In current times, information technology has emerged as an important element facilitating world in turning to a global village. Distances are shrinking; sharing of information has become fast & acceptable trend among intellectual community, businesses are expanding beyond geographical boundaries of nations. Information technology is playing a very important role in all this. But information technology does not mean a particular software application. It consists of wide range of tools and applications, which when clubbed together forms a set helping in accomplishing designated task. But the world of information technology is very dynamic and is changing by every day. Newer products come every day with new features and enhanced capabilities. So there is a need to have a platform, where existing products can be updated, newer versions can be downloaded and information about new developments in the field of information technology can be had.
Download.com is a popular website among internet user community, functioning as a directory for downloads Megan (Wiswall. 2002). It was launched in the year 1996. Basically it was launched as a part of CNET with a original domain name of download.com.com. Download.com offers lot of contents which can be downloaded and can be categorized in four categories such as Software, Music, Games, and Videos. Out of all these four categories, software is the most important and popular among net users, which offers quick solutions to net users in the hour of need. Downloads are offered by file transfer protocol basis from Download.com servers. In some cases third party servers are used directly to download these contents. Download.com offers more than a hundred thousands of software at present. Editorial reviews for almost all of this listed software are available. These are also rating for almost all the software listed on site. It helps individuals in getting a initial idea about quality and capabilities of individual software. A summary for each of this software is also made available on the website. This summary comes from the publisher of the software itself. There is effort to develop a user community by the website by offering customers to register themselves. These users are extended additional benefits by the way that they are allowed to write reviews for the software listed. These registered users are also allowed to give their rating for the software listed. At present there are more than one hundred million visitors for the website annually.
Downloads from the website is free. Download.com does not charge any fee for downloading any of the software from its site. Revenue is generated for the business by fee which company charges from publisher of the software, if he wants to get listed on website with additional facilities. These facilities may be in the form of enhanced features, when software is listed on website. Some software, which are listed on the website are trial versions of full fleshed software. Download.com offers such platform in the domain of information technology. It offers platform where various types of information technology applications and software can be downloaded easily. Company also offers this platform to various publishers of software, so that they can list their software, which have been developed with sincere efforts.
(Affiliate revenue model)
In affiliate revenue model a company steers business to an affiliate and receives a referral fee or percentage of the revenue from any resulting sales (Brian Carter. 2005). Company offers all the download and uploading services free of charge to customers and publishers. Company generates revenue by offering some enhanced features to publishers, who want their software to be given promotional push on the company website (CNET. 2010). Company charges for each of download made in this category. But company also help the publisher by increasing downloads for software by up to one hundred and fifty percent. Company has named this revenue generation program as PPD (Pay per Download) (CNET.2010). This program is a basically performance based and not just an open ended one. Company have not to put in efforts on advertising etc. and have to just pay certain amount on per download made through its website. It helps company in controlling cost for marketing. Company extends various types of support to publishers who ties up with company for enhanced business and par revenue for it in the form of Pay-per-Download. These supports come in the form of Top-Shelf placement, Powerful promotion, Search keywords linkage, Pay for performance and risk control for cost increase. In the top shelf placement type of support company let the publisher product listed among top five sponsored listing on the website. It helps in increasing visibility of the publisher's product to visitors. Company let publishers product feature on post download pages, for the in the category as well as out of category downloads also. This helps in enhancing familiarity of the publisher's product with target group. Company also facilitate listing of chosen publication from publishers in Pay-per-Download category to list among top five results in download.com searches. It is done by linking select software to particular keywords. Company also facilitate publishers to pay only for enhanced performance for their products through download.com by the way that publishers need to pay only for initiated download by unique customers. Another facility to publishers is in the form that they can put a cap on the amount which will be paid to company as promotional charges. Once this cap is reached Pay-per-Download charges will not be applicable and promotional facilities from company side will be stopped.
At the beginning of every month, company offers top five slots in each category of software download, for Pay-per-Download program. Bidding against these slots remains valid for a month. For next month's bidding comes again. PPD bid is the amount which publisher have to pay for each unique download to company.
A well planned exercise of branding for a company should be successful in establishing an image about its products and services offered. Brand should be able to deliver a clear message as what company stand for. Company business, its core competencies, standards and market segments it intends for should come out very clearly from particular brand (NewMarque.(2001).Brand Identity). Download.com has been successful in establishing this type of its brand value among the internet users and other information technology products. Download.com has become a famous brand among most of the internet users, who want free downloads for various types of software applications and other information technology related products. A typical branding exercise does not intends to sell a product, but to create an image, which conveys it in no ambiguous terms, as what company and its products stands for. A established brand induces positive feeling about the product and services in the mind of the customer. Brand identity of a company consists of two elements mainly. First one being, the core identity while second one is extended identity. Two other associated elements are value proposition and relationship a brand creates. Core identity is a timeless essence for a particular brand. Core identity of a brand does not change, but remain same over the passing time period (Slide share. 2009 Brand Identity). Core identity of a brand also does not change, when products travel from one market to another. Core identity of a brand makes it unique & valuable. For example, when we think of McDonald as a brand, we think of affordable food and services with cleanliness. One also finds that customer segment of McDonald is clearly different. Similarly Nike brand can be identified with quality life style. Extended identity of brands means the added features, colours and texture associated with brands, which may come in the form of logo for a particular company. It has also been observed that within a class, a larger group of extended warrantee features help in establishing a brand more prominently. Similarly brand value proposition represents emotional, functional and self expressive benefits, which a customer receives by getting associated with a particular brand. Strong brand value proposition leads customer to choose a particular brand while making a buying decision. Functional benefits are drawn by customer by the way of direct usage of the product by the customer. Emotional benefit to customer comes by the way, when customer feels his association with a particular brand emotionally satisfying. Self expressive benefits comes, when by owning particular brand, customer feels or get advantage in expressing his personality, views or liking etc.
CNET Networks, the group company, was originally established in 1992 as a company providing online information about various products and services. Company expanded over years through acquisitions, alliances and internally by its functioning. Now company have multimedia and e-commerce dimensions. Within very short period of time, company established itself as one of the most prominent company providing information about technological products. Company has made very concerted effort for establishing its brand image. Though there is a clear link for uploading all types of software and applications for listing on the download.com, but all of these are reviewed by company executives before listing on the website. Company takes care that every software and application listed has a summary attached to it. Review comment for all software is available so as to give a preliminary idea about quality and capabilities of software under consideration. Company takes care that only technically sound and performing software are put under promotional programs. It should not happen that because some company is bidding higher, it will get listing in top five sponsored links.
Brand ‘Download.com' or say ‘Download.cnet.com' has not been able to do well in its efforts to establish as a perfect brand. Though company has been able to generate a core brand identity of a library for information technology products, from where software and other IT applications can be downloaded freely. But beyond that company has not been able to generate a extended set of warrantees, which would have given company a familiar face to company. Its logo has not been able to imbibe in the minds of the customers. Same is the case with value proposition attached to brand. Though customer feels fully satisfied at the end of functional benefits but he does not find same in emotional and self expressive domain. Company has not been successful in establishing it as a premium segment brand also, where customer feels pride or emotionally satisfied by being associated with brand ‘Download.com'
EXTENT OF SEGMENTATION TO MEET THE NEEDS OF DIFFERENT CUSTOMER GROUPS
Company has targeted market of information seekers as a whole but primary of it is customers from bottom of market (Megan Wiswall. 2002). This market segments consist of customers, who want to try newer information technology based products, available free of cost or available cheaply at third party server. Company has not only made efforts but has been very successful in categorising all listed software applications. This way, though company is targeting the whole market of software seekers, but it has divided customers on its website itself. Once a customer comes on the website, he finds himself belonging to one particular category of products. Company makes available information about all type of software, hardware and other information technology related products. Here company would have done better by making a category for premium products itself. In this category, company would have listed all the premium products of the information technology area, where it would have sold products directly to customer. Company website also does not have any payment gateway that is also a limiting factor in generating a strong brand image.
Brand download.com can be more successful in its effort of making market segmentation by forming separate divisions for high end and low end segments. Once company establishes two separate divisions, and let one come up for premium products only, it will help in strengthening brand and improve its image for value proposition. It will also help in breaking the image of download.com being a bottom feeder for most of quality products.
Marketing mix consist of all the four important Ps of the marketing. These are Product, Price, Place and promotion. Theoretical framework for product element of marketing mix suggests that there must be product differentiation, product variation, product innovation and product elimination (2009. Marketing Mix). Company has tried to incorporate all these through taking required steps such as offering download for free, reviewing all the listed software, not allowing adware on software etc. At the pricing front, company has not taken steps to the extent desired. It is required that pricing must be aggressive for recovery, but here nature of business suggests slow recovery of files. In the ‘Place' element of marketing mix, company has focussed on the e-commerce only, which is obvious also, as it is a internet based company. In the ‘Promotion' element of marketing mix, company has worked well on all important issues such as brand management, individual communication, mass communication as well as corporate identity. Company has made efforts to build a brand identity by offering all download services free of charge to customers, giving editorial reviews and creating a whole community of users.
Company has put serious efforts in analysing whole range of software available in market and categorised these as Browsers, Business Software, Communications, Desktop, Enhancements, Developer Tools, Digital Photo Software, Drivers, Educational Software Games, Graphic Design Software, Home Software , Internet Software, MP3 & Audio, Software, Networking Software, Productivity Software, Screensavers & Wallpaper, Security Software, Travel, Utilities & Operating Systems, Video Software iTunes & iPod Software. This way company has tried to cover up requirement of general customers from almost each segment of market. There are professionals who need specialised software at one end, where as kids may be interested in downloading games of their interest. There are applications suitable to business people at one end, and at the other end applications for educational services are also available. Right from kids to specialist Information Technology professionals, beginners to specialist, educationist to entertainment, products are listed to suit everybody in the market. This has helped company in making a popular image among the target group. There is almost everything one can think of, in information technology field, which is available on download.com. It has helped company in expanding its customer base to every domain of activities.
EVIDENCE OF ONLINE RELATIONSHIP MARKETING APPROACHES
Online relationship marketing is one of the important marketing approaches for internet based companies now days (Claudia Temple.2002). Company has tried to make online relationship marketing as one of its important approach for its marketing activities. Company efforts have resulted in developing a full fleshed community of users. All of the registered users are allowed to put their review about products listed on the website. Company have facilitated users in creating a identity on the website by letting customers have account of theirs. Any of the customers can have an identity and password. One can have product which he want to buy in his basket also, if he is intends to make purchase at some later time. It establishes a contact with customers indirectly by giving editorial reviews for every product listed on its website. There is also a rating awarded to every product from company side to each product listed on website. All these helps company in establishing a rapport with the site users. Company keeps the users updated about all the developments taking place in the field of information technology. Company has facilitated live television telecast about various developments and events in the field of information technology.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVE
1. Right now company is facilitating most of the applications listed for free. Anybody can list software or allied application on company website for free. This was a good marketing approach right in beginning of the website. But as the popularity of the company has increased, company must start charging at least some minimum amount from the customers.
2. Rather than giving rating to individual applications and software, company should come out with a special category of products, where only good quality products should be listed. This will help company in attracting high end users. Company can have a fee from the publishers for listing their products on this category. Besides that company should also keep on charging on Pay-per-Download policy. This will help company in enhancing revenue, it is earning from customers.
3. Though company has designed contents of its website in reasonably good way, but there is some further scope to make it more attractive from its present form. Colour used in website is less attractive at present. Using plain white background is not so suitable, when company is offering wide range of services.
4. Company should not only focus on customers who are looking for cheaper or free products. Company can have two types of services. One where company offers premium services and another for free services. Right now company offers everything for free and company do not have any payment channel with it. Company can start a payment gateway of its own, where it can sell the products on its own. That way company will get a brand enhancement also.
5. Company should also try to widen its scope in hardware products. If delivery of products is not possible by it, then at least it can receive the orders and process it further.
6. Company should not depend on circumstances leading software or application seeker to it. Generally people reach to company website through search engines. Company can also get place on popular email sites so as to have wide reach and popularity for its services. Not all the people go for a search engine looking for free software. Besides that many people do not trust sites offering free software, if they are not familiar with these sites from previous times. So to generate more familiarity with the software company, company should increase its visibility to prospective customers at various possible contact points such as e-mail service providers.
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