During the initial stages of the current project the researchers began investigating tentative outlets for publishing a literature review on the topic of Internet marketing. A special call for papers (CFP) on the topic of Internet marketing from the journal ‘Electronic Marketing’ was identified as a potential target journal by one of the authors. Further investigation revealed that the editors had outlined six specific research topic categories for the special CFP including: Business Models of Online Marketing, The Future of Search Strategies, The Internet Advertising Landscape, Commercial Exploitation of Web 2.0 in Consumer Marketing and in an Organizational Context, Evaluation of Online Performance, and Other Topics. Each of these six research topics was accompanied by a general definition and a few examples. The researchers adopted these six research topics to categorize the articles in the data pool.
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Once we established the category definitions, we independently placed each article in one Internet marketing category. As before, we categorized only a few articles at a time to minimize coder fatigue and thus protect intercoder reliability (Neuendorf ). Upon completion of the classification process, we tabulated agreements and disagreements, intercoder crude agreement (percent of agreement) was 86.2 %, and intercoder reliability using Cohen’s Kappa (Cohen ) for each category was calculated (k = .08137). Again, the latter two calculations were well within the acceptable ranges (Neuendorf ). We again calculated the reliability measures prior to discussing disagreements as mandated by Weber (). If the original reviewers did not agree on how a particular article was coded, a third reviewer arbitrated the discussion of how the disputed article was to be coded. This process also resolved the disputes in all cases.
aThese categories and definitions were taken directly from the Electronic Markets editors’ call for papers for this special issue on Internet Marketing
About half (49 %) of the journal articles in this study use the Formal Theory/Literature Review and Sample Survey research strategies indicating the exploratory nature of the current research. We speculate the strategies used to study these topics were prevalent for several reasons. First, these strategies are the most appropriate for the early stages of research. In these exploratory years of Internet marketing research, formal theory/literature reviews are appropriate in order to determine what other strategies are being used in the research, define the topics under investigation, and find research in reference disciplines that are conducting similar research. Second, many researchers in business schools may prefer to administer sample surveys and field studies instead of laboratory experiment, experimental simulation, judgment task, and computer simulation because of the preferences for certain research strategies in the top journals in Information Systems and Marketing. Finally, organizations are less likely to commit to certain strategies (i.e. primary & secondary field studies and field experiments) because these strategies are more expensive for the organizations. These types of research strategies are very labour intensive to the organization being studied because records will need to be examined, personnel will need to be interviewed, and senior managers will be required to devote large amounts of their expensive time to help facilitate the research project. It is interesting to note that many of the articles coded as Field Study – Secondary and Computer Simulation used historical auction and pricing data freely available from the World Wide Web to avoid this issue.
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The current analysis of the Internet marketing literature is not without limitations and should be offset with future efforts. In summary, this literature review highlights the upward trend of Internet marketing research but also the limitations of both the research strategies employed and the topics investigated. The authors would suggest future literature reviews should expand article searches to full article text searches, search a broader domain of research outlets, and include other Internet marketing related search terms. Our literature analysis is meant to serve as a representative sample of articles and not a comprehensive or exhaustive analysis of the entire population of articles published on the topic of ‘Internet marketing.’ To further investigate this body of research, future research studies could explore the diversity of the Internet marketing research domain (Lee et al. ) or revisit Ngai and Wat’s () electronic commerce literature review to assess the progress of that research stream. Other studies could take a more in depth look at the various business models or Internet advertising strategies associated with Internet marketing by reviewing the literature in areas such as electronic auctions, search strategies, social media, e-tailing, and various other research domains.
The final constraint was based on the key search term “Internet Marketing.” In both WoS and Google Scholar the search engine scanned for the term ‘Internet Marketing’ and close variations of this term found in the title, abstract, and keywords of articles published in the top 30 IS journals between January of 1994 and August of 2011 when the search was executed. There was considerable overlap in the pool of articles returned from the two search engines (WoS and Google Scholar). Once duplicate entries and non-research articles (book reviews, editorials, commentary, etc.) were removed 453 articles remained in the composite data pool. The researchers then reviewed each article and identified 42 articles that were unrelated to the topic of Internet marketing. These 42 articles represented false positives returned from the WoS and Google Scholar search engines and were subsequently removed leaving 411 articles in the final composite article data pool for analysis.