Dr. Grzegorz Mazurek

Akademia Leona Kozminskiego, Warszawa/Polska


The concept of virtualization is derived from the term virtual, which can be defined as: «simulated, or carried out by means of a computer or computer network or existing in mind, meaning not real» (FreeDictionary, 2011). The technological aspect of virtuality can be seen in most definitions of e-marketing, which is perceived as adapting traditional marketing techniques and actions to the virtual environment (Chaffey, Mayer, Johnston, and Ellis-Chadwick, 2003), omitting the overall impact on the marketing concept, organization of marketing activities or marketing performance and focusing on marketing mix modification caused by the characteristics of the virtual environment and Internet in particular.

A thorough literature review on virtualization shows that many researchers do not describe virtuality by means of a strict definition, instead tending to focus on its characteristics. They present various perspectives interpreting virtual as electronic (Czerniawska and Potter, 1998), dispersed (Burn, Marshall, and Burnett, 2002), mimicking the real, physical evidence of things (Franke, 2001). Such ambiguity and lack of conceptual focus is described even pejoratively – «virtuality is a huge and yet semantically empty vessel, which still expects to complete the appropriate meaning» (Hughes, 2001).

As virtuality explains the state of the impact of the virtual environment on a company and its resources, management, etc., virtualization focuses on the dynamics and processes of organizational change. Virtualization can be viewed as a process in an enterprise in which various organizational activities and functions are based on, modified by or dependent on virtual environment. Virtualization means the reconfiguration of a company’s resources and competences, which is a result of ICT influence on organizational and marketing performance (Brady, Fellenz, and Brookes, 2008). The process of virtualization is initiated by the needs and desires of customers (Mowshowitz, 1999). Mowshowitz (1999) argues that virtualization can be defined as:

  1. − the use of network technologies, such as the Internet, extranet, and intranet (application of technology);
  2. − the indication of a strategic role and importance of intangible resources in a company, especially information, knowledge and relationships;
  3. − blurring of boundaries between a company and the environment (the collaborative aspect of the virtualization).

The importance of virtualization is a consequence of the impact of the virtual environment on business. The virtual environment can be defined as a computer-generated, multi-dimensional representation of a setting in which the users of the technology perceive themselves to be and within which interaction takes place (Oleński, 2000). The virtual environment consists of network technologies, hardware and software as well as data and information, creating the virtual potential. The virtual environment can also be defined as a «software environment that emulates some of the features of the real world» (Tomek, 2001).

According to Rayport and Sviokla (1994), as a result of virtualization processes, marketing activity is more and more dependent on computer networks and leads to the reconfiguration of resources and competences of a company. Such reasoning may have an incremental impact on a company, since virtualization

  1. − changes the company’s resources structure – appreciation of information appears as the company is focusing on intangible assets takes advantage of resources belonging to other owners. (The virtualization of marketing means that the marketing of an organization is conducted by more than one entity.)
  2. − increases the speed of activities and the implementation of marketing actions by ICT (responsiveness).
  3. − creates relationships between the company and identities from the environment, e.g. virtual communities.

On the empirical level, increasing the popularity of the virtual environment among customers and companies determines its importance for marketing operations. Among companies influenced by virtualization, most are customer-oriented and multichannel in terms of creating contact with customers (Małachowski, 2005).

The conceptualization of marketing virtualization seems to be a fundamental issue for providing – in empirical research studies – responses to such key questions as: «does marketing virtualization improve the market position of a company?» or «do marketing virtualization processes really matter?». That is why future research studies should reflect the needs of the business world, which, being aware of the potential of the virtual environment for organizations and their marketing, should obtain evidence that such incremental changes as the virtualization of organizations, the interaction with clients and intangible resources in marketing can bring better organizational performance, measured by an increased ROI, and not only a widely defined innovativeness or image. The presented conceptual framework sheds light on the potential future quantitative studies on marketing virtualization.

The list of references: