How Has the Internet Changed Communication in Business?
The internet is so entwined into our lives, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t always been this way. Today, many types of business communication are performed in a completely different way than they were before the internet — everything from frictionless employee collaboration to an ever-growing array of communication channels to the ability to instantly connect with customers around the globe. In fact, the change is so all-encompassing, it's almost impossible for those born into the post-internet world to fully grasp life in pre-internet days — and more advances are on the way.
A Look Back at the Internet and Communication in Business
According to the Internet Society, during the 1960s and 1970s researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), led by MIT's Lawrence G. Roberts and Leonard Kleinrock, created ARPANET, a data transmission system known as a packet network. By using ARPANET as the prototype, the internet evolved as multiple independent packet-switching networks. Over the years, the military and contractors began using ARPANET for communication. By 1985, communities and researchers were using the internet for email and research.
History.com reports that advances continued until 1991, when Swiss programmer Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web, which became today's internet. Two events in 1992 were huge turning points in the internet being the cornerstone of life it is today:
The development of the browser Mosaic (later becoming Netscape), which provided an interface for nontechnical people to use the internet
Congress declaring that businesses could use the internet for commercial purposes
Businesses were now able to create their own websites, and the world of ecommerce was born.
The Impact of the Internet in Business Communications
In pre-internet days, a business would open a storefront, put ads in the local paper, join a local networking organization, and hope local customers needed what they had to offer. All that changed with the inception of the internet. A business is no longer dependent on its local customer base for its survival; it now has a worldwide audience for its goods and services. The internet has changed not only a business' customer base, but how a business communicates with its employees, and finds and manages its competition.
With the internet, small business owners have been able to manage their business from anywhere. For example, an owner on a business trip can stay in real-time contact with their office through a live chat or messaging apps or a video meeting, sharing important documents with anyone from any location in the world.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways the internet has changed business.
Ability to communicate. A business' ability to communicate with its employees, customers, vendors, and associates changed dramatically when the internet yielded new communication tools. Email and instant messaging — and now messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messenger — have changed the face of business communications.
Remote and hybrid work. Driven to a great extent by COVID-19, many businesses are now offering the option for their employees to work from home online, often using office equipment provided by the company, either full time or part of the week. This process allows a business to cut its overhead costs by needing less office space and using less in utilities for daily operation.
Marketing to a wider area. With the advent of internet marketing, businesses have had to stay abreast of the needs of their customers. Competition is no longer localized; a business now has competition all over the world. It’s imperative that a business know what its customers want and deliver it. Surveys, questionnaires, feedback forms, and comments on a website can be used to monitor a business' customers' needs.
Using digital advertising. Including digital in a business' advertising budget has extended the ability to attract customers from anywhere — in the company's backyard or in all four corners of the globe. Websites, online demand generation tactics like pay-per-click advertising, display ads, content syndication, search engine optimization (SEO), and more have allowed businesses to build a presence on the web and reach millions of potential customers.
Collaborating with other businesses. The internet has simplified working with other businesses and professionals. Internet-based events like webinars make sharing knowledge or collaborating on projects with people all over the world as easy as logging onto a website.
More Advantages of Using the Internet in Business Communications
Beyond the easier collaboration, work flexibility, and other benefits discussed earlier, the internet has offered a number of other business advantages:
Speed. High-speed internet, and the increased capacity that comes with it, added several capabilities for businesses. For example, a real estate agent has the bandwidth to load and deliver virtual tours. An artist can load large graphic files, and larger media files can be transmitted between users. A sales rep can create digital presentations and deliver them online. The high-speed internet model started with DSL — digital subscriber lines for high-speed access over a phone line — and then speeds increased again with fiber-optic lines.
Mobile internet access. Thanks to the internet, business users can reach potential customers via the mobile devices they have on-hand nearly 24/7. Businesses can access their audiences, make their brick-and-mortar locations easy to find, if needed, and also garner positive reviews through a high level of performance.
Access to information. The internet made just about every fact and piece of information that a business could need immediately available. Are you forming an LLC, a corporation, or a new business? Do a search, and you'll find the information, paperwork, and services you need. You can even find services that will file the paperwork on your behalf.
Business automation. A major internet-driven trend in the business world, automating tasks that traditionally required a workforce ultimately saves money and makes operations simpler and more efficient. Everything from basic accounting practices to customer service offers some automation possibilities depending on the business model and requirements.
Web-based applications. The internet has facilitated the development of concepts like cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), and more that have enabled the processing and storing of data in large proportions. The result: reduced infrastructure costs for companies.
3 Communications Technologies Made Possible by the Internet
One of the biggest changes for businesses is the communications technology enabled by the internet — everything from unified communications as a service (UCaaS) to application programming interfaces (APIs). The way people communicate with one another, share files, collaborate, and make purchases has completely shifted since the internet became widespread.
Here are three of the technologies that have transformed businesses of all sizes:
The cloud: Before the internet, businesses needed physical infrastructure for all communications systems located on-premises, which drove expensive hardware and maintenance costs. However, after the internet enabled cloud communications, businesses could save a significant amount of money and increase their flexibility and collaboration. By using the cloud for mobile communications, businesses can access all in-office telephone features and critical cloud-based applications from anywhere.
Ecommerce: Businesses — especially smaller ones — were previously limited by their geographic area. However, the advent of ecommerce has significantly leveled the playing field. Companies of all sizes can now sell to consumers and businesses located anywhere in the world. And now conversational commerce — the intersection of ecommerce and social media, where businesses can reach customers on their favorite social channels and deliver engaging, frictionless, multichannel shopping experiences with a personal touch — is taking this capability to a whole new level, turning conversations into sales. Because customers can shop anywhere, not just in their own towns, retail has become a much more competitive business in terms of both price and quality.
VoIP and video conferencing: Before the internet, getting in front of customers was challenging, since it either required expensive phone calls or extensive traveling. However, the internet dramatically changed this aspect of business by reducing the cost of calls through VoIP. Beyond that, sales reps can get in front of customers through video conferencing. And companies can hire workers who live across the country and work remotely, which means they can staff their organization with the best talent, not simply the best talent within commuting distance.
What Businesses Can Expect for the Internet and Business Communications
The internet has proven itself to be a powerful tool to help businesses communicate with employees, customers, suppliers, and more. And experts predict a number of advancements and refinements will continue to shape the internet and business in the coming years.
For example, the growth of the internet, along with the introduction of more communications technologies and channels, will force businesses to be even more aware of data security and protecting their and their customers’ private information. At the same time, a recent study reports that people are increasingly open to sharing some private information online — credit card details, telephone numbers, addresses, etc. — in return for convenience or financial benefits.
The Internet of Things (IoT) — the network of physical objects (everything from household appliances to sophisticated industrial tools) that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet — will continue to impact businesses of all sizes.
The mouse, trackpad, and keyboard could fade in importance as verbal and gesture-driven controls become more powerful and sophisticated.
Ecommerce and conversational commerce will continue to grow. According to Forbes.com, 2021 accelerated the ecommerce industry by more than a decade. Now, customer expectations are rising, as shoppers demand higher availability of products and customer services, better transparency of the ordering process and handling, and more — which is driving an explosion of social commerce.
Finally, technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), extended reality (including virtual and augmented reality), and quantum computing are shaping up to be highly influential in the coming months and years.
The internet has had a huge impact on how business gets conducted — both positively and negatively. In fact,
the arrival of the internet made some businesses nearly obsolete — think bookstores. And online security issues like hacking, identity theft, and more are a constant threat to internet users.
That’s why it’s important to understand how the internet has affected communication in business so far, and where the internet and new communications technologies are taking business tomorrow.
Is your business ready to add cloud communications to save money and increase productivity? Contact a Vonage Business Communications representative to take the next step.