Interactive marketing is a type of marketing where consumers are no longer viewed as passive, but rather active partners who can interact with businesses. The ever-changing environment that surrounds us, as well as the evolution of consumer behaviour and trends, prompts companies to adopt fast strategies that improve customer satisfaction. In other words, effective interactive marketing strategy allows a business to create products and communications that are in line with changing customer demands and interests.
In the past, companies had only one concern, that of production in very large quantities to be able to sell to customers whose demand was always greater than supply. Only one message was then broadcast to everyone, which was called mass marketing. This did not last long since with the intensification of competition, supply became more important than demand and the consumer was faced with more choices. Companies, therefore, had to differentiate themselves from each other. These have begun to segment the market and seek to get to know consumers better to respond in a more personalized way to a specific target. From there, marketing evolved from its global approach to having a more individualized approach.
On the other hand, the significant development of information and communication technologies through the advent of the web and internet in the early 1990s gave customers total power by accessing a borderless offer. Hence the emergence of new marketing approaches adapted to the new type of distribution channel. There, we can talk about interactive marketing that has transformed the customer into a partner who participates in the process of designing, marketing and communicating its products. People who have worked on the definition of interactivity in marketing seem to agree on only three points: the difficulty of defining interactivity, systematically presented as a complex context, the great diversity of definitions, and the opportunity that interactivity represents for marketing.
Different Forms of Interactivity
The first form of interactivity, referred to as technical interactivity, corresponds to the conception of interactivity as a technical dimension of multimedia environments and is therefore focused on the properties, criteria, components and technical conditions of certain communication devices.
The second form of interactivity is informational (or conversational) interactivity. This form initially refers to a personalized design of the customer relationship based on the storage and operation of customer databases. However, this form also combines a conversational conception of interactivity that refers to the dialogue between the “marketer” and the customer. This conception presupposes the establishment of real bilateral communication between these two marketing actors as well as more intense participation of the consumer (customer) in the exchange process.
Descriptive interactivity (third form) is a repeated mechanism of information acquisition, according to a pre-defined system of preferences, which aims to describe and exhibit a pre-existing utility function to propose and deduce a response accordingly. This form of interactivity allows a competent buyer, preferably with a pre-established structure, to provide him with support in the online purchase decision.
The fourth form of interactivity, called constructive interactivity, is also an interactive decision support system. However, the approach is different from descriptive interactivity since it allows the decision-maker to discover what his preferences and goals are according to the products available and to change his preference structure. In this case, it is the buyer who builds his model.
Interactivity is often summed up in its communication aspect, whereas it cannot be reduced to a simple exchange of information or the technical characteristics of the communication device and its participants. Indeed, interactivity is also a co-construction process that makes it a tool to help the purchase decision.
New tools are now being used by marketers that allow for interactivity with the customer. If there are several media admitting interactivity, the Internet receives most of the attention. The advent of the web and the Internet has fostered the establishment of personalized and direct relationships with consumers. These are no longer passive receivers but are active when searching for information. Let’s start with company websites, which are essential for consumers who now spend a lot of time searching for the products they want. The main feature is the presence of interactive tools to help with the purchase decision3 that make research easier and get consumers to the purchase decision faster. These tools are:
- Sorting: it is a type of tool that allows the consumer to sort products according to different criteria for example by country, by geographical area, by color, sex etc.
- Classification: here we advance in the decision support by proposing to classify the products in order, for example for the price by choosing from the cheapest to the most expensive.
- Comparison: it gives the possibility to compare several similar products according to a multi-criteria basis, comparing the different attributes of the product and not only the price.
- Recommendation: it is the most personalized tool, allowing, according to information recorded and coded in a database, to offer the customer products that correspond to his tastes or to offer him similar products. This tool is based on an algorithm or similarity index.
In addition to these online purchasing decision support tools, the consumer finds on the websites dedicated interactive spaces to communicate and interact with the company through blogs, contact forms or chat spaces.
There is also emailing. The performance of this tool lies in its immediacy and interactivity. Now companies send personalized emails to their customers with their names, surname and with the products that interest them. With a single click, the customer is redirected to the company’s website where they can browse and buy whatever they want. This tool increases brand awareness and builds customer loyalty who feel in direct contact with companies7.
Finally, we can talk about tools increasingly used by companies such as social networks. Today, a large majority of companies want to be present on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn) to be close to customers. It is a tool that allows great interactivity between the user/customer and the company by creating a dialogue between the two. It is what the customer says that is most important on these platforms.
Advantages and Limitations of Interactive Marketing
All of these tools and techniques have many advantages from a business perspective. Indeed, when interactive marketing is used wisely, it is very effective. Whether for descriptive interactivity with interactive decision support tools or informational interactivity via contact forms and social networks, it acts on people. Interactive marketing will have a real influence on purchasing behaviour and brand image.
Indeed, these tools give the company direct contact with its customers. This can lead to the creation of a real special relationship. The presence on social networks offers great responsiveness to the company to communicate. As for decision support tools, this allows the company to be more relevant in its offer to the customer. In addition to this, it is the customer journey on the site that will prove to be more effective. Through a more relevant customer journey and recommendation or suggestion tools, interactive marketing will increase the amount of the average cart. It is therefore a significant tool for increasing turnover.
However, there are some limitations to these techniques. Indeed, we can observe a certain weariness on the part of consumers in the face of certain techniques. Emails are not always as effective, it is the quality of the targeting that will make them useful. Interactivity is still too limited in this case because the customer does not play a predominant role. In addition, there is an overdose of e-mailing among consumers.
Many businesses find that contact forms, chat rooms and blogs often aren’t effective or fast enough. This is due to the fact that investing in customer service can be difficult, and following up properly is essential.
Social networks require a certain particular tone. It takes a real skill to communicate on this platform, we do not address ourselves in the same way on social networks as on other media. The form is going to be different and so is the substance of the message. This implies responsiveness on the part of brands, fair and effective communication and a real exchange between brands and Internet users. If this is not the case, this interactive marketing will be of no use. It’s important to note that social media isn’t for every business. Some have no place or interest in being present on these networks.