Define the characteristics of a great robust online brand. How did they achieve this                            and what w...
by Skiera et al (2010) disproves this, they found that only the top 100 key phrases(not the long tail) generate the majori...
Chernatony et al (2011) state that a key way to locate a brand on the internet isthrough well targeted banner advertisemen...
degree of intervention to ensure that brands values are upheld and communitymembers provide meaningful information (Cherna...
residents of ‘There’, this was preliminary a market research exercise however it didsuggest that users who make a virtual ...
behest of a brand. For example ASOS fashion finder allows users to build and createoutfits on the website and share them w...
their products when they are shopping on the high street to drive customers to theirwebsite.       Hongwei (2010) states t...
By using online fashion retailer ASOS as an example, the research presentedidentifies key characteristics which are essent...
Ahonen, T. (2007). Cool stats on mobile from BBDO last year (online). Available
Edelman, (2010). Edelman Trust Barometer 2010 (Online) Available,
Skiera, B., Eckert, J., and Hinz, O. (2010). An analysis of the importance of the longtail in search engine marketing. Ele...
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The characteristics of a successful online brand


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The characteristics of a successful online brand

  1. 1. Define the characteristics of a great robust online brand. How did they achieve this and what will sustain them? Originally the internet was described as a vast electronic catalogue ofinformation, goods and services designed by companies for users to look at.However over the past decade the web has evolved to become a collaborative, usercentred, information sharing platform known as Web 2.0 (Wertime and Fenwick,2008). Successful online brands, whether they are ‘bricks and mortar’ brands or‘pure’ internet brands for example, Google, Amazon or ASOS, have thrived becausethey acknowledge the components of Web.20 and interact with customers to createa personalised consumer experience (Chernatony, McDonald and Wallace, 2011).Global online fashion retailer ASOS sells branded and own label clothing products tofashion forward 16-34 year olds around world. Since launching in 2000 ASOS hasgrown enormously and is on track to achieve £1 billion of sales by 2015. The successof ASOS can be seen in its digital marketing strategy which maximises web 2.0 at allpoints of the buying cycle. ASOS uses effective search marketing, online advertising,social media, viral marketing, mobile marketing and encourages co-creation andcustomer engagement. Such elements of digital marketing have allowed ASOS tobecome a successful and robust online brand. Cheernatony et al (2011) point out that the first challenge facing consumersis locating the brand on the internet. Search engines are the main tool consumersuse to find information, (Rangaswamy, Giles and Seres, 2009). Wertime and Fenwick(2008) state that users rarely get beyond the first page of search engine result pages(SERPs). Companies therefore use search engine optimisation (SEO) to achieve thehighest position in the organic search results (typically shown in the lower left). To successfully implement SEO marketers should ensure that websites havegood quality links and fully optimise the number of times a key phrase appears on aweb page (Chaffy and Smith, 2008). Chernatony et al (2011) point out that firmsmust understand key phrases consumers use when searching for their site. Based onthe work of Anderson (2006), digital advertisers and bloggers claim that searchengine marketing campaigns need to focus on the long tail and have a large amountof less popular key phrases (Skiera, Ekert and Heniz, 2010). However empirical work 1
  2. 2. by Skiera et al (2010) disproves this, they found that only the top 100 key phrases(not the long tail) generate the majority of searches, clicks and conversions. ASOShas aligned its key phrases in accordance with the findings of this study. In lesspopular searches for example ‘blue maxi dress’, ASOS is not on the first on thesearch engine results page (SERP) (Bedwell, 2010). ASOS does however performbetter on short-tail phrases such as ‘womens fashion’, where it appears above thefold position at position four ( However despite this Bedwell points outthat given the age of ASOS it is unexpected for newer entrants and competitors suchas ‘BooHoo’ to be appearing above them. Therefore in order to sustain the brand inthe future ASOS may wish to re-optimize its key phrases to avoid threat fromcompetitors. Despite this however statistics show that ASOS ranks top, ahead of itscompetitors as the most visible fashion brand in organic search. However in terms ofpaid search ASOS has very poor rankings (Greenlight, 2010). Paid search refers topaid results which are usually labelled ‘sponsored links’, and placed above and to theright of organic search results. Stokes (2008) point out that studies show,advertisements nearer the top of the page constantly get the highest click throughrates Marketers therefore bid on key phrases, with the highest bidding ensuring firstplace, marketers only pay when the ad is clicked on, pay per click (PPC). Researchhowever has shown that people find organic results more relevant and are moretrusted than paid search results (Enquiro Search Solutions, 2004). Wertime andFenwick (2008) point out that brands, for example ASOS, should use both naturalsearch and paid search as paid search links will increase the likelihood of theconsumer clicking on the organic search result as the paid ad will create awarenessand reinforces the organic position at no extra cost. Whilst search marketing is popular, internet users only spend 5% of theirtime actually searching, the rest of their time is spent with the results, this createsopportunities for online advertising (Wertime and Fenwick, 2008). Ellsworth andEllsworth (1997) believe the web allows marketers to offer deeper and richeradvertisement content. It is a faster, less expensive and immediate globalcommunication tool. Online advertising therefore provides the ideal platform forcreating consumer demand and building brand awareness (Stokes, 2008). 2
  3. 3. Chernatony et al (2011) state that a key way to locate a brand on the internet isthrough well targeted banner advertisements. Adverts can be targeted on contextwhere the ads on a page may reflect the content of the page, for example ASOSadvertise on a men’s fashion advice site ‘fashion beans’. Broder, Fontoura, Josifovskiand Riedel (2007) highlight that the increased relevancy here increases click throughrates (CTR) (how many times an ad is clicked on) in comparison to non contextuallybased ads. An alternative form of targeting is behavioural targeting, based on users pastbrowsing history. For example when consumers visit the ASOS website an ad servingsystem recognises there presence from a browsing cookie on a users computer. Themore information gained the more the advertiser can target the content of their adsto the user. After browsing the ASOS website consumers will receive ASOS advertsadvertising the products they were looking at. Yan, Liu, Wang, Zhang, Jiang andChen (2009) found that behavioural targeting improved the CTR of ad by 670%. Thistherefore highlights the power of behavioural targeting and the importance ofinteraction with customers. Harris and Rae (2009) point out that the role of digital marketers is no longerto simply entice consumers to click on an advert but to create “sustainedengagement” using Web 2.0 technology. One way brands stimulate this engagementis through industry specific online brand communities. Brand communities aregroups of like minded individuals who admire the same brand (Carlson, 2008). In2009 ASOS launched ASOS life, an online community for consumers to read, shareand debate aspects of fashion and lifestyle. Conversations within brand communitiescan not only encourage customers to co-create positive brand values they can alsoprovide firms with valuable research data (Harris and Rae, 2009). Online brandcommunities are therefore important for marketers to understand loyal customersand create a stronger bond with consumers (Chernatony, McDonald and Wallace,2011). In order to sustain the success of brand communities companies need tounderstand that community members are not just there to interact with the brandbut other like minded people. Companies therefore need to levy a reasonable 3
  4. 4. degree of intervention to ensure that brands values are upheld and communitymembers provide meaningful information (Chernatony et al, 2011). Harris and Rae (2009) point out that as well as growth in online brandcommunities, more generic online social media has become hugely popular. Socialmedia is “ the umbrella term for web-based software and services that allowusers to come together online and exchange, discuss, communicate and participatein any form of social interaction” (Ryan & Jones, 2009:152). Kaplan and Haenlein(2010) suggest there to be six different types of social media; blogs and microblogs(‘Twitter’), collaborative projects (wikkipedia), content communities (Youtube),social networking sites (‘Facebook’), virtual game worlds (‘World of Warcraft’) andvirtual social worlds (‘Second Life’). Marketers therefore need to manipulate socialmedia platforms to engage consumers with a brand to create brand awareness andretain loyal customers. Data has shown that 75% of U.S households use social networking sites with‘Facebook’ being the most popular (Porterfield, 2010). Kozinets, (2002) points outthat businesses are also using ‘Facebook’ in order to create a community or formarket research. ASOS is no exception and regularly uses ‘Facebook’ and other socialmedia such as ‘Twitter’, ‘YouTube’ and ‘Skype’ to share content and interact with alarge amount of consumers. Social networking site ‘Facebook’ accounts for 12% of alltraffic to the ASOS website. ASOS has also recently integrated an e-commerce storeinto its facebook page. This allows customers to shop on ASOS without leavingfacebook and provides additional exposure for the brand as customers can ‘share’their purchases. Social media sites such as ‘Facebook’ also provide marketers withonline advertising opportunities (Ryan and Jones, 2009). Business can target theirads to users based on their profile information, location, interests and activity. Socialmedia can attract customers through well targeted advertising and retain themthrough constant communication and interaction. One aspect of social media which ASOS and many other companies over lookis virtual social worlds, for example ‘Second Life’. Kaplan and Haenlein (2009)suggest that virtual social worlds can offer marketers great opportunities inadvertising and communications. Hemp (2009) points out that real world marketingactivities in virtual worlds are rare however in 2003 Levi’s created virtual jeans for 4
  5. 5. residents of ‘There’, this was preliminary a market research exercise however it didsuggest that users who make a virtual world purchase can have an effect on realworld purchases. Such research provides ASOS with ideas to further expand theresocial media offering. Bueno (2007) points out that brand engagement activities such as socialmedia are crucial to word of mouth marketing. Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometershows that 44 percent of respondents trust “a person like me”. Messages passed onfrom a person ‘like me’ is word of mouth marketing and can be very powerfulStokes, (2008). It has been said that viral marketing is a digital form of word ofmouth (Wertime and Fenwick, 2008; Kaikati and Kaikati, 2004). Viral marketingrefers to any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing messageonline. This often leads to high levels of exposure and influence (Bampo, Ewing,Mather,. Stewart, Wallace, 2008). Like many companies ASOS use viral marketing.They have an email system which regularly sends e-mails to existing customersadvertising products and promotions. Customers can forward e-mails to pass on amessage. Stokes (2008) however points out that the greater creativity involved inviral marketing the more effective it is. ‘YouTube’ videos therefore are commonlyused by companies. ASOS has a YouTube channel with a variety of creative video’sadvertsing their products in a creative fashion which encourages consumers to sharethe message via social media. Wertime and Fenwick (2008) point out that viral marketing is advantageousas the customer passes on the message at a high speed to an appropriate targetaudience who will appreciate the content. Dobele et al (2007) points out that viralmarketing is especially effectively for targeting Generations X and Y (ASOS targetaudience) which are harder to reach via traditional media. Viral marketing thereforeis essential for online brand awareness. Chernatony et al (2011) point out that online advertising however can becreated without input from the brand. This is known as Autonomous co-creation(Zwass, 2010), where consumers create advertisements for brands. For exampleinfluential individuals often choose to feature ASOS products in a blog they havewritten, providing valuable awareness for the brand. An alternative form of co-creation is sponsored co-creation (Zwass, 2010) where consumers work at the 5
  6. 6. behest of a brand. For example ASOS fashion finder allows users to build and createoutfits on the website and share them with other users. Companies such as Nikehowever have taken this level of co-creation further and allow consumers tocustomise clothing and footwear to create a bespoke product. Co-creation thereforeis the creation of value by consumers (Zwass, 2010). Such activity successfullyengages consumers with a brand and creates strong brand awareness. However not all user generated content can be positive. Berthon, Pitt andCampbell (2008) point out that some consumers can create advertisements todisrupt a brand. There are many websites and anti brand communities devoted tocriticism certain brands (Harris and Rae, 2009). The social and sharing power of Web2.0 can therefore spread bad press very quickly. Marketers therefore need moderatewhat they share with consumers in order to sustain their brand in the future(Leadbetter, 2008). This will ensure that reputable brands such as ASOS benefitpositively from consumer online engagement and do not receive negative word ofmouth. Sorrell (2010) points out that while most marketers are coming to terms withdigital communications the next challenge will be to utilize mobile as a marketingchannel. There are currently 4.1 billion mobile phone users, that’s over half of theworlds population (Mocom2020, 2009). Today mobile phones are being used forgreater services, the introduction of the smartphone means that mobile phones areused for communication, internet access, entertainment, cameras and much more.Marketers therefore need to adapt there offerings to reflect advances in technology.According to research 91% of mobile phone users keep their phone within three feetall day (Ahonen, 2007). This allows marketers to immediately communicate withconsumers. One form of mobile advertising is SMS messaging. Stokes (2008) pointsout that SMS can be useful for customer relationship management, in the travelindustry airline reservation can be sent via SMS, with updates being sent at the timeof travel. Similarly ASOS use SMS to confirm orders and as a way of sales promotion.Stokes points out that messages can also be targeted. Geographic location basedservices also allow marketers to target consumers according to their location.Therefore ASOS for example can therefore send customer SMS messages advertising 6
  7. 7. their products when they are shopping on the high street to drive customers to theirwebsite. Hongwei (2010) states that a smartphone has great ‘convenient value’ as itsfunctions provide the user with relevant information that helps them to manageeveryday life for example consumers have access to information on the internetwhere ever they go. ASOS have recognised this and created a mobile commerce sitewhich allows customers to conveniently buy ASOS products off their phone. An m-commerce benchmark study has ranked ASOS at the top for best m-commerce site(Charlton, 2011). ASOS have further developed mobile services with the launch of amobile commerce app. This also allows users to make purchases and use of mobilelocation based services as ASOS have used this to highlight nearest drop-off locationsfor returns. Ahonen (2008) points out that consumers have great attachment to theirmobile phones and see them as being a very personal and intimate accessory. Whilstthis makes mobile marketing an attractive option for marketers, marketers need torespect privacy and permission in mobile marketing in order to sustain success withmobile marketing in the future (Stokes, 2008). Zaidi (2008) highlights mobilemarketing as one of the latest developments in digital marketing and points out thatin order to ensure future sustainability brands need to ensure that they areincorporating the latest technology and tools into their digital marketing strategiesand campaigns. Web 2.0 therefore provides consumers with a variety of brand engagingfeatures that create awareness and help to retain consumers through creativeinteraction. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, however points out that “The Internet willtransform advertising because of its trackability, not its beauty”(cited in Stokes,2008). A key characteristic therefore of any online brand is sophisticated use of webanalytics. Browser based measurement tools such as ‘Google Anaytics’ record sitestatistics such as the volume of traffic, referring sites, popular content, the mostpopular days and times, search engine keywords, conversion rates and repeat visits(Chaffey and Smith, 2008). Marketers therefore can constantly assess the progress ofonline brands and see what areas need readdressing in order to maintain the successof online brands. 7
  8. 8. By using online fashion retailer ASOS as an example, the research presentedidentifies key characteristics which are essential to the success and future of onlinebrands. Effective search marketing, key words and well targeted advertisements arevital for acquiring customers and driving traffic to a site. By manipulating all aspectsof Web.20 such as social media, brand communities and viral marketing, brands areable to form collaborative relationships with consumers and increase brandawareness . Brands are also using the latest advances in technology for examplesmart phones to successfully engage consumers in all marketing channels. Bykeeping up to date with technological advancement, using the internet tocommunicate and collaborate with consumers and analysing web analytics, brandssuch as ASOS are able to ensure heightened success in the future.Bibliography 8
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