What’s your e-Business Strategy?
If you don’t have one already, an e-Business strategy should be top of your list before making any decisions about taking your business online. Whilst this strategy is being developed you should also develop or update your business plan and consider your financial position (e.g. capital available, cash flow implications). If the right strategy is not developed and followed then your e-Business solutions may work correctly but still fail to add any value to your business.
What are you trying to achieve and how can technology help?
Are you hoping to increase sales and reach new markets through the use of online shops, e-mail marketing campaigns or using CRM tools?
Are you planning to add new or improve your existing customer services using online help-desks, appointment booking, manuals and other information, electronic newsletters or providing electronic links to/from your suppliers/customers so they can expand their services.
Is your mission to cut administration costs by adopting online payment systems, using the Internet for research and finding new suppliers or through better communication and more efficient processes?
Which of these changes will have the biggest impact on your business?
In order to establish how well e-Business will work for your organisation, it is important to consider how appropriate the internet will be to your products / services, your customers and your resources.
1. Are your products / services suitable for the Internet?
- Are they generic or customised?
- Are your products durable, perishable or fragile?
- How will they be delivered?
2. Are your customers accessible through the Internet?
- Who do you sell to?
- Do your customers use the internet?
- Where are your customers located (locally, nationally or abroad?)
- Will they buy on impulse or planned?
- Will they place orders directly or require demo’s?
- Is it preferable that they visit your business premises?
- How will they pay (cash, on credit, cash deposit or balance on delivery?)
- Are your customers familiar and confident in buying on the web?
- Do they have the means to buy on the web?
- Would customers want to make the purchase electronically?
3. Do you have the necessary resources to implement your strategy?
- How do you want your business to develop in the future?
- How much money/time do you intend to spend on maintaining your site?
- Does your business have the resources or qualified staff to keep an active site maintained and correctly supported?
- Will you outsource maintenance and technical support?
- What form of customer support will be offered?
- What staffing levels are required for customer support?
- Will you need to hire additional personnel or train current staff to fulfil the new business requirements?
- What is the required level of integration between your site and any it systems?
- How will you successfully implement your e-Business model?
Creating a Company Website
If you want to provide online information about your business and your products and services, you will need a website (Important things to include shown opposite).
Having your own domain name, e.g. www.yourcompany.co.uk is a good idea as it helps to assure your visitors that you are a genuine business as well as building your brand. The same applies to email addresses. Note domain registrars often allow you to setup email fowarding which will allow you to accept email at [email protected] instead of [email protected]
It’s important to remember that having a website does not necessarily mean that people will come to it or even if they do that they will come back again. If you’re hoping that visitors will come to you via the search engines then you’ll need to consider your online marketing campaign early on. Click here for more information about internet marketing and search engine optimisation.
Online Interactive Marketing
An online interactive marketing site usually enables users to search through a detailed online catalogue of your products and services. An interactive web strategy should encourage online feedback from customers and/or suppliers. It is essential that you evaluate your capacity to manage the volume of feedback and maintain your online catalogue.
Trading online will mean integrating the Internet into your business. It will not be as easy as adding a website to your present business. An Internet solution needs to be deeply woven into your operations. You will need to identify where the Internet can improve channel and operational efficiency and enhance customer relationships. In transforming your business you will need to assess whether the costs of developing and managing an online trading facility (e.g. financial investment, time, skill development, ongoing infrastructure and resource requirements) are a viable and financially rewarding proposition for your business. you will need to consider aspects such as:
- Interactive shopping baskets
- Secure transaction facilities
- Customer relationship management
- Supply chain management