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Web storefronts: business issues and implementation issues

New dot-coms have different branding challenges than already-existing brick-and-mortars because they usually start off with no brand. Remember, strong brand only involves a few attributes. Your storefront needs to reflect your branding strategy in terms of color palette, tone, and links to other sites. Brick and mortars usually already posses brand.

If your company is a brick-and-mortar which is moving into e-commerce, remember that your Web storefront provides a very public view into your company. If you are known as a dependable conservative company, do you want your web site to look whimsical. The answer may be yes, but in all cases remember: make sure your web storefront supports successful branding. In other sales channels. On the web, the ability to build brand is what will differentiate your site from your competitors sites.

The design of your company's website, the tone and look-and-feel, should represent your company's desired image in order to reach its business objectives.

In Web terminology, content is the text of your website: The 1) text 2) pictures, and 3) multimedia. (video/audio/animations). Offering great content on your web site can draw traffic, but it should also be consistent with the products you are trying to sell in order to keep site visitors. For example: Video might prove compelling for clothing storefronts, but might not be the best use of bandwidth for a building supply company.

If you have physical stores and mail order outlets which are not feeling a competitive push from the web, you could use a website for specific purposes, such as advertising clearance items or promoting only your newest products.

If you plan to use a Web storefront as a strategic product channel, perhaps you need to include your product full line on your website to increase the odds of making a sale once you have a prospect's attention. The products and services you make available on the web should be part of an overall sales channel strategy.

Do you save money when sales are made on the Web? If so, do you want to pass those savings directly on to web storefront customers? If you do, will you cannibalize other sales channels? (perhaps you want to) Should you only offer standard pricing information on the web (the same prices that your brick-and-mortar or mail order channels advertise), or should you offer a configurator, which is a sophisticated pricing tool that enables site visitors to model and task pricing for different products and volumes.

Pricing on the Web needs to consider the context of what you are trying to accomplish in terms of business objectives. That is, if your company positions itself as a discounter, your site should offer up front pricing information. Should even use pricing as the primary message in advertising and campaigns. On the other hand, if you sell luxury goods, you want to focus on product, style, creating aura, you can hold off disclosing price until you have practically closed the sale.

A later lesson discusses promotion in portals and personalization. In this context we focus on what kinds of promotion you should consider to advertise your website, not a particular product. If your goal is to draw as much traffic as possible to your ecommerce site(as with many dot-coms) consider promoting through non-web media such as print, radio, and television.

You can always pay for banner advertising with portals and related Web sites. How do you track, however, the effectiveness of those ads? How can you integrate ad campaigns with email campaigns, or even print campaigns. Increasingly companies look to holistic e-marketing solution to understand buyer/prospect activities and to drive multi-channel campaigns.

When selling services and products through non-Web channels, you may work with various partners to supply you with raw materials, finished goods, or marketing advice, while other partners might act as distributors or supply warehousing services. Consider how these relationships will be affected by an e-commerce website.

If your existing partners cannot support your e-commerce initiative, enlist new partners who can help your company meet it's e-commerce goals. You might need to hire a partner's number one competitor, so relationship management activities might need to be stepped-up. Finally, you need to decide if you want to advertise your partnerships on your web site. Perhaps your partners will give you a discount for services if you provide a link or banner ad to their site and vice versa.

Know that your Web storefront will affect your fulfillment department. Communicate those expectations to your fulfillment operations, and tell them to monitor sales traffic as closely as possible. Consider that perhaps buyers are more comfortable with certain types of shipping than others.

Analyze your e-commerce sales goals and consider whether you need to increase production or increase inventory in warehouses. Also consider locating warehouses that are geographically central within particular regions.