E-Commerce Holds Great
Potential if you do it Right!
Terry BrockUnless you've been living under a
rock the past few years, you've heard about commerce on the Net. Electronic Commerce. Net
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
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