-year-old Evangelist and
Counsellor:
The web has been helpful to me. It has in a way. If I want to know anything that is beyond my 1073
reach in the physical world, I swiftly visit the web. It is round the clock world and there is no
closing time for consumers. I always find some valuable answers and solutions to my queries
on the Net. If I need to know where to purchase certain things, it gives me the opportunity
personally to exploit it at my own convenience. It’s very useful because anything you want to
find out will be available to some extent. I have made so many friends through the Net. I mean
reliable friends. As a Christian, I often chat (over the net) with folks around the world and
have (subsequently) met so many of them in real life. They are wonderful people and the web
is not as bad as some people think. I’ve visited a Christian family I met on-line.
This respondent demonstrated a keen awareness of web-enabled business
environments. He evinced such descriptions in a twin paradox: it permitted one to
experience the world beyond one’s physical boundaries, for example, the on-line
marketspace; and the medium is capable of providing varied and instantaneous
information. The increasingly rapid free flow of information and knowledge is
enhancing consumers’ collaboration with remote consumers. As the web transforms
itself into a vibrant marketing medium, consumers within computer mediated
environments have started playing different roles which contrast with traditional
monolithic-communication models. Marketing activity that filters down information
from companies and agencies is now evolving into partnership and deliberation.
The virtual storefront accommodated transactions in a timeless manner and
participants were utilising the medium extensively to sharpen and widen their
marketing activity. Computer mediated marketing had ushered in a myriad of ways in
which consumers could portray themselves in the marketplace. These avenues have
not only given consumers multiple means of positioning themselves, but the medium is
also enhancing the conversational reach and richness available to consumers. As noted
by respondents, one of the perceived benefits of the Net rests on the anonymity which
the medium provides. As consumers congregate in the virtual storefront, individual
personal issues can be addressed and channelled to the public domain within the
marketspace where experts and peers can contribute and offer variegated opinions and
solutions. As maintained by this respondent, meaningful and fruitful interactions once
conducted on-line have contributed to his well-being, and products relating to this
on-line interactivity can be easily ascertained (see Table II).

Permeated themes
A new form of connectivity
Individuals participating in on-line environments were not fazed by the temporal
locality of physical storefronts. Because the medium fostered wider coverage beyond
consumers’ spatial environments, content accessibilities are much more
multi-dimensional in connectivity or “reachness” than in the traditional market
place. The endearing corollary of computer mediated marketing has not only
broadened interactivity between businesses and customers (B2C) businesses and
EJM businesses (B2B) and amongst consumers (C2C), but has inadvertently shrunk
42,9/10 transactional horizons of the conspicuous binary marketing realm (between businesses
and customers) to atypical levels. Several issues emerged concerning the perceived
benefits of “reachness” within computer mediated marketing environments. A 21 year
old female media student noted:
The onus is that in the store you’re limited to that store’s particular information such as
1074 products and prices. But on the web, once you visit an on-line store, you can access other
stores to see what competitors are charging for the same product. This transparency is a
primary motivating factor and why I visit web sites. That’s the great advantage of the web
over physical stores. First, you’ve got the catalogue on-line. Second, you can search to
compare prices, as the information is richly available worldwide. The internet gives one that
empowerment through its interactive communication.
Her description rests on the medium’s transparency to provide wider and reliable
information beyond one’s physical marketplace. Her conceptions patterned the
medium’s capability in enabling access to divergent product information in a degree
that can surpass one’s locale. As companies began to market their products on the Net,
the hierarchical structures of the traditional buying process, where consumers order
their products via intermediaries was now being dismantled as consumers gain direct
contact with companies through their web presence. As noted by the respondent,
on-line shopping availed her of so many possibilities. It offered the opportunity to
retrieve divergent information regarding products, especially as there is world-wide
access to information.
Consumers within a computer mediated market have the opportunity to suppress
the domestic control and regulation of information that exists in a particular country.
Product information was easily ascertainable beyond the dictates of one’s domestic
government. The “reachability” of the internet to global audiences was blurring the
time and space continuum of respective national boundaries. Similar to the espoused
idea of spatial configurations and marketability, a 26-year-old Security Officer stated:
At the moment it is less available than people think it is. It is a medium solely dominated by
the rich in society. It discriminates against the poor, as most of these people cannot afford
computers. internet content is always constant whenever you wish to get information no
matter where you live. I would say that the internet is like a trade show where all sort of
things are being displayed. It is a place for finding and learning about something without
much constraint if you can afford it. It gives you the time to learn for yourself and take your
personal decisions. With the internet one can easily get the real information from the source
once you know the web address.
As indicated by this respondent, computer mediated marketing environments have
shrunk geographical transactions, but at the same time have extended them. On-line
shopping offers opportunities to shop at multiple locations without expending effort
visiting physical locations. The “virtuality” of these storefronts, and consumers being
able to navigate stores from a single location, is dramatically changing traditional
shopping experiences. On-line shopping was a borderless transaction where product
information was easily reachable beyond national boundaries. As the respondent
indicated, the medium provided divergent storefronts where accessibility can be
gained from consumers’ homes. Correspondingly, a 36-year-old management
accountant premised:
I found out the uses of the internet through word of mouth in the early years. As a Communicating
management accountant, reading professional journals which discuss the benefits of the
internet, especially as people talk of e-banking made me further explore how this could be in the interactive
beneficial to my profession. Most of these articles or whatever, tell you about the huge marketspace
benefits of e-banking. By e-banking one can easily use a password to conduct payments for
goods and services without having any physical contact with one’s bank. For example, direct
debit can be easily set up through the internet.
1075
The diffusion of on-line storefronts have (in most cases) been attributed to peer
collaboration. This respondent revealed that her initial attraction to on-line shopping
was based on professional affiliations. The medium was seen as a gateway where
issues of disparate proportions could be further explored. It presently had little or no
notable geographical barriers such as those prevalent in the physical environment and
one could swiftly configure information beyond the traditional marketing locality. A
community practice nurse stated:
I have not made any comparison. But I should imagine the internet is more conducive to what
I was looking for a few weeks ago than catalogue pages which are focused on a particular
store or product. With catalogues you can clearly see the items to purchase. The degree of the
pictures is much better than those on the internet. On the other hand, internet gives you far
more information than catalogues. Yes, it is more convenient to contact companies when one
is confronted with some pressing needs.
It is suggested that on-line participation might allow people to become swiftly
connected with others at a distance and receive feedback. The accessibility embedded
in internet connectivity makes resources accessible on a global basis. As indicated by
some respondents, the medium fostered, and made possible, the much herald axiom
“experience the world at one’s fingertips”. As consumers reach out to other parts of the
world from the leisure of their homes, the internet makes it possible to connect and
engage in a myriad of shopping adventures that are beyond the proximal
environments of users. Corresponding to the distal gloss of on-line marketing, a
28-year-old home painter stated:
It depends on what your motives are. internet content gives you more detailed information
than TV or radio. The essence of this is that you can personally explore which content you’re
interested in. It gives you the opportunity to know about products or services instead of the
snappy information one gets on TV or radio. Surfing the Net helps me strike a chord in the
global scope (arena) and get the meaty information when I need something at the particular
time I need it, unlike TV or radio. The Net gives me the immediacy and constancy that I
require any time I’m desperate for information. I easily do this without leaving my room.
Participants indicated that the global reach of the medium provided immediate, but
consistent detailed information feedback. Users of computer mediated marketing were
able to access off-line projected advertisements to further explore information
concerning advertised products. As indicated by respondents, off-line advertisements
featured on TV and Radio are proportionately restrictive as the “pull” tactics of
manufacturers and agencies dominates the projective nature of those media.
Respondents considered that the advent of on-line storefronts was creating deep bonds
and engagement where shared perspectives and experience can be globally diffused at
minimal cost or in some cases when applied to digerati, at no cost at all. As a
33-year-old traffic warden indicated:
EJM I’m quite satisfied with the medium. You know there that some sites are not worth looking
into. They place all sorts of rubbish down there on the internet. Otherwise the content is
42,9/10 richly informative. No store can hold all the variety and offer the chatting that I want. With a
click of a button, I can have access to an array of products and chat with friends that have a
wider reach than TV, radio or physical stores combined. And I can search for what I want
anytime without the interference of meddling sales people or programme moderators.
1076 Another key issue that emerged concerning global reach was the ability to provide
channel miscellanies. Experience in computer mediated marketing involved the idea of
tripartite marketing media. Users in computer mediated marketing environments can
remotely access television by audio and visual means; radio at a singular medium level
and store catalogues through fixed visual means. On-line contents, as noted by
respondents were agglomerations of tripartite media which are separable in traditional
marketing media. Akin to these perceived benefits, some respondents expressed that
the medium is an effective channel of supportive off-line advertising for which product
clarifications are best suited. To those respondents, the medium allows individuals the
ultimate mind share to reach out to others. An administrative accountant stated:
On the internet, you have all the time in the world to look for different products. By the world,
I mean being connected to various web sites which may be within or outside one’s vicinity
and national boundaries. On the internet, you’re there 24 hours a day. Unlike TV or the radio
when you miss an advert, it is gone and you might as well forget the advert. If you’re lucky
enough, it will be shown within the hour or the next day. Seeing the advert again is not the
end of the show as one may need to carry out further investigation regarding the advert via
web, which gives you instant information of the product, place of manufacture and also the
price of the item. The internet is such a boundless world that information gleaned from the
advert on TV or radio can be explored to get as much information as needed regarding the
product.
Another important issue that emerged concerning reach, was that wider and more
encyclopaedic information was available. Some respondents indicated that computer
mediated marketing availed them of the opportunity to clarify and verify some of the
distal information in the off-line terrain. Other respondents averred that the computer
mediated marketing environment goes beyond information validation, as the medium
offers a profusion of information that integrates the tripartite traditional channels. To
respondents in this position, the perceived benefits of computer mediated marketing
over-steps the monological exposition of conventional media. Respondents indicated
that the evolving medium offers a global connative reach where “comfortability” and
“accessibility” is the bond that is lacking in traditional marketing communication
models. Information as a permeated theme logically follows this proposal (see
Table III).

The liberation of information


The advent of the internet and its widespread deployment as a means of
communication was changing the information environment where once
fragmentation was the ruling condition. This technology is creating a defragmented
society. By providing a new common interface for shopping at a “lightning” pace in a
competitive environment, the traditional idea that a valuable shopping experience
depends on a corporeal marketplace is now giving way to virtual computer mediated
marketing environments. Study participants, especially those who have used the
medium to gather intelligence, noted that the web-enabled marketing environment is Communicating
best suited for information gathering. An IT consultant averred: in the interactive
I’ve been using the internet for so many years now. I was there very early on. The first time I marketspace
actually came across the internet to be very honest with you is when I was studying for a
degree course at University in 1974. So this is a few years ago when the internet was invented.
I was about 19 years old. The internet was quite boring then because things were all
text-based and there were no sites around. My interest in the internet became raised again in 1077
1990 and 1991 when I was following what Tim Berners-Lee was doing. I was really interested
in what he was doing as he invented the world wide web on the internet. Since then, I have
been using this medium before the invention of web browsers. I was really following how the
HTTP protocol and HTML language would improve the use of the internet. I think that I
created one of the first few web sites in this country and in this college.
This respondent believed that web-enabled business is a valuable facet of his family’s
well-being and describes his motivation towards commercial web development as
coming from his disabled wife’s inability to access information connatively in the
off-line marketplace. Her inability to access some information and conduct some basic
shopping in the conventional marketplace engendered his embarking on e-commerce
development projects. Such engagement in information disembodiment is very
interesting in terms of post-modern ideas, as users are increasingly relying on the
computer screen to access resources at will. The detachment created by the computer
screen, and increasingly, the omnipresent nature of the internet is creating unmitigated
information accessibility where minimal physical exertion is needed. Congruent to this
assertion, a 29-year-old disabled solicitor stated:
The information on the web is pretty much handy. The medium is purposeful and helpful to
me as it serves as a yardstick to reduce incertitude of product information and some
international legal resources. Whenever I’m not fully satisfied with the information attached
to a product, a click of the mouse will unveil an inundated information threshold.
The inconsistent nature of information variability and accessibility in a web-enabled
business environment is redefining the ways in which one can access information.
According to one respondent, the on-line marketspace provides a choice of interface
that enhances one’s participation in the physical marketplace. For her, the off-line
traditional marketing environment was less adaptable to her basic needs, whereas
on-line participation provides her with the tools to access information easily. It is worth
noting that the development of this volitional information orientation, as described by
many respondents, accords with the post-modern concept of fragmentational
over-centralisation. Another respondent noted:
Probably very wide knowledge gained about the internet came from reading newspapers and
also from college. The college advice office advised me to use the internet to diversify my job
search. This I did. I was able to gain access to thousands of employers whilst sitting in front
of the computer. In some ways it does help me to get details of employers who are located
hundreds of miles away.
The flexibility of information configurations within a computer mediated environment
emerged as one of the perceived benefits of the medium. According to some
respondents, the computer mediated marketing environment provided one with a
gestational shopping interface where product assessments are best suited. The
diversity of content within the medium avails individuals to indulge unlimited
EJM preferences, unlike conventional marketing environments where information flow is
42,9/10 geared towards hierarchically pushing consumers forward towards the purchasing
transaction.
One of the intriguing issues noted by respondents is that a web-enabled business
environment handles product specification in a more detailed manner than the
traditional shopping environment. According to respondents, individuals tend to be
1078 more up-to-date in acquiring an ever-growing richness of information interface than
that offered by conventional media. This is because consumers were more up to date
with prevailing trends as companies strive to propel their marketing propositions to
the ever-changing environment. Information relating to these products and services
gave consumers disparate choice and helped them make informed decisions
concerning their needs and demands. The uniqueness of the computer mediated
marketing environment is multidimensional in nature, as the medium incorporates the
elements of audio (radio), visual and print media. The collation of these features, most
especially the capability to offer information within the means of an individual’s own
volitional domain, is a challenge that affects marketing communications concepts.
One of the key issues that emerged from respondents concerning information is the
additive experience which some respondents accorded to the medium. For these, the
medium serves as a supplementation to the off-line experience. They actively used it as
a gestation period for physical transactions. Because information can be generated at
will, and is within one’s reach, it tends to overcome the inherent constraints of off-line
transactions. The availability of information in the web-enabled business environment
provided individuals with a new shopping experience. Shoppers within the
environment are more prone to information glut than those in the off-line marketing
environment. Respondents noted several perceived benefits of the medium over
unmediated storefronts. Whilst the activities of both media traverse across the
purchasing process, consumers are wary of the distinctive features evolving from the
mediated marketing environment. However, it is important to note that the computer
mediated marketing environment is fundamentally a text-based medium and users
navigate their way within websites through text-based search engines in disparate
ways. Considering its text-based positioning, marketing content within the medium
portrays information and supports efforts in furtherance of future purchases (see
Table IV).

Final reflections and marketing implications


It is crucial to appreciate that marketing activity that has been appropriate to products
and services in the past can now be conducted without buyer/seller contact in the
physical domain. As indicated by respondents, information accessibility is completely
porous as users can remotely access information relative to their areas of interests at
anytime and anywhere. Instead of waiting for such information to be delivered in
person or to their place of abode, it can be delivered in real-time and obtained within
seconds. Whilst individual perceptions of the evolving medium have been at the
foreground, the impact of the medium at the transaction stage is driven by product and
consumer-related factors.
One obvious determinant of the accessibility of on-line transactions is the ratio of
information content versus physical content for certain products. When a product can
easily be digitised, then delivery is easy, as is now the case with music and Communicating
video-on-demand and shortly programmes-on-demand will become widely available. in the interactive
A major bottleneck for the development of web-enabled business in the consumer
environment is the difficulty of evaluating products through the internet. This also marketspace
accounts for the gap between on-line search and transaction completion. Successful
choice amongst multifaceted product alternatives often requires certain levels of
consumer expertise:, e.g. understanding the features of products and knowledge about 1079
how various alternatives can be moulded on these attributes.
As a tool for transaction, the medium is more suited for information gathering than
providing an active communicational capability. Marketers may need to conceive new
approaches if they are going to succeed in the interactive marketplace. Indeed, an
over-reliance on traditional marketing communication models, such as the original one
proposed by Shannon and Weaver (1949) in The Mathematical Theory of
Communication, might entirely fail to capture the new dynamics.
The evolving interactive marketspace holds significant challenges for marketers
and managers in terms of enabling their organisations to deal with increased
complexity in communicating with their multifaceted stakeholders, especially
consumers. As the emerging interactive marketspace evolves, companies have
tended to focus on technological infrastructure with scant regard to the widening
agenda for marketing communications.
New internet technologies have undermined traditional media by providing new
opportunities for marketing communications. Computer-mediated marketing is a new
channel with distinctive characteristics and it is essential for organisations and policy
makers to focus on changing customer behaviour. Marketing communications
competencies, based on the interactive marketspace have been expressed. However,
many marketing practitioners tend to regard communications as a tactical tool. When
applied correctly in a strategic manner, this should provide a key source of competitive
advantage for companies in an information based marketing environment.
Marketing communication is in need of “reinvention” in respect of its key concepts,
methodologies and prevailing procedures to ensure their appropriateness for the
evolving global interactive marketspace. This is a challenge for both theoreticians and
communications professionals.
For academics, it means making a significant change of direction in their research
portfolios; in particular, the need to avoid simply researching and reporting current
technological procedures and processes. Instead, they should build new ideas from a
methodological vantage point, and provide practitioners with applicable conceptual
and methodological pathways for advancement, based on the changing behaviour of
consumers (Wind and Mahajan, 2001). After all, this is what underpins marketing
orientation that starts with customers, rather than the product led view that apparently
prevails in terms of considering technological advances and then attempting to apply
these to customers.
For marketing practitioners, there is a need to realise that the new marketspace
creates the need for a new perception of the customer. Practitioners are no longer the
masters of communication because products and messages should be co-created in the
consumption process. This is already happening, but its pace will accelerate. Providers
who disregard these warning signs might find it difficult to survive. Consumers in the
new interactive marketspace are no longer passive targets for marketing propositions.
EJM They are creative and innovative partners in the creation of experiences in the
42,9/10 consumption process. It is with this suggestion in mind that may perhaps shape the
ideas of communications researchers and practitioners to readdress their fundamental
thinking.

Future research
1080 This study has dealt with the perspectives of users in the interactive marketplace: it
has not given an organisational understanding of the evolving situation. Further
research could identify an organisational perspective and develop an all-round
interpretation of the new marketplace. Furthermore, Google has ambitions to maximise
the personal information it holds on people and organise a source of global information.
However, there are concerns regarding the potential for Google to build a detailed
picture of individual behaviour and the impact this may have on personal liberty
(Financial Times, 2007). Certainly, this paper has identified issues concerning
individual behaviour, and in future studies the authors would like to investigate the
ethical implications of the new marketplace.

Notes
1. Believing respondents is a key principle in post-modern research, in contrast to positivistic
methods that maintain a sceptical stance. Furthermore, while positivists assume a real and
objective reality that exists independently of individuals’ perceptions, postmodernists view
reality as socially constructed. That is, there is no objective reality independent of the social
meaning people give to it (Gergen, 2001). Respondents’ perceptions of computer mediated
marketing environments are their reality, and it is these perceptions that impact their
attitudes and behaviours (e.g. interaction, likelihood of feedback, accessibility).
2. Product as implied here encompasses information in relation to both tangible and intangible
products. The usage here is for personal preference and does not limit the meaning accorded
to the term. However, it is not intended to make any distinction between them.
3. Although the term “meditate” with its qualifier “meditative” has often dominated core
religious texts, the respondent’s usage of the term lacks this thread-like contribution to the
concept. For him, internet Transaction offers users much more nuanced freedom than
traditional communication media. Freedom is what he wants, regardless of distance and a
consummate relaxation of mind in obtaining important information.

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About the authors


Wilson Ozuem is a Senior Lecturer in marketing who researches communications issues in
computer-mediated marketing environments at Holborn College (UK). He is a Fellow of the
Chartered Institute of Marketing and adjunct professor at the American Intercontinental
University and has worked as a marketing consultant for several companies and organisations.
He received his BA in Business from the University of Portsmouth, MA Marketing from Thames
Valley University, MBA from London Metropolitan University and PhD in e-marketing from
Anglia Ruskin University. He is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
will.oz@talk21.com
Kerry E. Howell holds the Chair in Governance and Leadership at the University of Plymouth.
He is Plymouth Business School Director of Research, Director of the Peninsula Centre for
Sustainable Governance (PCSG), a Jean Monnet Teaching Fellow, Salzburg Seminar Research
Fellow, Academic Board Member of DNA Wales and acted as Chair of the Practitioner
Committee for the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES).
Geoff Lancaster is Dean of Academic Studies at the London School of Commerce. He is also
Chairman of the Durham Associates Group of Companies, Castle Eden, County Durham who are
in receipt of the Queen’s Award for Exporting. The Group engages in corporate communications
and e-marketing, education and training in the UK and the Middle East. He was formerly with
London Metropolitan University, University of Newcastle upon Tyne and University of
Huddersfield and was Senior Examiner to the Chartered Institute of Marketing for 12 years.
Currently, he is Chief Examiner to the Association of Business Executives.

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