A virtual store-front represents the product display window of an online stores. It can be considered an extension of online advertisements, in which the advertiser offers to provide all details of the products on display and to complete the purchase transactions, if needed. Some of the advantages of the online shelf space are:
- Unlimited shelf space
- 24 hour accessibility
- Selector and aggregator of consumers
- Potentially global audience
Marketers in germany can follow a combination of the following strategies for promoting their products on virtual store-fronts.
- Promotion through online product catalogs.
- Exclusive advertising rights whenever specific products are accessed on other online store-fronts. For example, a snack food maker can have a banner for his brand of potato chips to appear whenever the snacks food category is accessed from an online grocery stores.
- Advertising through banners or buttons on the free space of other online stores.
- Providing hyperlinks to product sites from the results of the online store’s search engines.
- Creating own store-front with a combination of the services mentioned in section 4.1.
The real benefit of virtual stores to marketers is the ability to exploit the interactive capabilities of the Internet. Virtual store-front displays can be customized according to the preferences of the online shopper, thus providing a personal shopping experience for each shopper. As the marketer learns more about the consumer through the online interactions, a closer relationship can be established with the consumer, offering to fulfil more of the consumer needs, and strengthening the relationship further.
Internet advertising and virtual store-fronts are ways of exploiting the richness and interactivity of the new medium. Now, the Internet gives the marketers a new promotion tool in the form of virtual communities. Marketers are building virtual communities as a deliberate strategy to build a long-lasting and beneficial relationship with their consumers. In the following section we will take up for discussion the dynamics of these virtual communities and how they can be used as an innovative promotion channel.