4S Web Marketing Mix

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Strategic and operational approach for designing a web site. Explanation of 4S Web Marketing Mix of Constantinides. ('02)

Contributed by: Dr. Efthymios Constantinides



The 4Ps Marketing Mix framework is a sound tool for traditional / physical marketing management, however applying that framework to virtual (internet) marketing is a poor choice. Two main limitations of applying the traditional 4P's framework in online environments are:

  • The drastically diminished role of the 4Ps, and
  • The lack of any strategic elements in the 4Ps model.

The basis for successful E-Commerce is the full integration of the virtual activities into the physical strategy of the company, its marketing plan and its organizational processes.

What is the 4S Web Marketing Mix? Description

The 4S Web Marketing Mix method from Constantinides identifies the following four critical managerial ingredients of E-Marketing:

  1. SCOPE - defines the main strategic issues underpinning the online presence; these are subject to continuous management review and appraisal. Issues of scope include markets and competitors, customer profiles, effects of the online operation on existing internal processes and identification of the strategic role of the firm's online presence.
  2. SITE - identifies the operational aspects of the online presence reflecting the character, positioning and market focus of online firms. The corporate web site, as the main interface between the firm and its customers, must be designed in a way that facilitates contact with the target group(s). The web site must express a virtual experience that encourages customer interaction as well as customer retention.
  3. SYNERGY - designates areas where integration between the online presence and the organization or its networks is essential. Online firms will maximize their market impact by capitalizing on synergies with existing commercial and organizational processes. While they fully utilize their commercial networks. This requires:
    • Integration with the Front Office: integration of the firm's virtual activities in the total corporate marketing plan. This is necessary to provide the online presence of the firm the initial support, needed in order to develop as a significant component of the total marketing program.
    • Integration with the Back Office: Emphasizes the fact that a far-reaching integration of virtual activities in the existing organizational processes is a vital condition for meeting the service needs and expectations of online customers. Integration of the online presence with existing organizational processes might mean that some of the traditional operations or procedural routines have to be upgraded or re-designed in order to deliver the proper level of virtual customer service and value.
    • Integration with external parties and company networks: necessary for promotional and logistical activities as well as outsourcing processes that cannot be done internally in a cost efficient manner.
  4. SYSTEM - provides an outline of technical factors underpinning the secure, safe, cost-efficient and customer-friendly operation of the corporate web site.

Origin of the 4S Web Marketing Mix. History

The method was developed as an educational tool in 1996/97 but has been proved quite suitable as a process for designing a new web site or evaluating and improving an existing one.

Usage of the 4S Web Marketing Mix. Applications

  • Designing of new web sites.
  • Evaluating / upgrading of existing web sites.
  • Especially useful for dealing with Clicks and Mortar (B2C) environments

The Steps in the 4S Web Marketing Mix Process

  1. Scope: Strategy and Objectives.
    Market Analysis: Competition basis, competitors, market potential, market forecast, market trends.
    Potential Customers: Profiles, motivation, behavior, needs and current way of fulfilling them, priorities.
    Internal Analysis: Internal resources, processes, values. Is the Web a sustaining or disruptive technology?
    Strategic Role of the Web Activities: Generic types: Informational, Educational, Relational, Promotional, Transactional.
  2. Site: Web Experience.
    Customer oriented content. Important questions:
    - What does the customer expect in the website? Domain name, content, design, layout, atmosphere, aesthetics and website positioning and the classic 4 Ps
    - Why the customer will make use of the website? Simplicity, functionality, speed, findability, searchability, navigation, interactivity and customization
    - What motivates customers to come back? Online service, customer feedback, Relationship Management, Information quality and "freshness", Customer protection, privacy policy, perceived safety.
  3. Synergy: Integration
    Front Office integration: Integration with the physical marketing strategy and marketing activities
    Back Office integration: Integration of the website with organizational processes, legacy systems and databases
    Third Party integration: Create networks of partners, which will assist the commercial, logistic and other website activities.
  4. System: Technology, technical requirements and website administration.
    Software, hardware, communication protocols, content management, system service, website administration, hosting decisions, payment systems, performance analysis.

Strengths of the 4S Web Marketing Mix. Benefits

  • Identifies the critical strategic, operational, organizational and technological issues underpinning a successful online presentation.
  • As far as the low entry barriers and the fast technological change are concerned, the method argues for an integrative approach on strategic and operational management issues.
  • Well suited for Internet strategy and physical applications in sectors where conditions are changing quickly.
  • Can highlight the role of marketing managers as strategists (and not only as tacticians).

Limitations of the 4S Web Marketing Mix. Disadvantages

  • Developed for Business to Consumer (B2C) applications.
  • Requires a good knowledge of online consumer behavior in order to be able to optimize the web experience elements. This knowledge may not always be available.

Assumptions of the 4S Web Marketing Mix. Conditions

  • The classic 4Ps of the traditional Marketing Mix are not the critical factors of online marketing.

Article: Efthymios Constantinides - The 4S Web-Marketing Mix Model. E-Commerce Research and Applications, Elsevier Science, July 2002, vol 1/1, pp 57-76

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