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E-Commerce Holds Great Potential if you do it Right!

Terry Brock

Unless you've been living under a rock the past few years, you've heard about commerce on the Net. Electronic Commerce. Net Marketing. CyberMoney.

Whatever term is used, this new wave of doing business is already creating enormous wealth and portends a bountiful future for those that can and will embrace it in the right way. According to a recent survey by IDC Research E-Commerce will boom from $2.6 billion in 1996 to $220 billion by 2001. That is serious money by any measure. Forrester Research projects sales of computer products on the Net of $3.7 billion by 2001.

To prosper from E-Commerce and what it holds for your company you'll want to consider these pointers and steps along with way:

  1. Find a niche you know and cultivate it. The wise business adage of sticking to your knitting is appropriate here. Think creatively how you can apply what you are doing to the Net. The Net is not going away. It will behere the rest of our lives. Figure out how you can profitably sell your goods and services over the Net.
        
  2. Think community. E-tailing (vs. retailing) is a different animal. This 21st Century way of doing business is actually more closely attuned to our 19th Century business brethren than the 20th Century model we grew up with. People want a place to come and "hang out." They want a place to chat and share news and compare information. Look at the success of bookstore cafes around the country. Customers come in to read leisurely, sip on their favorite beverage, talk with friends, meet like-minded people and have an experience. Look at The Gap (www.gap.com) and the community that is developed there for people to buy clothes and try various styles. Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) is well-known for its community of offering advice on various books. Their hot on-line competitors Barnes and Noble (www.barnesandnoble.com) provides chat sessions with authors. Think how you can bind a group of similar people together in your Cyberspace Storefront for  a gathering. How about an industry gathering to discuss a current problem or situation? Think creatively here.
      
  3. Provide value. This is closely related to option 2. You have to give people a reason to come to your site. If all you do is offer your brochure and words about how great you are, you aren't that great! Give people something that will benefit them and help them to find value.
       
  4. Keep it updated. Who wants week-old milk? Who wants week-old bread? Who wants your information that is outdated and worthless? Keep it fresh and alive. Offer insights into new customer uses for your products and services. Show them ways that you can become a partner with them in supplying valued, needed products and information.
Terry Brock
Terry Brock
  1. Forget spam. Just a few years ago many marketers were touting the benefits of E-Mail because of its low cost. The free market always has a way of sorting out the junk. Now that there is so much junk e-mail (ever get on AOL?) more buyers are getting fed up with the constant barrage of e-mail that they don't want. Always ask your e-mail recipients if they want to hear from you. And, always give them the option of getting off your mailing list. You'll make more friends and engender more loyalty from customers.
  1. Combine when you dine. Offer more than one way for buyers to buy. People can get literature, information and many questions answered on-line. However, when making a purchase many buyers want to talk with a live human being. Fine. Make sure that your Website lists your office number so buyers can talk to a live, breathing person! Also offer fax, e-mail and other forms of connecting. Provide multiple choices.
      
  2. Reassure customers of safety. Safety on the Net is like safety in the air. Air travel is the safest form of travel. Yet, many people are still scared of it. As irrational as it might seem, this same mentality is holding back E-Commerce. Doing business on the Net is safer and more secure than using a credit card in a department store or restaurant. You, as an E-tailer, have to take many steps to let your buyers know that you use the best technologies and are around for the long haul. One option to help reassure buyers is through WebTrust available from CPAs around the country.  Contact www.aicpa.org for more information.
       
  3. Concentrate on E-Business. Using the Net for more than just commerce makes sense now. We are still in the Model-T stages of the Internet. However, those that are gaining experience now and learning what can be done will be better positioned for the future. For now, use the Net for as much of your business as possible. Use it for comparing schedules, listing products, sending messages from you to buyers, suppliers, employees and more. Use it and learn it.
       
  4. Concentrate on relationships. This is no surprise. Whatever technology you use, you have to concentrate on the relationship with the buyer. If it is a face-to-face meeting, a phone conversation, a videoconference or an E-Commerce experience, the relationship is the most important. Cultivate those relationships with people through technology. Use databases to track what people like. Provide security by promising to not disclose their name or other data without your buyers' full knowledge and permission. E-Commerce is here to stay. Implement these principles into your life and business and get ready for the money wave of the 21st Century.

 


Terry Brock is an internationally recognized professional speaker, consultant and author in the fields of business productivity, technology and marketing. His is a syndicated columnist for Biz Journals across America.  
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