Sample Undergraduate 2:2 Marketing Report
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WHY HAS INBOUND MARKETING BECOME MORE POPULAR WITH RETAILERS IN RECENT YEARS
The core purpose of this essay is to outline the key reasons why inbound marketing techniques have become more popular with retailers in recent years. The essay will also provide real life case examples of retailers who have shifted from traditional outbound marketing methods to inbound in recent years.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Wickman (2012) states that inbound marketing is the process of drawing customer towards a range of product and services by distributing high quality online content. Similarly, Godin (2005) argues that inbound marketing is a strategy that focuses on increasing an organisations rate of lead generation via online channels to ultimately boost product sales. Inbound marketing is an evolution of content marketing which is where an organisation distributes digital media through their e-store, company website and social media sites to build new and sustainable customer relationships (Godin, 2005). Inbound marketing has also evolved out of relationship marketing which is a long-standing strategy of using marketing activities to build long-lasting and sustainable customer relationships (Dixon, 2008, p.59).
Dixon (2008, p.59) also explains that “inbound marketing involves learning what the customer base is and what their needs are, and how you, as a company, can meet those needs. This aspect of marketing includes analysing competition and pricing products”. Inbound marketing as a process was first popularised after the internet grew in popularity among consumer society in the early 2000’s (Roetzer, 2011). This is because the internet has changed how customers interact with brands (Roetzer, 2011). Pre-internet, customers would await the organisation to market their brand to them but now an increasing number of customers go online to find out about the brand for themselves (Dixon, 2008, p.59). It is therefore the job of inbound marketers within an organisation to ensure that the content customers see online associated with the brand is of the utmost, premium quality (Wickman, 2012).
Reasons Behind Inbound Marketing’s Increased Popularity with Retailers
Research carried out by Mooney (2017) has found that one of the main, primary reasons why inbound marketing has increased in popularity with retailers is because it increases customer engagement levels. Chaffey & Smith (2017) add that high customer engagement levels are vital to modern retail brands because their customer base are increasingly purchasing goods from online, e-stores as opposed to traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores. A further key reason behind inbound marketing’s increased popularity with retailers in recent years is the increasing unpredictability and fast paced retail business environment (Chaffey & Smith, 2017). Mooney (2017) explains that contemporary retail brands therefore use traditional marketing methods to first establish a strong brand identity with high levels of consumer awareness and then supplement this activity by using inbound marketing techniques to build consumer trust and increase the likelihood of repeat purchase.
Differently, Dalio (2017) suggests that an increasing number of retailers have switched to using inbound marketing techniques in recent years for purely cost-related reasons. Lee (2018) explains that instead of using inbound marketing techniques necessarily to build consumer trust, they are being used to save retail brands money on their marketing expenses. Research conducted by Dalio (2017) suggests that inbound marketing is far cheaper than traditional outbound methods and that this also accounts for the popularity of inbound with SMEs (Small, Medium Enterprises) as well as modern retailer brands. Additionally, another key reason behind inbound marketing’s increased popularity with contemporary retailers is that it offers them a higher strike success rate in terms of converting a website visitor into a customer (Meerman Scott, 2017). The increasing popularity of blogging has also contributed to more retailer brands adopting inbound marketing as their primary method in targeting and reaching new customers (Meerman Scott, 2017). With blogging, retailers now have the opportunity to create a new post purchase ‘touch point’ between them and the end consumer (Dalio, 2017). The quality of the blog will then reflect on the quality of the brand (Westergaard, 2016).
In the modern world of retailing, customers can now choose to opt out of outbound marketing emails and newsletters from retailer brands which they have previously engaged with (Westergaard, 2016). Meerman Scott (2017) argues that this demonstrates the need for inbound marketing campaigns to be structured in a way that ensures a retailers advertisements ae accurate and relevant. Dalio (2017) adds that the more relevant the brand advertisement the more likely a modern retailer is to pique the interest of inbound customer and establish a strong customer relationship. Market research carried out by Lamb et al (2017) suggests that inbound marketing has become so popular among retailers in recent years because of the increased number of consumers surfing the web in search of goods and services to buy.
With increased website traffic, retailers are recognising the importance of increasing the quality of their online content in areas such as SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), frequency of social updates and browser speed (Lamb et al, 2017). Another key reason why an increasing number of modern retailers are using inbound marketing methods is because it helps them to increase their numbers of repeat buyers (Fishkin & Hogenhaven, 2013). This is because if a retailer can create strong online content and digital media, they will increase the rate at which inbound customers will return to buy products and services from the company again in the future (Westergaard, 2016). With strong online content, a contemporary retailer also has a greater chance of instilling higher levels in customer loyalty (Fishkin & Hogenhaven, 2013).
Retailer Case Examples
A case example of a retailer which has increasingly used inbound marketing techniques to increase their revenues in recent years is WH Smith. WH Smith are a UK-based convenience retailer specialising in the sale of books, office stationary, magazines and confectionary (Ranchhod & Marandi, 2012). One of the main inbound marketing techniques which WH Smith use is in-store POS (Point of Sale) displays (Wired Marketing, 2013). The POS displays set up by WH Smith instore are the same as the promotional material customers will see on their company website (Wired Marketing, 2013). This has proven incredibly effective for WH Smith because they have therefore created a consistent brand message for their online and bricks and mortar customers (Wired Marketing, 2013). WH Smith also invest a significant amount of company capital on website maintenance to ensure that it is easy for customers to use and access via search engines such as Google and Yahoo (Wired Marketing, 2013). This helps the company to develop sustainable customer relationships from inbound website traffic (Ranchhod & Marandi, 2012). WH Smith have changed their marketing strategy to incorporate inbound to save money and instil better cost management in their marketing activities (Ranchhod & Marandi, 2012).
Bicycle and car parts trader Halfords have recently stopped using account-based marketing methods and replaced them with inbound methods (Scholfield & Williams, 2017). This shift in marketing strategy was primarily motivated by cost cutting across the organisation (Scholfield & Williams, 2017). Research group Marketing Week (2016) has found that Halfords have strived to inspire an emotional response from customers in their inbound marketing activities in recent years. For example, in 2016, Halfords canvassed consumer opinion by conducting both online and offline polls to gain a better understanding of the primary and secondary associations consumers attach to their brand (Marketing Week, 2016). Based on the findings of this research, Halfords have changed their inbound marketing platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and e-store) to incorporate more emotionally driven content such as family-based images (Marketing Week, 2016). These images are distributed on their social media platforms and on their company website so that when inbound customers visit these pages they are shown the Halfords new family-oriented brand (Scholfield & Williams, 2017). In comparison with the theory outlined by Fishkin & Hogenhaven (2013), Halfords are also tailoring their online content to better suit the needs of the modern retail consumer base.
In conclusion, this essay has provided a short and concise account of why inbound marketing techniques have increased in popularity with retailers in recent years. One of the main, key findings of the research carried out in preparation for this essay is that inbound marketing involves an organisation distributing quality online content to influence customers to buy their products. A further core finding of this essay is that retailers are increasingly using inbound marketing techniques because they are the most cost-effective method of marketing available. This essay has also found that inbound marketing has become increasingly popular with modern, contemporary retail brands because it is the most effective method available to them in building stronger, sustainable customer relationships.
An additional reason why inbound marketing has proven to be increasingly popular with modern retailer brands in recent years is because the unpredictable and changeable external business environment has therefore put customer engagement at a premium. This essay has found that inbound marketing methods are the most effective in increasing consumer engagement levels for retailers. Finally, the research and discussion carried out within this essay has found that inbound marketing is potentially the most lead generative modern marketing method available to retailers to use.
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Fishkin, R & Hogenhaven, T. (2013) Inbound Marketing and SEO: Insights From the Moz Blog. London: John Wiley & Sons.
Godin, S. (2005) Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. London: Penguin.
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I, Lee. (2018) Diverse Methods in Customer Relationship Marketing and Management. London: IGI Global.
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Scholfield, M & Williams, A. (2017) OCR GCSE Business, 3rd Ed. London: Hachette.
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Wired Marketing. (2013) WH Smith Continues to See Increased Profits. [Online] URL: http://www.wiredmarketing.co.uk/insider/wh-smith-continues-to-see-increased-profits/ [Date Accessed: 23/06/18]