The Human TouchWritten by Bob Osgoodby
Sure, e-tools available for an online merchant are great. We have up to minute product selection on our web pages, and autoresponders that can follow up requests. We have our own online mall, immediate payment methods to prevent that "cooling off" period, secure sites for financial transactions, and all sorts of e-tools at our disposal. But what is wrong? You're not being overwhelmed with sales, and barely making expenses.
Stop for a moment. Why are potential customers leaving your e-store without placing an order. Assuming you have a decent product and prices, why are they not buying.
Possibly they have questions that are not being answered, and would like to talk with a live human being. The brick and mortar store has edge over e-store, when faced with a customer that needs personal contact to feel comfortable.
If someone has reached this point, usually all they need is a little assurance before placing their order. And here is funny part - they may not even want to talk with someone, but may just want to be sure there is someone they can contact if there is a problem.
Enterprise Portals - The Next Big ThingWritten by Paul Brassil
Just when you finally got comfortable with transformation of Web from a simple server of static HTML to a complex application centered in B2C and B2B concepts, along comes latest in E-Business initiatives - Enterprise Portal. Enterprise Portals are Extranets developed by companies to satisfy secure communications with their customers, partners, and employees, and it's an idea whose time has certainly come. Both big companies and small have discovered multifaceted value of such systems, and it's only a matter of time before they will be main channel of communication between companies and their customers.
The history of web for many companies has been interesting in lack of planning and focus. Companies were reluctant to go on web at first due to concerns with permanence of Internet. By end of 1990's, however, departmental web sites were popping up throughout corporate world, and prevailing impression was that more stovepipe web sites a company could build better. Soon, corporations were faced with a confusing glut of Intra/Extra/Internet sites that tended to defy a consistent branding, offer overlapping functionality, and require users to amass a large number of login accounts. The goal of an Enterprise Portal is to collapse these disparate corporate web sites into a single entry point into company, offering users a consistent brand, a single login, and reliable access to wealth of a company's offerings.
So, what are some of features found in these Enterprise Portals? Customers might use an Enterprise Portal for accessing product information, sign up for training and view course offerings, leverage service features such as on-line call center interactions or software distribution features, register for a company sponsored conference, or simply access company's online commerce offerings. Partners might use site to strengthen channel ties, download content to extend relationship, or collaborate online with company on new programs. Employees would use site as they would company Intranet, with benefit of using traditional Intranet features outside firewall (like checking email). Across all these users, Enterprise Portals offer established "Portal" features such as industry news, event calendars, and user preferences to promote return visits and longer sessions.