The 4S Web Marketing Mix
Considering Key Online Marketing Elements
Imagine that your boss has just given your department a huge project: You must completely update the company's website and online store to improve customer retention and increase sales.
To make sure you're positioning your message correctly, you turn to a well-known tool, the 4P marketing mix. You've used this model successfully in the past to market your company's products.
But will it work for online marketing?
You quickly realize that the 4P model is only tangentially relevant for this project, because it focuses on traditional business-to-consumer marketing in a bricks-and-mortar store. Some of these principles and strategies just don't seem to transfer effectively to an online environment.
This is where the 4S Web Marketing Mix can help. The 4S tool was created specifically for online marketing. It can be used when designing or redesigning a website, or creating an online marketing campaign, and it helps you ensure that your campaign is properly thought-through, and is aligned with the other parts of your organization.
In this article, we'll examine the 4S Web Marketing Mix, and look at how you can apply it to your website or online project.
Elements of the 4S Web Marketing Mix
Developed by Dr Efthymios Constantinides, a professor at the University of Twente, Netherlands, the 4S Web Marketing Mix identifies four important elements, or steps, that you need to think about when introducing a new website or improving an existing one. It's easy to forget many of these issues when you're immersed in a big project, so using this framework can help you improve your planning.
The four elements of the 4S Web Marketing Mix are shown below. (We'll look into each step in more detail later in this article.)
1. Scope – Think of scope as the "big picture" view of your project. Consider these four important issues when reviewing the scope of your online presence:
- Market dynamics.
- Potential customers.
- Internal structure.
- The strategic role of web activities.
2. Site – Make sure your site or platform has customer-focused content and a strategic design.
3. Synergy – Focus on these main integration elements:
- Front office.
- Back office.
- Third parties.
4. System – For this last step, think about hardware, website administration and support, and content management.
Using the steps also gives you a clear vision of the various tasks and projects that will need attention during the process.
Using the 4S Web Marketing Mix
To use the tool, complete your analysis for each of the 4S elements:
When you're thinking about scope, ask yourself these questions:
- Market dynamics – What is the market potential for the new site? Who are your competitors, and how will you differentiate yourself? SWOT Analysis is useful in this step, and our article on USP Analysis will help you identify your competitive edge.
- Potential customers – Who are your target customers? What is the customer's primary motive for visiting you online? What are the customer's interests? And what issues and problems do they commonly experience?
- Internal analysis – How will your organization adopt the new approach? Do you have enough resources in place to cope effectively with any change? Do the company's core values support the change? Are there processes in place to handle additional customer calls/emails, and website issues?
- Strategic role of online activities – What is the purpose and mission of this project (for example, to provide information, drive sales, sell products, or suchlike)? What do you have to do to achieve that mission, and how could you deliver the best possible returns?
Complete a deeper analysis of your online planning, and consider important objectives related to the operation of the site.
- What are your primary objectives? These could include communicating with customers, defining brand image, posting company information, building a marketing list, providing customer service, generating leads, recruiting, direct selling, and so on.
- How will you protect customer data?
- Who will be in charge of content management? What messages and feelings do you want customers to experience when they use your online resources?
- How will you make it easy to find and navigate the site or platform?
- How quickly will the web pages appear on slow connections?
- Should you use any multimedia features (such as videos or podcasts) to make your online activity more effective and useful?
- Will all of your customers be able to access information? For example, will they need a special login, or high-speed internet access?
To integrate your online and offline marketing effectively, consider these three factors:
- The front office – How will the website relate to your company's communication plan, overall style, and physical stores or locations? How will your offline departments promote and support the new site?
- The back office – Consider the synergy between your online activity, and back-end support services such as customer service, order processing, and logistics. Examine each of these in detail to ensure that your organization has the processes and technology in place to support the website and its customers.
- Third parties – Your site's success may partly depend on third parties such as search engines, affiliate networks, and online advertisers. Create a plan that addresses all third parties who will potentially impact or help grow your company's site.
Our article on The McKinsey 7S Framework will help you identify organizational inconsistencies, and our articles on Project Management and Change Management will help you realign them, where necessary.
This last element looks at the practical and technological aspects of introducing your site:
- Who will administer and maintain your online presence?
- Which company will be responsible for web server hosting, if required?
- Who will build and design the website or platform? Will you need to outsource this project?
- How will you protect the site and its information?
- How will you process online transactions?
- How will you back up data?
You should still consider using the traditional 4Ps when developing your marketing strategy for an online project. This is because there are some important elements of marketing that the 4S model doesn't cover. Just bear in mind that the 4Ps was originally developed for more traditional marketing, so you may have to apply it differently.
In fact, you can argue that the name of this tool is misleading – really, this is a set of useful questions to ask when planning a website, rather than a specific framework for online marketing.
The 4S Web Marketing Mix helps you analyze important elements required for online success: scope, site, synergy, and system.
When creating the strategy for your organization's online activities, the questions in each step will help you ensure that you take a range of important considerations into account during planning.