OVER the past 12 years the Internet has emerged as a potential tool for businesses worldwide. Nowadays, many Zimbabweans who import cars from Japan, China, the United Kingdom, India and Singapore do so via the Internet.
Gone are the days when importers had to use many levels of middlemen to carry out a simple international trade transaction.
Gone also are the days when car dealers had to travel all the way to Japan to check on motor vehicles to import. Nowadays car dealers simply hook onto the Internet and they use applications such as Google Talk, WhatsApp or Skype to communicate with potential suppliers thousands of kilometres away.
The growth and spread of the Internet has been accompanied by a drastic decline in communication costs worldwide. In the past one would spend a fortune phoning Chinese and Taiwanese suppliers of fabrics. Nowadays, information on products and where they can be found is a click of a mouse away from an interested person. The advent of the smart phone in the Zimbabwean market has greatly improved internet connectivity.
Even though there has been rapid growth in telephony and other types of technology across the world, the depth and quality of technological progress has been uneven.
Developed economies have reaped most of the benefits of technological advancement. One of the positive spinoffs of the internet has been the growth of internet marketing especially affiliate marketing. Thousands of websites use some of their space to flight adverts of diverse companies.
It may be companies that are in the same line of business as the organisation which owns the website or businesses with a different model that flight adverts.
Internet or website based advertising has afforded firms and organisations the ability to make extra income outside the ambit of their traditional business activities.
The downside is that a cluttered web page may chase away some of the Internet traffic which is so crucial to improving advertising revenues. This is what led to the rise of WhatsApp a few years ago.
Other disadvantages of Internet advertising are distraction from the main message of the website and the constant need to reconfigure the websites which host advertisements since advertising content changes every time.
Affiliate Internet marketing refers to a version of marketing which uses Internet platforms to facilitate promotion of adverts or products by affiliates or associates of particular businesses at their own time normally exploiting loopholes of social networks. Affiliate marketing using the internet is a new concept in Zimbabwe. Because of depressed private sector activities over the past 15 years affiliate Internet marketing has not really taken root in the Zimbabwean economy.
There are various sites on the Internet that use malware to “force advertise” their products or services on any website that a person opens.
Normally such malicious software or malware come as appendices to software extensions that purport to improve the performance of computers or various information systems that are used by firms, organisations and individuals. The present writer has discovered that most extensions to www.google.com which purport to offer benefits like improved speed and reduced use of Random Access Memory normally install malware when one accepts them.
This therefore means that whoever installs application or even system-related software in their computer must read thoroughly the End User Licence Agreements before clicking accept because problems are normally hidden in the details. Such malware actually do the opposite of what the software extensions purport.
Common types of malware are adware, bots, bugs, rootkits, spyware, Trojan horses, viruses, and worms.
Malicious ads may take the form of flash or pop-up programmes. Flash provides the attacker with the ability to use Action-Script to embed “business logic” directly into the advertisement. As a result, the malicious code can execute as soon as the person’s browser displays the ad, without having to wait for the user to click on the ad.
Any person suffering from malicious advertising on the internet may use software solutions such as anti-malware and firewall software. Alternatively one may go to the settings of one’s browser and simply remove the offending malware or related software extensions.
Websites, persons or entities that promise people in Zimbabwe huge sums of money for posting ads and typing trivia on the internet are usually scam sites.
Before one gets hooked to questionable sites they must do a diligent job of searching and verification using standard search engines such as www.google.com, www.ask.com, www.msn.com, and www.metasearch.com to establish the veracity of any superlative claims of money making opportunities.
In Zimbabwe it is possible to make modest amounts of money through the blog advertising. This requires a lot of effort and time invested studying internet marketing trends as well as basics of mass mobilisation of customers using telephony and internet technology.
Ian Ndlovu is an economics lecturer based at the National University of Science and Technology. His research interests cover business, development, economic and e-commerce issues. He writes in his personal capacity.