Will e-Commerce 'Kill' the Marketing Function?
Marketing is essentially a communication exercise aimed at the prospective customer with a view to maximizing sales to achieve optimally high revenues and profits for the firm. For this purpose firms employ marketeers and have large marketing departments commensurate with their size and market spread. The skills of the marketeers contribute significantly in firm's ability to garner proper market share especially in highly competitive products.
The emergence of internet has in many areas 'killed' the marketeer and in course of time could threaten increasing number of marketing departments of a large variety of businesses.
The growth of e-commerce in India is phenomenal and was estimated to be around $14 billion by end 2012. Presently it is concentrated heavily in the B2C type of businesses. In America the B2B business is nearly $560 billion which is nearly twice the B2C commerce. In India this type of B2B e-commerce is yet to take off. The growing internet penetration, accelerated use of smartphones and introduction of 3G is going to revolutionise the way future business will be conducted in India.
How is it going to affect conventional marketing and marketeers?
Today, any firm can put up all the information about its product / products on its website which will be interactive in nature. A regular or intending customer can visit the site and go through the information. If he has any questions he can visit the FAQ section where all his doubts can be cleared, If he still needs more information or clarifications he can go to the contact page and post his query. He can expect a fast answer.
If the customer who can be a business firm representative wants to place an order, he can do so on the Order page by filling the necessary details. The page will indicate him the total cost inclusive of all taxes. He can make payment through credit card. The site will tell him the mode and time of delivery at his address he wants material to be supplied. He can opt for single delivery or staggered delivery mode.
Once the firm order is received at the suppliers end the message will go to the production, purchase, logistic and finance departments and any other department if needed. If the product has to be produced over a period of time the necessary raw materials and other items will be automatically ordered by the purchase e-module on the pre-selected vendor. If the item is in inventory the message will go to the transporter to come and pick up. The finance e-module will receive the information of both income and expenditures incurred.
As can be seen the customer need not interact with any person as is done presently and still be able to get his requirements. Small e-commerce firms are already working on this model. A customer goes on the site ,locates his requirement details, satisfies himself of the quality and price and proceeds to place order and makes the payment or may chose the Cash on Delivery (COD) mode. Soon thereafter the ordered product is delivered at his doorstep. In the process he has not interacted with any person.
This faceless selling and buying model is going to spread increasingly and soon in India also B2B deals of any size will be made electronically. Then are marketeers needed and large marketing departments necessary. The answer is going to be an emphatic NO. However this is not to say that the need and function of marketing will cease to exist. It will be considerably trimmed. Where marketing departments consisted of say 100 persons now they may need 5-10 persons. They will be silently interacting through the website with the customers.
The drastic reduction in manpower will not occur only in marketing but all the supporting service departments like finance, HRM, purchase etc. This will result in lean organisations.Outsourcing of many of these functions will take place. The resultant savings will make firms competitive and ensure sustainability in the markets.
If therefore communication is the main function of marketing then it will now be done by the website. Considerable attention will have to be devoted to making a very effective and functional website. It should be user friendly and easy to navigate besides ensuring security of payment and private details of customers. From time to time the skeleton number of marketing staff will keep on updating the site. The faceless customer will navigate through the site and take decisions based on the quality, quantity and reliability of data and information provided therein.
This redefining of job profiles and multiple outsourcing will create an organization unlike at present. It will be more of an integrating function that the parent organization will be performing. The major casualty will be the marketing professional who will now be replaced by a page in the company's website.
How fast it will happen in Indian companies will be watched with interest. The infrastructure and connectivity are available and expanding. Already goods like books, cameras, mobiles, dresses, footwear, household goods and appliances, white goods, rail bus and air tickets are available through by now established and reliable e-commerce companies through their user friendly web sites. The introduction of COD facility has greatly increased the customer confidence and order volumes have gone up significantly.
In fact a large number of firms especially government organisations are conducting purchase function upto vendor selection in form of e-tenders to ensure transparency. It is perhaps a first step in eventual e-commerce.
It is time that other business firms also start doing business in the e-commerce way as is done in a huge volumes in USA for example. Apart from savings it will give a huge fillip to the IT industry which today is doing nearly 80-85 % for overseas clients. Imagine the potential and job generation that will take place in India if Indian industries also start doing B2B business in form of e-commerce.
While the marketeers ill be eliminated considerably new type of jobs will open up in larger numbers in IT and logistics and other service type of industries.
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