Adventures in Internet Retailing

Written by Rob Spiegel

Continued from page 1

This would be a lousy time to start a mass-market toy store such as eToys, but this may be a very good time to launch a site that offers children's educational software and books that support specific home-schooling curricula. Consumers understand now that there is wealth of specialized goods and services available onrepparttar Internet, and growing numbers of these consumers are willing to buy from niche sites.

Trust remains a factor, just as service is still critical to Internet retailing, but some of these hurdles can be traversed by presenting a site that communicates expertise and then backs up that expertise by delivering on all service and security promises. A lot of trust can be gained by communicating expertise. A musician friend of mine buys dozens of harmonicas each year. Buying online from niche sites isrepparttar 109051 only way to go when you want both a wide selection and a good price. So he goes torepparttar 109052 niche sites specializing in harmonicas. Within a few minutes, he can tell whetherrepparttar 109053 site owners really knowrepparttar 109054 products inrepparttar 109055 niche. Once he ascertains a high level of knowledge, he is willing to trustrepparttar 109056 retailer.

Not surprisingly,repparttar 109057 best harmonica sites are run from a family home. The service is high touch, andrepparttar 109058 proprietors are quick to offer product information and any other help related to professional harmonicas. Inevitably, a relationship develops. This isrepparttar 109059 territory best suited to Internet retailing. You can't get this relationship from a catalog, and you can't findrepparttar 109060 expertise in a store. Inrepparttar 109061 world of finely-carved niche retailing,repparttar 109062 Internet remains a land of golden opportunities. It does requires considerable expertise, superb service and high security, but if you can deliver these three requisite qualities, you can avoid that nasty dot com flu.

Rob Spiegel is the author of Net Strategy (Dearborn) and The Shoestring Entrepreneur's Guide to the Best Home-Based Businesses (St. Martin's Press). You can reach Rob at

"e is for everything?? . . ."

Written by Philippa Gamse

Continued from page 1

Sounds easy enough. But often, there are visitors to your Web site that may be different from your traditional customers - and sometimes, you either currently offer or could create new products or services that they'd buy.

Thinking through allrepparttar possible audiences for your site, and allrepparttar 109050 ways in which you might interact with them is really crucial in creating your Web strategy.

Then, so is knowing who you expect to be looking at each page of your site, and what you want them to do. This might include requesting a catalog, asking for technical support, signing up for a newsletter, etc. Include clear text links and invitations torepparttar 109051 visitor - and make it really easy for them to contact you.

Too many pages online provide great content, and then just tail off into nothing. Don't let yours be among them!

3. Under-utilising e-mail: e-mail is a powerful tool when used appropriately (and an awful one when not!) It can be used for marketing, customer service, public relations, in-company memos, business research . . . and much more. Look at your real-world communications - could e-mail save you time and expense?

E-mail marketing can be done withoutrepparttar 109052 costs of design printing, and postage associated with traditional direct mail. It's almost free of charge!

It can be used to send notices of new products, or upgrades to existing ones. It can keep your customers informed of news and events in your company, and aroundrepparttar 109053 industry. If it's offering brief, valuable content, most of your contacts won't object to receiving it - although of course if they do, you must take them off your mailings. But, with a few subtly embedded links to key pages in your Web site, it can be a great traffic generator.

Your own database of your customers, prospects and other contacts isrepparttar 109054 best place to start - and take every opportunity to nurture that. Ask visitors to your Web site to sign up for your newsletter, product alerts, or other materials. If you buy any lists, be very careful that they're bona fide and you won't be accused of spamming recipients.

And whatever you do, answer your e-mail! Lack of e-mail response is always one ofrepparttar 109055 biggest customer service complaints around e-business.

So, consistently mine your customer list. Send them targeted, relevant e-mails, and grow your business relationships electronically!

Let's say it again -repparttar 109056 Internet isn't going away. Today's challenge lies in understanding how to use it to maximise your market reach, optimiserepparttar 109057 efficiency of your operations, and achieverepparttar 109058 best overall return on your online business investment.

Copyright, Philippa Gamse, 2000

Philippa Gamse, CyberSpeaker, is an internationally recognized e-business strategist. Check out her free tipsheet "Beyond the Search Engines" for 17 ideas to promote your Website: Philippa can be reached at (831) 465-0317 or

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