As the 21st century continues, it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine how business can be conducted without the Internet. The Internet has transformed many areas of the business arena, and especially communication. By drastically reducing the time required to transmit information over both long and short distances, the Internet has made itself indispensable for commercial endeavors.
Marketing and Advertising
The Internet has become an essential marketing and advertising tool for businesses. Some businesses do not exist in bricks-and-mortar form, and therefore the Internet, in the form of a website and online advertising, represents the entire storefront they present to the buying public. Other businesses use Internet advertising to supplement newspaper and radio advertising or in store promotions, especially when targeting younger potential customers.
Most savvy business owners of both large and small ventures recognize the importance of establishing a Web presence through a website. Along with their own websites, some businesses have attempted to engage themselves in the social networking phenomenon (called Web 2.0), which began to escalate in the late 20th century. By establishing profiles on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, businesses attempt to execute "soft" marketing to enhance their image with potential customers or clients as well as the general public.
Communication and Interaction
Although telephone communication is far from dead, much business communication takes place through email. Companies use email to communicate with the public and to transmit messages within the company. Additionally, real-time communication such as instant messaging (IM), Internet telephony (through services such as Skype) and even virtual meetings and conferences have become increasingly important in the day-to-day workings of business in the 21st century.
Whether the searches take place on the Web or through specialized databases such as LexisNexis or Hoovers, Internet searching has become an absolutely essential research tool for businesses in nearly every industry. Libraries have been transformed by the Internet explosion, with much of their collections being converted to electronic records, which are made available to patrons through the Internet. In addition to accessing library records online, businesses access breaking news and stock exchange information in real time via the Internet. Businesses also conduct research online.
Many companies employ workers, contractors and consultants as telecommuters. Telecommuters can be located locally or very far away from a company's base of operations. Companies with an international presence use the Internet to facilitate communications between their offices in varied locations.
Additionally, the Internet has made it easier, faster and less expensive to process payments and other transactions essential to businesses.