As hard as it is to believe, the internet will turn 30 next year on August 6th. In that short time, it has transformed and revolutionized every aspect of our lives – from how we work to how we communicate and how we shop. It’s even changed how we watch cat videos!
When Tim Berners-Lee first dreamed up the concept of connecting computers together to form an educational network, he could have hardly had in mind the scope of changes his new “internet” would have on the world.
Somewhat ironically, the first web page Berners-Lee produced all those years ago was a simple text-based guide on how the internet would work and a short introduction to the concept of Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML).
It was a message that was clearly well-received. Now, in 2020, there are more web pages in the world than people, and HTML still powers the backbone of the internet as we know it today.
New industries and new business
Since those first early days, the web has spurned entirely new industries and new ways of doing business. Indeed, the effects of the internet have probably been felt more in business than anywhere else. In particular, in the realms of sales and marketing.
As our shopping habits have continued to change over the years, so have the techniques employed by advertisers and marketers to promote their goods.
The internet has entirely changed what we’ve come to expect from companies. These days, it’s almost unheard for a business not to be online to at least some degree. As consumers, we almost expect a company to have a website, an email address, and some social pages.
Where once we used Yellow Pages and other local directories to find businesses, now we use Google. And where once we might have skimmed through a paper catalog, now we expect to be able to look through web pages with just a few keystrokes in a web browser.
Adapt or fall
As the popularity of the web grew in the late ’90s, most forward-thinking companies were quick to change and embrace a new way of doing business and selling.
Unfortunately, as is always the way, some businesses remained steadfastly obstinate and were slow to adapt. These companies have now fallen by the wayside – in many cases, going bust.
The world of new technology can be a cruel place, and a failure to adapt and embrace new tech has ended many former business titans.
A change in social patterns
Many analysts believe we are now on the cusp of the next great spike in the growth of the web and our general acceptance of online technologies. The recent Coronavirus pandemic has shown that people are now more ready than ever to embrace online shopping and working online.
A general fear of going outdoors may have forced these changes somewhat, but most experts agree that now the change has happened, it’s unlikely things will ever go back to how they were.
Of course, this change in shopping habits will only serve to reinforce the need for companies to bolster their online presence and their e-commerce operations. It’s now more important than ever for companies to be online and take advantage of the full range of marketing tools open to them.
The rise and rise of social media
As our time spent online continues to increase, so does our interaction with social media. From a marketing perspective, social networks offer businesses tremendous opportunities to interact positively and proactively with their clients.
By encouraging customers to ‘follow’ their pages, companies can build vast virtual mailing lists of genuine leads. Each time a company posts to their social pages, their clients see the new message in their feed.
Gone are the days when businesses had to rely on clients coming to their website – or signing up to mailing lists. Social media now offers far more direct access in an instance.
Websites for information
However, while being active on social networks is undoubtedly essential, there is still no substitute for having a well-designed, informative website. Actually, the best and most proactive companies use their social accounts more as a way to drive traffic to their sites – almost in the same way as email lists of old used to.
It’s estimated that around 80% of consumers do internet research before buying products. This research can sometimes be from a price comparison perspective or, more commonly, to find out more information about specific products.
Alongside social pages, a company’s website is an integral part of their overall marketing mix and should be updated regularly with useful, engaging product information and guides.
Websites for e-commerce
Of course, in the digital age, a website can be far more than just an informational tool. There has been an exponential rise in the popularity of shopping online over the last few years – a rise so pronounced that many believe the traditional High Street could soon disappear.
Setting up an e-commerce store is now easier than ever (with some services, you can be online and selling in a matter of hours). So, really, there’s little excuse for companies not to be selling online, depending on the nature of their business, of course.
Online advertising and marketing
In the old days, advertising was limited to three main primary channels – TV, radio, and print (newspapers, magazines, etc.). The internet has changed all that with a vast array of social networks, streaming sites, specialized online publications, etc.
The choice available online for advertisers these days is frankly mind-blowing. Couple that with other marketing techniques like Search Engine Optimization (SEO – used to increase search engine exposure), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), social announcements, online video, viral posts, etc., and it’s clear to see how the internet has changed marketing forever.
There are so many options open to advertisers that Digital Marketing is now a distinct profession and industry in itself. Specialist firms, like Digital Strike a marketing agency St Louis, now handle internet and online marketing for a vast range of clients based around the world.
In truth, if companies are to get the best from the internet and web promotions, they need to consider engaging with a specialist firm to cover all bases successfully.
The next industrial revolution
The growth of commerce online has been huge over the last few years, and it’s widely believed we are in the throes of the next great industrial revolution, with the most exciting and transformative developments still to come.
As we increasingly spend more and more of our time online – and our lives become intrinsically integrated with the web – we will continue to see progressively more sophisticated ways used by businesses to engage with clients and promote their products and services.
The last 30 years have been great but, even just in terms of its age, the internet is only now starting its journey into adulthood. As it reaches maturity, the next 30 years have the potential to be even more exciting and cathartic.