The traditional principles of marketing strategy can also be applied to e-commerce strategy. Making sure that the mix between your target market, your product or service and your corporate resources is still just as important. What many companies fail to recognize however, is that in many cases their online customers need to be categorized differently. The product or service may also need to be re-developed or re-branded and the online resource requirement is different too.
Online customers tend to be younger, although this will obviously change given time. Online customers also tend to be categorized as passive, with low attention spans. This is not intended to be an insult. It is a simple reality based upon the fact that supply always outstrips demand. Online customers invariably have infinite choice and very little time. But the basic principles of supply and demand still apply. To succeed companies either need to have a competitive product or service if they are operating within a mass market industry, such as supermarkets, telecommunications, retail clothing, or fast moving consumer goods, or alternatively they need to have an innovative or unique product or service, operating within a niche market, or they might need to provide a unique online user experience.
Everything happens much more quickly online. This includes establishing a first impression, corporate branding and product or service branding. This is an important issue because with branding preparation is always easier to achieve and maintain than branding recovery. The former is much less expensive too. It is achieved by taking a step backwards in order to take two steps forward. In other words, making sure that you have a sound e-commerce strategy, which has been thoroughly researched and developed and which incorporates your core business principles, ethics, business objectives and strategies.
Many companies think about their web site as merely being an online advert for their company. This is actually now a very dangerous mistake to make because online users will expect far more from your corporate web site. You should think of your web site as being an online subsidiary of your whole company. It should include and represent each and every department including Finance, Operations, Management, Human Resources, Customer Services, Marketing, Information Technology and of course Production. It should also enable customers to achieve the same experience as if they were to walk into your retail store, office, or factory personally. If it does not then the consequences can be devastating and difficult to recover from. Indeed the perception from potential customers may be that your company does not actually exist at all.
Research has proven that the first task that any customer now undertakes before doing business with a company that is new to them is to review the company’s web site online. The second task is then to search for any independent information which might be available online about the company from other customers. There also needs to be a plausible reason for why the company undertakes business online and it should be obvious to users why the customer experience is going to be much better online than it would be by visiting the company premises personally. Customers are looking for far more than just basic information about the company’s history, contacts, products and services. At the very least they are looking for the same experience which they would achieve by visiting your company premises. Consequently your e-commerce strategy needs to incorporate broadly the same corporate objectives of each individual company department, together with the additional objectives which will be unique to undertaking business online.
Just the same as it can be frustrating to walk into a retail store only to be kept waiting because there are insufficient numbers of sales assistants, it can be equally frustrating to be browsing through the company web site online only to be informed that you cannot proceed with your order because this particular part of the web site is under construction or temporarily unavailable. Both events can result in customers walking away, never to return. Consequently, just as a house has good foundations at its core, a good e-commerce strategy is based upon interaction. The more interaction there is between the customer and the web site, the more the company comes to life.