In order to test the fundamental principles of marketing, now established as Borden’s (1964) twelve point framework, against the impact that ecommerce has had on the discipline of marketing within the aviation training industry a sample case study organisation was required. As with most industries aviation training contains both leading and lagging organisations in terms of IT and ecommerce.
To ensure that the company that is selected is adequately involved in IT and ecommerce to a level whereby it is possible to test the theory on it, while also adding breadth to the study, the stage model (Rao et al 2003) has been used to analyse several different organisations to assess their involvement in ecommerce. The original purpose of the stage model was to allows small to medium sized enterprises [SMEs] to categorise themselves within their industry.
A version of the stage model (Rao et al 2003) is shown below, adapted to simplify the model by omitting areas that are not directly linked to the categorisation of SMEs. Areas such as the facilitators and barriers detailed in the original model are absent as they are mainly there for use by SMEs that are attempting to transcend to more advanced stages within the model:
The complete stage model (Rao et al 2003) is located in Appendix B.
An important factor of the stage model is that for an organisation to be fitted into a stage it must meet all of the factors on its current stage while also meeting all the stages on the levels that it has surpassed.
The preceding model shows the most basic stage of ecommerce development as the “presence” stage. To achieve this level an organisation needs little more than a basic website and the phrase “window to the web” (Barry 2000) is quite an accurate description of the organisation’s progress into the world of ecommerce. Many organisations that are in this stage are just taking their first steps into ecommerce and may possibly be using their website to provide simple product information or a brochure (Timmers 2000). Organisations at this stage are usually using their websites to attract new customers.
The second stage on the model, the “portal” stage, is the stage most SMEs find themselves in today (Rao et al 2003). The portal stage is often entered into via natural progression from the presence stage. Rao et al (2003) highlight that the main difference from the presence stage is the enabling of two way communication. While organisations in the presence stage might be using their website to attract new customers when they progress to this stage they also engage those customers with some business processes. This stage is the first step on the business processs “integration ladder”.
Rao et al (2003) state that the main differentiator between this stage and the previous one is that this stage enables financial transactions between various partners. While the second stage may allow for an order to be placed it will not allow for payment for that order to be made online. The fact that payments can be made online means that the actual IT infrastructure, hardware and software have greater demands upon them meaning that transition into this stage could be quite expensive. Virtual communities are quite common at this stage.
The enterprise integration stage refers to “Complete integration between business processes to the extent that old-line business is indistinguishable from online.”
-Rao et al (2003)
The level of interaction required to achieve this level is so intense that it requires not only a heavy injection of capital but also a lot of knowledge, this is the main reason that there are so few, if any, SMEs that have fully established themselves as being on the enterprise integration stage (Rao et al 2003).
The stage model (Rao et al 2003) has been applied to a selection of six aviation training facilities which are detailed below. The justification for this sampling approach and explanation of application of the framework is located in the methodology in the opening section of the study.
Simulation Training: – Only Just – Presence Stage European
Of all the organisations reviewed Simulation Training utilised the most rudimentary website in terms of the stage model. The website, while its content (Jeffcoate et al 2000) and design are quite complicated, using frames and animations, fits the presence stage. Simulation Training’s website simply displayed prices and product information online – basically displaying an electronic brochure. The site did offer people the opportunity to email the company but it was not an automated process, the address was simply typed on the page, it was not a link.
Business Sim Training: – Presence stage European
As its name implies Business Sim Training does not provide training to the public. As with Overcloud Aviation the website is quite basic as is their progress on the stage model. In accord with the majority of the organisations sampled Business Sim Training fits the presence stage. The website is simply a window to the web (Barry 2000).
Overcloud Aviation: – Presence European
Overcloud Aviation is another training facility that has not really progressed through the stage model and is trapped in the presence stage. Surprisingly Overcloud only offers training to business clients, which one would expect would mean a higher level of service and better standard but, as with Simulation Training, the website is simply a basic site that has product information. However, in this instance the site has a link through which to send email.
Leeds Flight: – Between Presence And Portal Stage European
This training facility would be plotted somewhere in-between the presence and portal stages of ecommerce development. As with most academic models it is not realistic to expect a real world organisation to fit neatly into a theory.
Leeds Flight, changed their website during the period the research was examining it. Until the recent update, the website fitted in neatly with the presence stage. Prior to the update the website was used to merely display the current product offering, which is how most organisations break into the online word
Multitrain: – Between portal and transactions integration stage European
Multitrain is more advanced than most of the preceding organisations in terms of the stage model but does fulfil the entire criteria of many of the later stages. Multitrain’s website fulfils all of the criteria set forward in the presence stage of the stage model and much of the criteria in the portal stage. The site facilitates two way communication, email and order placing. The website sells third party products that would supplement standard flight training such as navigation guides and equipment as well as the actual training programs themselves being sold on site, the site also facilitates a system whereby people can pay for their orders online. Multitrain mainly targets its aviation training packages at businesses.
International Aviation: – Transactions Integrations But Advancing
Asked to remain totally anonymous
International Aviation is more difficult to apply to the stage model than the previous organisation as it is much more advanced technologically. The preciseness of the stage model means that while International Aviation does not match all of the criteria in the transactions integration stage it also cannot be applied to the portal stage due to the ability to process financial transactions. This means that it does not fit neatly into any stage.
It is the opinion of the student that International Aviation has technically surpassed the first two stages of the stage model and they are not only in the third stage [transactions integration] but are in the process of moving towards the fourth and final stage even thought they have omitted several criteria specified in the model. This is possible as certain features of the model, such as auctions, are both unnecessary and not applicable in the aviation training industry.
International Aviation started out with a simple website that allowed the downloading of a brochure; however, their website has much advanced since then [this information was gained during the interview]. Today International Aviation’s website contains an on site interface that allows the site user to send messages that are marked for the attention of the appropriate department, as this is selected from a pull down list before typing the message, thus integrating the site features and internal departments. The site accepts orders and is payment enabling for those orders [most of which are several thousand pounds] by utilizing a cookie system. For an order to be successfully processed and payment taken the system checks against inventory data (Timmers 1999) to check that the organisation is equipped to process the order. The International Aviation website also contains a message board and a regularly updated news section which acts as a hook.
The preceding description shows how International Aviation is currently attempting to bridge the gap between offline and online business by integrating the online transactions with the business processes and departments.
The application of the stage model has highlighted that, of the sampled companies, International Aviation is the most advanced in terms of its utilization of ecommerce. Therefore it will become the subject of further research in an attempt to test the theory. An interview will be carried out with the marketing officer at International Aviation during which it will be established whether basic principles of the marketing mix still take place within this ecommerce intense organisation.