The biggest Mall in the world - the Internet by Prashant Pinge
9th April 2011

Malls are mushrooming all over India, in small and large cities alike. I happened to be in one a few days ago. And this was quite a large mall. There were so many shops all over. But what got me thinking was why some of the shops were doing better than the others? Especially when it came to similar products. Brands obviously made a difference. But there were other reasons as well. The location, the service, the d?©cor, the layout, the promotions. They all mattered.

Now think of a mall infinitely larger than the biggest mall you've ever been to. Perhaps even bigger than that. And you've got yourself the Internet. The websites are analogous to the shops. So if a hundred odd shops are having trouble selling, think of what millions and millions of websites would need to do to get customers. At least a mall exists in the physical world and has walkways and escalators leading to shops. There are information desks and mall maps offering directions. But the virtual world is a completely different ball game.

A lot of people simply surf the net. There are times they happen to land on websites, get interested and get absorbed. This is similar to sauntering inside a shop while window shopping. But shops or websites cannot rely on this. They need to take specific measures to drive in traffic. Now there are basically two things that websites need to do: first, with respect to the site and second, with respect to the marketing. The first one is something that can be managed easily. The second one is where things get tricky.

When it comes to the site, the look of the site, the content, how user-friendly it is, how secure the transactions are etc. all count. But all this is great only once the user has landed on your website. The key question is why and how will the user reach your website. Now if your brand is really well known, people may land on your site directly. But that still shouldn't stop you from actively marketing your site.

From online ads and banners to affiliate marketing, from blogs and social media to online directories, there are many ways to drive traffic to your site. But these shouldn't be used mindlessly. Unlike malls, the Internet is full of clutter. And simply flooding the Internet will only be a waste of resources. It therefore becomes imperative that your marketing strategy is used to cut through the clutter and to direct the user smoothly to your site. That's where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can play a key role.

This is the one thing wherein the Internet largely differs from the physical space. Search engines such as Google and Bing are used extensively by users to find relevant sites. Now if I was in a mall and wanted to know the location of Pantaloons, I could simply check at the information counter. But in all likelihood, the next time I visit the mall, the information still remains the same. Not so in the virtual space. Every time you search for something, the results thrown up may vary. So yes, the online map changes. And if you don't land up in the first few entries, chances are the user won't land up on your page. That simple.

But SEO is not a one-time activity, done and forgotten. It needs to happen continuously as you can be rest assured your competitors are doing it as well. And hundreds of new websites are being added on a daily basis. SEO is also a function of all the marketing activities mentioned earlier. It therefore becomes extremely important that anyone who wishes to establish a virtual footprint develops a coherent and consistent online marketing strategy.

Remember that on the Internet it's always possible to build new pathways in the blink of an eye. But this privilege extends to everyone.

- Prashant

About the author

Prashant Pinge is a consultant at Media Panther (, a branding, marketing and advertising services firm in Mumbai.

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