In the late 18th century, the Industrial Revolution marked an era in human civilization where there was a tremendous shift in the ways that people worked, what was produced and how. Manual-based labor was replaced by machinery and industries that could manufacture products at exponential rates than they could have been made before. The impact of this change was enormous on societies not only in Western Europe and North America, but all over the world.
These contemporary times are marked by the Digital Revolution, another key movement that changes the workings of entire societies. The Digital Revolution refers to the present time and the global economy's shift in focus away from the production of physical goods and towards the manipulation of information. Today, information is the largest commodity and who has access to it has become one of the most important factors in economic success. The Digital Revolution includes the markets of information technology or products that are a means of accessing information such as computers and the components it utilizes both hardware and software, modems to access information, servers and satellites. Cellular phones have connected people in a way never conceived of in the past and satellite-based information such as global positioning systems (GPS) networks and digital television have certainly changed the lifestyles of the average person today. The Internet has become the largest source of information and is the ultimate medium to accelerate the flow of relevant information and is the fastest growing form of media. As such, it is important to consider the implications that the Digital Revolution and the widespread use of the Internet has made on the marketing industry.
Marketing relies on current tools and innovations to discern consumer trends in need for certain products. With the task of creating consumer awareness for a product or service and being able to manipulate those consumers to move toward those products, marketing demands the most current information to analyze their demographic base and consumer desires. These need to constantly be current in order for a business to prosper over a long period of time. Market research to anticipate a consumer's future needs and wants affects the advertising, distribution and selling trends that a business conducts. In the wake of the Digital Revolution, marketing has benefited from greater customization of products, services, and promotional messages than other marketing tools previously available. In the 4 P's of the Marketing Mix, the Digital Revolution has had significant impact, changing everything from the very products sold to the promotion and strategic placing of those products.
Products are the first to be impacted by the Digital Revolution. Actual goods have changed from material products to items such as software. The software industry is a billion dollar industry. Total worldwide revenues in 2006 for companies in the Software 500 list were "$394 billion, representing a growth of 3.5% from 2005, when total Software 500 revenue was $381 billion." Software is purely information being packaged and sold, greatly impacting the type of product that can be sold. Products have also changed in their supporting elements such as warranties, gurantees and support. Warranties are often activated online which is faster than mail-in methods and more reliable. Many companies also offer online support for their products wherein a customer can directly communicate with a company representative via e-mail or instant messaging services. Especially for software related issues, this can be very helpful for the consumer. Outsourcing customer support to countries on the other side of the globe has also made 24hour customer support a viable option which could never be done efficiently before the digital era. This enables marketers to build and maintain relationships with their customers on a greater scale.
Pricing has also been affected by the Digital Revolution in that it has become more competitive and demanding. With the widespread use of the Internet and the availability of online stores and popular auctioning sites such as Ebay, pricing has become increasingly competitive, since cunsomers have the option of seeing the prices offered for one product, and then being able to chose the least expensive option. Auctioning sites allow for consumers to set their own prices which is a tool that marketers can utilize in determining the "soft spot" for a product and seeing what price people are willing to value a product at. The profit yields have become smaller in many sectors and smaller businesses have gone out of business due to such fierce competition in pricing wherein only large manufacturers can produce large enough quantities to still yield high profits.
Promotion in marketing includes areas such as advertising, sales, publicity and branding of a product, brand or company. With the onset of the digital revolution, this is one of the most affected of the four P's. Computer-based tools allow for much graphic design and branding to be accomplished on a computer, negating the need for pencil sketches and loads of paperwork. A design can be drafted on a computer program and edited as needed to suit various needs with little time or expense. Indeed, a company can afford to create several logos or possible product labels at the same cost or less than traditional methods. The internet also allows for virtually free advertising and promotion and selling of a product. Less the cost of a registered domain, companies are able to create complex websites to showcase their products at a fraction of the cost of opening a store or advertising through newspaper or magazine ads. The Internet is such a great tool for marketing and exposing media that many companies are started online and rely soley on the Internet and people's access to it to do their entire businesses. Web designers have become paramount and coveted positions and a good web designer can generate as much income as a good lawyer by generating internet traffic to the site. Moreover a company has hundreds of sites at their disposal where they can advertise free of charge and target large markets simultaneously and at all hours of the day, not limited by 9-5 business hours. Sites such as PayPal and the dominance of online banking also allows for consumers to actively purchase at all hours, increasing the amount of sales conducted and reaching a global audience.
Placement, or distribution, is the final P of the marketing mix and it is these channels that have been greatly affected by the Digital Revolution. Online retail stores are not limited by region and with access to the internet available to all walks of life, products can be sold through the internet with little paperwork, costs or losses to a company. Purchases can be made through PayPal or with online banking services and products can be bought at all hours in every country and shipped directly to the consumer. Without the limits of retail and in-store inventory, companies can use online sales as a rough estimate for demand closer to the accurate consumer need and cut back on costs for extra quantities of product. Without the need for pushy sales representatives, marketing online can also be used a tool to analyze consumer trends. Digital technologies enables marketers to collect and analyze data on consumers' buying patterns, personal characteristics and preferences. This can be done without the cost of printing surveys or sending researchers to conducts live surveys. The availability of the Internet allows for all this to be done electronically and automatically, collecting information about consumer trends, inputting them into a database and analyzing it for patterns all in real time.
The four P's of the marketing mix have all been greatly influenced by the onset of the Digital Revolution and the dominance of accessible information through the Internet. It has changed the way consumers spend their money and the way they shop for products and seek services. Like the Industrial Revolution, today's Digital Revolution has changed the ways in which people live their daily lives and the manners in which companies practice business. In marketing, strategy has greatly shifted away from material and into more liquid avenues and flexible ways of reaching consumers. Because people have altered their spending habits, so too have marketers changed the ways of reaching their customers and creating products focused on the new needs of the consumer today. Advertisement and sales have shifted away from tangible methods of reaching people such as print ads and newspaper and into digitized networks that offer to target a larger audience at a fraction of the cost. The impact of the Digital Revolution on marketing can not be ignored as indeed, it has completely changed the industry in a way never previously conceived.