Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Perspective Chapter: The Transition from Offline to Online Marketing Strategies to Build Brand Equity

Written By

Munyaradzi Mutsikiwa

Submitted: 16 April 2022 Reviewed: 19 May 2022 Published: 09 November 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.105483

From the Edited Volume

Brand Management

Edited by František Pollák and Peter Markovič

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Abstract

The chapter discusses a paradigm shift from offline to online marketing strategies that organisations may employ to build customer-based brand equity. The rationale for online marketing is fully discussed in the chapter. This chapter considers how business practitioners would select best fitting strategies to build brand equity. The chapter discusses among others the virtual presence, the marketing activities, the product, the price, and the distribution strategies. In addition, online strategies to enhance brand awareness and image, elicit a brand response and increase brand resonance are discussed. The chapter will include strategies that are contextual to developing economies.

Keywords

  • offline marketing
  • online marketing
  • marketing strategies
  • brand
  • brand equity

1. Introduction

The advent of the internet has transformed the way communication in business and community is done. It has greatly impacted the traditional media – the offline media – which had been the major media for business communication for thousands of years. The offline media face a threat of extinction because of the rivalry it is facing with online approaches to advertising which are more compatible with the current epoch. Unlike the traditional media, the internet offers facilities for companies to use social media, which in turn permits advertisers to tailor-make advertisements to specified groups of consumers. Through the internet, companies can deliver information to a targeted audience. It has been realised that targeting enhances the quality of communication between businesses and their target market arena [1].

Online marketing offers a platform for intense competition because even small companies can compete through online marketing with a limited budget. Contrasted to offline marketing such as the use of television, newspapers and radio among others, online marketing is less expensive and more importantly online audiences exceed offline audiences [2]. Online media has been promoted by the arrival of social network sites, which has greatly facilitated e-commerce. Thus, online media has created a breakthrough in the marketing of products and/or services online. Of particular importance is the interactive nature of online media which permits a reciprocal flow of information from both the organisation and its customers. This implies that users of social media can modify the content in real-time. As such online media is superior to traditional marketing media which affords users a one-way flow of communication messages. More so, the online approach to advertising has eliminated the effect of geographic distance because businesses can now communicate with global customers with a click of a button [3].

In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) online media has become a business stall for business practitioners. Online media are platforms that are used by marketers and business people to launch products and services, communicate brand messages, develop customer loyalty and build customer-based brand equity among others. To attain this, business people must design online business strategies that are compatible with the platforms and with the needs of virtual customers. Although countless business people are getting used to the use of online media, the applications of such media might not be the same across the global markets due to disparities existing among economies. One of the major challenges facing online marketing strategies is the wealth gap existing between the developed, the emerging and developing countries.

Because of the improved interactivity of online brand communities, the sharing of different types of content between brands and customers and among customers has afforded brands to create exceptional brand image, identity and more importantly customer-based brand equity [4, 5]. Social media marketing strategies are essential in building strong brand equity [6]. The speed of message dissemination and the abundance of information sources have attracted marketers to shift from offline to online media to create brand awareness and enhance consumer preferences towards brands [7]. The development of strong brand equity is the final goal of all marketing and branding activities. A brand with positive brand equity can create customer loyalty and engagement with the brand since customers will have positive perceptions and attitudes towards the brand [8].

Positive brand equity denotes customer loyalty and their active engagement with the brand. In addition, creating community feeling in favour of the brand in the mind of the customer is also a crucial issue for a better brand. On the other hand, a favourable brand image represents customers’ positive perception of a brand [8]. According to [9], social media platforms offer settings for customers to engage in sincere and friendly communications with the brand and other users, thereby creating relationship equity and brand equity. Social media is impactful in creating brand equity through users’ social media engagement [10]. While marketing practitioners agree that social media provides valuable support for marketing activities in general this chapter focuses on the transition from traditional marketing approaches to online marketing strategies to build brand equity. Therefore the chapter is organised as follows; the chapter begins by defining the key terms, followed by a discussion of the challenges that companies encounter as they change from offline to online marketing strategies, after which a discussion on the reasons for implementing online strategies is done, thereafter the chapter discusses the online strategies that organisations may employ to build brand equity and upon completion of this a summary of the chapter is given at the end.

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2. Research methodology

In the process of writing this chapter, an integrative review was employed wherein the researcher attempted to go slightly beyond the description of the identified articles but also included a certain extent of analysis of the reviewed information. The methodology entails the presentation, analysis and synthesis of information that was obtained from different sources (Grant and Booth, 2009). In real terms, the researcher reviewed and synthesised representative literature on the transition from offline to online marketing strategies to build brand equity. This methodology involved the presentation of existing literature, and an attempt to consolidate information on various factors was done. This permitted the author to discuss ideas under specific topics as identified in the extant literature and permitted the researcher to contribute to the development of the topic and also to a limited extent pointed to the gaps that may need further scrutiny in future studies. Even though this researcher employed the critical or integrative review it should be noted that it has a weakness in that the approach lacks an objective and structured approach that is endowed in the systematic review approach (Haddaway et al. 2014). However to mitigate against such biases an attempt was made to be rigorous in the write-up. By so doing the researcher made sure that the topic could enable readers to understand how the transition of marketing strategies from offline to online has progressed over years.

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3. Definition of key concepts

This section looks at the definitions of the key terms in this chapter as operationalised by the writer.

3.1 Offline marketing strategies

Offline marketing strategies entail any advertising or promotional practice that leverages traditional offline media. An offline marketing strategy normally uses channels that include television, newspapers, magazines, radio, direct mail, billboards, and in-person events among others. Because of the transformation that is currently happening in marketing, modern-day offline marketing strategies are used to support or supplement online strategies [11]. Though studies confirm the effectiveness of offline marketing strategies in certain contexts, these strategies cannot stand the test of time as most organisations are embarking on online marketing strategies.

The transition that is currently happening does not imply that offline marketing strategies are useless but they are effective at edifying online brands and the equity of the brand. In real terms, a combination of offline and online marketing strategies has a considerable impact on building a brand reputation. When combined, offline and online marketing strategies can complement one another and produce an amplified impact. Because of the effectiveness that offline offers to companies a brief discussion on its importance is discussed next.

First, despite the transition, face to face meetings are still important as they play a significant part in networking. They can help to direct traffic to the website of a company, especially when you meet people and later on they visit your website to learn more about the company and its products. Depending on the context, handshaking is still crucial because it eliminates abstraction from your brand. Second, offline marketing strategies offer opportunities for companies to attend conferences and trade shows. These events are quite critical since they offer avenues to distribute company and brand-related literature. Third, company representatives can engage with the target audience through speeches. Speeches play a significant role in creating credible companies. Fourth, consultations and demonstrations are more realistic when there is a direct link between the seller and buyer. Generally, live demos offer additional confidence to the would-be buyers of the products of a company. Ultimately, offline marketing strategies increase the company’s visibility.

3.2 Online marketing strategies

Ref. no. [12] define online marketing as: “the use of the internet and all associated digital electronic technologies to achieve marketing goals” by reaching various users at their convenience”. According to [13], online marketing strategies entail the campaigns and activities that are employed to promote products and services and in most cases create long-run relationships with the virtual community [14]. The most inclusive definition is the one that is given by [15] who notes that online marketing is the application of “digital technologies which form online channels (Web, e-mail, databases, plus mobile/wireless & digital TV) to contribute to marketing activities aimed at achieving profitable acquisition and retention of customers (within a multi-channel buying process and customer lifecycle) through improving our customer knowledge (of their profiles, behaviour, value and loyalty drivers), then delivering integrated targeted communications and online services that match their individual needs”. Thus online marketing is an avenue to communicate and target consumers with the use the digital technology – social media and the internet. This definition entails the contention that online marketing is hinged on the interaction of users of social media. This is a major characteristic that set it apart from traditional and offline marketing.

3.3 Customer-based brand equity

The concept of brand equity was coined in the 1980s and since then, there has been a proliferation of studies on the subject. As a result, there has been an ongoing debate on the concept. Several definitions have been suggested [16]. Brand equity is defined as added values that are endowed in a brand [17]. Aaker [18] defined brand equity as a set of assets and liabilities linked to a brand’s name and symbol that add to or subtract from the value provided by a product or service to a firm. Another definition of customer-based brand equity is developed from a customer’s perspective whereby brand knowledge, familiarity and associations regarding the brand are considered. Keller [19] defined customer-based brand equity as “the differential effect of brand knowledge on consumer response to the marketing of the brand.” The understanding of brand equity from a consumer’s perspective is important as this would allow companies to generate profits and build the equity of the brand.

According to [20], brand equity is a multidimensional construct that is grouped into five categories namely perceived quality, brand loyalty, brand awareness, brand association and other proprietary assets that include trademarks, patents and relationships. Thus, in the discussion of this chapter attempt is made to explain how online marketing strategies help organisations build brand equity.

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4. Challenges of online marketing strategies

Despite the proliferation of online marketing strategies, they are also challenges that emanate from inexperienced users. Consumers lack confidence in the use of the internet. There are a lot of people who find it difficult to trust the online marketing processes, for the developing world both the urban and rural people do not have access to the internet. This makes it imminent for marketers in developing to rely on both offline and online marketing strategies.

When customers want to buy products in most cases they prefer to feel or touch the product before making a purchase decision. Customers are afraid to purchase defective products and for perishable items, there is a fear that they may buy stale products. The lack of personal contact in online marketing strategies has made this approach less appealing to some of the virtual customers. Because of the lack of personal interaction, some customers who prefer face to face interaction are scared away from shopping online and still prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores. For such customers talking to store personnel, socialising with them and touching the products before making a purchase decision is critical. For these reasons online marketing strategies are less appropriate for this group of customers despite the factor that it is growing substantially.

One of the most threatening issues related to online marketing strategies relates to fraud – customers from most developing countries are afraid of online fraud. Regardless of the proliferation of online transactions, many people do not trust electronic methods of payment and neither do they trust that the purchased product will be delivered after purchase Because of such fears customers are scared away from using the online platforms to purchase products and services. Online trust entails the perception of the website’s ability to meet the consumers’ expectations. Organisations that use online facilities must have deliberately built trust and persuaded virtual customers that online purchases are as real as offline purchases.

The advent of the digital revolution is a threat to business models. A business model refers to how a business creates customer value and how it provides revenue to companies [21]. A more comprehensive definition was given by [22], who conceptualised it as “a well-specified system of interdependent structures, activities, and processes that serves as a firm’s organising logic for value creation (for its customers) and value appropriation (for itself and its partners). The changes in business models affect value creation and appropriation. In the majority of situations, companies have integrated digital technologies into existing business models considerably affecting existing business models. For example, one of the striking challenges that Network Service Providers face relates to the rapid adoption of free digital services like WhatsApp. In a way, these companies are facing a reduction in revenue emanating from free facilities.

One of the most important challenges of digital marketing is the ability to generate and leverage customers’ opinions and insights. In online marketing a lot of data – big data is generated – which is difficult to process by the use of hand databases management tools. Challenges related to this include capturing the data, storing data, sharing data and analysing the data generated online [23]. On the other hand, big data provide opportunities for companies to follow customers from the point of awareness to the point of purchase until they become loyal customers. Despite the need to track customers, there is still a challenge to attain this goal because of the complexity and quantity of data. In addition, these data lack structure, they are volatile and sometimes there is a lot of missing data.

The problem of integrating online and offline marketing strategies which involve many channels such as e-mail advertisements, social media, press, brochures, catalogues, TV, cell phone and the internet among others has to be addressed. It is important to prioritise the coordination of all marketing activities. Online marketing strategies should be done alongside offline marketing strategies. Thus harmonising both approaches to marketing the products and services of a company will help in the attainment of marketing goals. Therefore marketing practitioners should acknowledge the role of integrated marketing communications – since all marketing activities are inextricably linked to each other. When going online all elements of marketing should play complementary roles.

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5. Rationale for changing from offline to online marketing strategies

The advent of the digital age has brought about a proliferation of technological innovations in the form of online media. The development of information technology has facilitated the use of e-commerce – which entails the buying and selling of products through the use of the internet. In real terms, online marketing strategies have been invigorated by the advent of social network sites or social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram among others. These online media play an important role in online marketing strategies. It is reported that the number of social media users has grown to 3.96 billion in 2022, with Facebook as the leading medium with a subscription base of 2.9 monthly active users [24].

Social media are considered platforms on which users build networks and share information and/or sentiments [25]. Because of their unique nature of being “dynamic, interconnected, egalitarian, and interactive organisms” [26], social media have caused three fundamental changes in the marketplace. First, social media permit companies and customers to associate in ways that were impossible in the past. Such connectedness is allowed by several platforms, such as social networking sites (Facebook), microblogging sites (Twitter), and content communities (YouTube), that permit social networks to be built from shared interests and values [25]. Thus based on the use of social media, organisations have found platforms that cut marketing costs and increase the effectiveness of marketing efforts [27].

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has become an impactful lesson to business practitioners and consumers that business should be done online. It has taught people the importance of doing business online. Based on this, companies have to spend more on social media advertisement and because of the Covid-19 pandemic, people spend more time on social media platforms [28]. Because of the restrictions that Covid-pandemic imposes on consumers, online marketing strategies are offering a better option for informing people about a company’s products and services. For example, Facebook advertisements are less expensive for businesses [29]. Advertisements on Facebook can be appealing and maybe well-designed to meet the needs of a target group.

One of the most important factors that enhance online marketing strategy is that consumers can be provided with timely information due to its availability 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week [30]. Because of this customers can access information and shop online at any time of the day. Thus, there is no limit on time since online businesses do not have opening and closing times. Since online and offline businesses are closely associated consumers may visit the brick and mortar markets after surfing online for suitable prices. For consumers, online purchases bring with them the advantage that the customer does not go out of the home to visit stores and be burdened by comparing. Comparatively, online marketing strategies are not resources consuming and as such are cost-effective [31]. Even companies that employ these strategies expend less when they launch new advertisements online as compared to placing them in a magazine or on billboards. Since the cost of establishing a virtual presence is less expensive most companies have gone online.

One of the key merits of an online marketing strategy is that it eliminates all geographical limitations from the practice of buying and selling. As long as the internet is available, there is no limit in terms of global reach [32]. Offline marketing strategies had challenges of overcoming geographic barriers, but today marketers can market their products and services to a large clientele base across the globe [33].

Despite the nature of a company online marketing strategies are important as they can assist organisations to position themselves in the market and be able to set themselves apart from competitors. Moving from offline to online marketing strategies is a good opportunity that companies should not avoid despite them keeping operating their brick and mortar facilities [34]. Since most organisations are going online, it is important to discuss if online marketing strategies lead to the creation of customer-based brand equity.

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6. Online strategies to build brand equity

Brand equity is a consequence of many factors that include among others initial purchasing experience [35]. It is also important that the product and/or service offer additional value so that strong relationships with the client are developed. This experiential marketing is important in the provision of this value [36]. The value so provided is brand equity, which is discussed in this section, but with an emphasis on how online marketing strategies edify such value from customers’ perspective. As the discussion unfolds it is important to note that online marketing strategies similarly create brand equity to offline marketing strategies in that both strategies influence the main sources of brand equity namely brand awareness, brand image and loyalty.

Extant literature shows that social media communication has a significant impact on brand equity as it creates brand awareness. Even though online brand experience, was not regarded as good as offline strategies in creating brand equity [37], it is now crucial in such endeavour. Online marketing strategies permit companies to communicate, create and deliver marketing offerings through social media platforms to keep relationships with a diverse range of stakeholders. By so doing marketers interact, collaborate, and share information with customers [38], because of this as many organisations use social media for advertising and marketing activities, they create value and build brand equity [39]. As companies and consumers interact on social media platforms – the interaction permits the individual’s ability to recall and recognise the brand [40]. Thus as a result social influence affects brand equity. For example, activities on social media activities can encourage consumer engagement and help companies to build relationships, brand image and brand value. As participants on the social media platforms share videos and pictures, this may create trust and strong ties with brands which impact brand equity.

Online marketing strategies enhance brand experience which may end up building brand equity. For example, customised digital content facilitates the creation of consumer-brand relationships [41]. It is crucial to note that if an organisation uses this trendy marketing approach and posts stimulating content consumers are more likely to have long-lasting memories which form the foundation of brand equity. In the same vein, the use of professional pictures helps to motivate the sensory and affective experiences of consumers. In real terms, content marketing is the cornerstone of online marketing strategies which entails the distribution of valuable, relevant and consistent which is meant to attract customers. With proper online content, organisations can attract, keep customers and transform general customers into advocates [42].

One of the most significant aspects of building brand equity is web functionality. Web functionality entails the website design elements that facilitate ease of interaction – which should be user friendly, fun, and enjoyable. The website has to offer several options that may include the speed of the download, 3D images, video and audio which is available 24/7. If the website is properly designed it can create unique and memorable experiences in the minds of the consumers which in turn generates brand awareness and recall. This may in the end create brand loyalty [43]. The website should have navigation aids to reduce the cognitive load, and the steps for search and confusion, this creates additional value for customers.

One of the antecedents of brand equity that marketing practitioners have exploited to build brand equity is e-service quality. Santos [44] defined e-service quality as the assessment and judgement of the customer’s experience and how the customer perceives the quality of online services offered by the virtual market. In the initial stages, when an organisation starts selling online products customers may not adapt quickly, but may gradually come aboard depending on the availability of several factors such as website functionality, product attributes, customer e-service and security among others. One of the commonly employed scales to evaluate the quality of online service is the e-service quality scale (ESQUAL) which was proposed by [45] in 2005. The main dimensions of the scale include reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and tangibility. Extant literature shows that e-service quality has been studied in association with marketing stimuli, outcome and ultimate behaviour. Scholars have linked e-service quality with several outcomes such as satisfaction, loyalty and behavioural intentions [46].

Satisfaction is one of the determinants of customers based brand equity. In online marketing, such satisfaction is regarded as e-satisfaction. Anderson and Srinivasan [47] defined e-satisfaction as ‘the contentment of the customer with respect to his or her prior purchasing experience with a given electronic commerce firm’. This happens after assessing if the gratifications so experienced from online purchases meet the needs and expectations of customers. The understanding of the extent of customer satisfaction is important because satisfaction influences the behaviour of customers on whether they will continue patronising the website or not [48]. According to [49], satisfaction is a result of positive emotional and cognitive states.

A satisfied customer always refers other customers to the websites and remains loyal to the organisation. In addition, e-satisfaction increases traffic to the website and the number of hours spent by customers on the website also increases. Thus the behaviour of online consumers is dependent partly on e-satisfaction. Despite the fact that e-satisfaction is a subjective experience it helps in edifying brand equity. For e-satisfaction to be attained it is expected that the website of the organisation has to be adaptable, interactive, and user-friendly to permit ease of transaction and customer engagement [47]. Studies have shown that e-satisfaction in online companies depends on the website quality and e-service quality, information quality and product quality among others.

E-loyalty is one of the antecedents of brand equity. It refers to the long-run relationship that customers have concerning the brand. Odin et al. [50] define loyalty as the extent to which consumers are committed to the brand and this is shown by the positive attitude and behaviour towards a particular brand. Repeat purchases are one of the indicators of loyalty. Because of the advent of the internet and social media, the concept of brand loyalty is now operational in the online context and it is regarded as e-loyalty. Anderson and Srinivasan [47] e-loyalty refers to a favourable attitude towards an online business, which results in repeat purchases. The same concept has been defined by [51] as a consumer’s commitment to revisit an organisation’s website without switching to other websites. In the extant literature, brand loyalty is segmented into two categories namely behavioural and cognitive loyalty. When consumers repeat buying brands, this is regarded as behavioural loyalty and cognitive loyalty entails the consumers’ intention to purchase the brand as the first choice [19]. Both types of loyalty form the building blocks for brand equity.

In an attempt to build brand equity electronic word of mouth (eWOM) has become one of the tools used by many organisations. The concept of eWOM has been adapted from word of mouth. eWOM has been defined as “all informal communications directed at consumers through internet-based technology related to the usage or characteristics of particular goods and services” [52]. The concept emerged as a result of online technologies that enabled the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp among others. The merit that EWOM is that it can reach millions of people who have access to the internet. Because of the unique characteristics of eWOM, it allows web users to create virtual relationships and share a lot of content. As web users share opinions about a company’s products and services on social media platforms, in the end, this affects buying behaviour [53]. In instances where positive information is shared the result is that brand equity is edified in the process.

As much as eWOM is quite useful in building brand equity, the same can transmit negative opinions. Negative e-WOM is a strong determinant of consumers’ overall attitude towards products and services [54] since it draws more attention than positive information. If such information is shared companies’ reputations and images are tarnished. For example when online interaction takes place and negative opinions and comments are made this may end up affecting brand equity negatively. Because of the reach of online marketing approaches, marketing practitioners should be concerned about how best they can minimise the volume of negative reviews on the online platform as a way to reduce harmful effects on brand equity.

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7. Chapter summary

The chapter looked at the transition from traditional marketing strategies to online marketing strategies that companies use to build brand equity. The chapter discussed the concepts of offline strategies, online strategies and customer-based brand equity. Offline marketing strategies were described as the use of marketing media such as television, newspapers, billboards and radio among others. Online marketing strategies relate to the use of digital technologies to promote products and services and establish long-term relationships with online users. Customer-based brand equity was discussed from a customer perspective viewpoint where it was summarised as the value that accrues to a customer after using the brand.

A discussion was also done on the number of challenges that are associated with online marketing strategies. Some of the challenges encountered by companies include the lack of trust in the processes, especially from rural consumers and fear of online fraudulent activities that result in customers not using online platforms. More so, the online marketing strategies have affected the traditional business models such that companies have to transform their models so that they are compatible with the online ways of marketing products and services. In adopting online marketing strategies, companies have encountered challenges in managing big data – where a lot of content is shared on social media platforms. Despite the reality that companies go online, they still need to use offline marketing strategies and as such, there is a problem with how best companies can harmonise the two approaches.

Adopting online marketing strategies has been facilitated by technological innovations in the form of the internet and social media. We have seen the birth of platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube among others where virtual communities share information about products and services. Because of the outbreak of Covid-19 business practitioners have been forced to do business online due to the restriction associated with the disease. More importantly, the cost implications are far much less than that of traditional ways of marketing and the fact that the business is open for 24 hours makes the online approach to business a more preferred option.

Despite the fact that brand equity can be built from several factors, not all factors were included, but only a few selected factors. The chapter indicates that social media communication is good at building brand equity; communications unfolds between the company and consumers in an interactive way, where both parties make contributions, unlike the unidirectional way that is common in the traditional approach to communicating. A discussion on the effect of brand experience on brand equity was done. One of the factors that are responsible for building brand equity relates to web functionality, which also entails ease of use and interaction. Among other factors discussed in this chapter is the role of e-service quality, the effect of e-satisfaction and e-loyalty on brand equity. A discussion on the role of eWOM in edifying brand equity was precisely done.

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8. Limitations and perspectives for future research

Because of the dynamic nature of the transition from offline to online strategies to market brands, it is important that future research may continually undertake reviews to examine the changes in the domain area. An integrative approach to review the extant literature on the transition from offline to online marketing strategies was done here, it is important that future reviews may take a systematic approach to present, analyse and critique literature.

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Written By

Munyaradzi Mutsikiwa

Submitted: 16 April 2022 Reviewed: 19 May 2022 Published: 09 November 2022