Adventures in Internet Retailing

Written by Rob Spiegel

The first big surge inrepparttar ecommerce explosion came from business-to-consumer (B2C) or retail sales. Companies such as America Online,, eBay and becamerepparttar 109051 first household names in ecommerce. Their leaders becamerepparttar 109052 names that replacedrepparttar 109053 old economy names during 1998 and 1999. We endedrepparttar 109054 last century with's leader Jeff Bezos as Time magazine's Person ofrepparttar 109055 Year. Inrepparttar 109056 first couple of weeks ofrepparttar 109057 new century, Steve Chase led America Online in its purchase of Time Warner. Talk about heady days and sky-high stock valuations.

The speed ofrepparttar 109058 ascent was dizzying. Inrepparttar 109059 early hours ofrepparttar 109060 AOL Time Warner announcement, news stories discussed a merger between Time Warner and AOL. Half of a day went by before I realized that Time Warner wasn'trepparttar 109061 company doingrepparttar 109062 buying. At that moment, it was still inconceivable that a dot com could buyrepparttar 109063 leading offline company in its sector, no matter how bigrepparttar 109064 dot com. Of course, given what happened overrepparttar 109065 succeeding year, it again seems inconceivable that a dot com could buyrepparttar 109066 leading offline company in its sector. The dot com fall came fast and hard.

The fall actually came less than three months afterrepparttar 109067 AOL Time Warner announcement, in March 2000. But likerepparttar 109068 coyote who runs offrepparttar 109069 cliff chasingrepparttar 109070 roadrunner and doesn't realize at first that he is no longer on solid ground,repparttar 109071 dot com world kept running along on thin air, not sensing it would soon come to a very painful crash. Yet for all its smugness,repparttar 109072 dot com world got hit harder than it deserved when it crunched into solid ground. AOL was one ofrepparttar 109073 very few companies that hadrepparttar 109074 wherewithal to grab ownership of a traditional company atrepparttar 109075 high swell ofrepparttar 109076 dot com bubble.

So where does that leave opportunities for niche sites inrepparttar 109077 scorched-ground market of dot com retailers? As with most niche selling, you're left in fairly healthy territory. You have a credibility gap to overcome with potential customers. They will need more reassurance that you can deliver on all of your service and security promises, butrepparttar 109078 customers are still shopping online and their numbers are continuing to grow both nationally and internationally month-by-month.

"e is for everything?? . . ."

Written by Philippa Gamse

This article was originally published in three installments inrepparttar "Foundry Trade Journal", 2001.

Just this week, a member of my audience asked merepparttar 109050 following:

"Why would a local company, with a large investment in trained, professional sales people need a Web site?"

Great question! And you might be thinkingrepparttar 109051 same. . .

Maybe you already know many or all of your potential customers, maybe you have very defined processes and production cycles that don't change very quickly, maybe you're suspicious ofrepparttar 109052 Internet "hype" - especially now that so many e-companies are falling byrepparttar 109053 wayside.

But we also know thatrepparttar 109054 Internet isn't going away. 407 million people are now estimated to have access - that includes 167 million in N. America, and 113 million in Europe. Younger people increasingly spend more time online than watching TV. Andrepparttar 109055 April edition of this magazine has an e-commerce focus . . .

The true challenge now - which personally I also see as a great opportunity, is to understand allrepparttar 109056 ways in which usingrepparttar 109057 'Net can help your business, and from this to strategiserepparttar 109058 best investment of time and money.

So if it's here to stay, how canrepparttar 109059 Internet benefit your business - and what's currently going wrong?

There are some key elements that prevent many Web site owners from maximizingrepparttar 109060 potential of their Internet-based activities:

1. Tunnel vision on sales and new business: it takes at least five timesrepparttar 109061 time and expense to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one. Your Web site can be a great tool for providing ongoing customer service and support - and achieving significant cost savings to boot!

Most people accessrepparttar 109062 Internet for information on products and services that they either use now, or are considering buying. So, your Web site can be a great place to provide ongoing customer support for your products. If you're worried about giving away trade secrets to your competition, place these in a password-protected area.

The best way to build your content is to compile a list of questions that your customers most often ask. These may be sales related, but can also cover operations, quality assurance issues, etc. If you don't already knowrepparttar 109063 questions, have your receptionists and sales people keep a note pad for a week. Then, putrepparttar 109064 questions, together withrepparttar 109065 answers, on your site.

This provides a 24 hour a day, seven day a week availability of service for your customers, whether your office is open or not. And, it can save significant costs in terms of telephone support time.

2. Not "asking forrepparttar 109066 business": I know this sounds obvious, but how many sites have you seen where it's quite unclear whatrepparttar 109067 site wants from you? Every page of your site should have a strategy, and be clear about inviting visitor interactions to achieve your goals.

Many times when a new client comes to me for e-business strategy consulting, I ask them a few seemingly simple questions: "Who are your markets? What do they want from you?" and "What do you want from them?"

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