Re-Tooling for E-Commerce

by: Doug Michaelides

The world of commerce continues to move on-line. Amazon.com recently announced that over the previous three months it sold more eBooks than hard covers (a lot more). ITunes and similar services long ago (in web time) replaced the bricks and mortar music store as the primary source of recorded music. Now Netflix has announced that its on-line streaming video service is coming to Canada. Kiss Rogers Video and Blockbuster goodbye!

And it’s not just media. These days people are prepared to purchase just about anything on-line including the food they eat. This means that businesses just can’t ignore the opportunity (necessity?) for e-commerce as a new channel to market, even for B2B products/services. To take advantage of the increasing willingness to buy on-line, companies need to consider a number of things:

  1. Is your website up to the task? Obviously you need a robust e-commerce engine (shopping carts, etc) but a website originally designed as an on-line corporate brochure isn’t that great for generating leads let alone guiding visitors through the entire buying process.)
  2. Is your product priced for on-line purchase? There is still a limit to the price point people are willing to pay on-line with a credit card, even for business purposes (though it may be quite a bit higher than you imagine). You can stretch this amount through trials, demos and previews.
  3. Have you thought about using a “Freemium” pricing strategy? (not everyone agrees with this premise, by the way, including Malcolm Gladwell)
  4. What is your sustained marketing plan to get prospective buyers to your e-commerce site? You can’t rely just on SEO. Can you create an on-line community around your products?
  5. Does there need to be a lead management process to hand-off higher-value, more complex opportunities to traditional sales channels?
  6. How will you secure ongoing revenue streams (e-commerce success means creating a customer who will return and keep buying from you)?
  7. Do you have a Business Intelligence process? I mean not only keeping records of your “tryers” and “buyers” for ongoing nurturing and upgrades, but also analyzing the navigation and abandonment patterns in your website to improve purchasing rates. Seemingly subtle improvements to your website navigation and layout can make a big difference.
  8. Have you considered the possible conflict with your current channels to market? You don’t want to undercut your loyal channel partners or sales reps (unless you plan to drop them). How will e-commerce sales be considered for quota retirement and commission purposes?
  9. How will you handle after-sales support? User community supported? On-line self-service? Telephone/email support? Field support?

Just because everyone seems to be doing it, doesn’t mean it is easy to do well. Implementing a successful e-commerce strategy is a significant undertaking, particularly for a business that has traditionally relied on personal selling. It demands a major retooling of many aspects of your marketing, sales and product strategy. However, implemented correctly it can deliver that holy grail of business; earning you money while you sleep!

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