eCommerce and eBusiness, is a generalisation covering the process of trading over the Internet e.g. the establishment of a web site, assembling a catalogue and credit card processing to enable sales, or the ability to collect data from customers to close a sale via other means.
The creation and promotion of a web site is the first step in becoming a serious online concern and is now considered a vital part of any companies continued viability. It doesn't matter what you sell; whether it's tooth brushes, recruitment services or Boeing 747's; the business world of today requires you to have an interactive web representation - because if you don't, your competitors will.
Some business owners may think to themselves "I only have a small market", or "I don't want to go international" - It doesn't matter any more. Even if you only service a small, localised market, your online competitors are happy to seek your clients out and to take your business by offering better support - A business who markets on the Internet is a 24 hour a day business, which suits our modern lives. A business with a strong Internet focus also has less staffing, fixtures and fittings overheads, therefore can be more competitive in pricing of their services.
For many organisations, the Internet can also provide a more economical form of advertising. Before rejecting the idea of going online in a big way, consider this: how much did you spend on other forms of advertising this year? Perhaps some of that budget on throw away promotions could be diverted into an ongoing advert - a web site. Does your mainstream advertising draw people back to your advertisement? People won't usually read an advertisement more than a couple of times. An interactive web site actually draws them back; building brand loyalty and awareness.
Another aspect that prevents business owners from taking the leap and investing in an online presence is coverage. Do our clients use the Internet? I can guarantee you that if they don't now, they will soon. Connectivity is increasing in every country in the world. Print is dying. Get used to it.. In 1998-1999, credit card purchases in Australia via the Internet tripled. As more and more people begin to discover and harness the power of the Internet, traditional methods of advertising WILL lose their importance. Even though the electronic advertising is going through a bit of a tough time, it is a time of rationalisation, and will rebound shortly. Consumers are becoming more net-savvy and advertisers are finally waking up to this, altering their methods from banners that assault the senses to ways that inform the prospective customer. In the years to come, "mainstream" advertising will increasingly direct people to your online version.
The Internet of today has become a bit of a congested lump of ads screaming "Buy Me!!". The Internet of tomorrow will be more subtle and merchants will offer a product for consideration, along with quality information concerning it. The static, "Here we are, Here's what we do, Here's where you can find us" type of web site is destined to become trafficless and barren - and a total waste of money; web site design & implementation is by no means a cheap affair. It doesn't matter how slick your site looks; no interactivity & content = no visitors. On another point; most web designers have very little idea regarding the promotion of your business via the Internet; or the behind the scenes coding that needs to be implemented in order for search engines to notice you - they tend to focus on the functional and "pretty" stuff. If you are going to fork out big bucks for your site, ensure that you leave some budget for promotion and marketing or question web designers about their knowledge in this area.
I spend as much time marketing "Taming the Beast" as I do developing it; most professional webmasters will tell you the same. The topics of preparing sites for promotion & other marketing techniques is covered in various articles on my site.
As I mentioned, interactiviy and content is the key to creating "brand" loyalty. Several years ago I was involved with Recruitment and Training in Eastern Australia. In our area, there were a number of organisations we were competing with. The other groups had "Here we are" pages, but we went a step further. We had all the usual details regarding our company; but we also posted up positions vacant on a daily basis, gave employers and candidates an easy way to contact us via forms, had a number of articles and information resources for job seekers and employers in place, links to resume generators etc etc etc. The end result was an excellent traffic flow, added incentive for employers to advertise with us, more suitable candidates for the positions we were advertising and we also received a substantial grant from the government to further develop the service. We were the "little guys" in terms of physical resources - but we were the biggest online presence in our area, and well known via our web site. The site also added dollar value to the business itself as it became an important asset. When tendering for other services, the web site became an important selling point.
In my next articles, we'll start examining various ways of conducting business online, including shopping carts, establishing merchant accounts and how credit cards are processed.
It is no longer "cool" to have an interactive web presence for your business - it is vital.
Michael Bloch Taming the Beast http://www.tamingthebeast.net Tutorials, web content, tools and software. Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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