An e-commerce solution for a business is the incorporation of all aspects of the business operation into an electronic format. Many well-established businesses have been selling on-line for years. For example, Dell Computers Corp., has been selling computers directly to end-users for years. Currently, Dell is selling excessive of 1 million dollars worth of computers everyday on the World Wide Web (WWW).
When a business has incorporated an e-commerce solution, the business will experience a lower operation cost while at the same time increasing its profit. The e-commerce solution will allow businesses to eliminate unnecessary paperwork. All paperwork and data can be transformed into an electronic format. Thus, it will eliminate valuable shelf space and data can searched and accessed in matter of seconds. E-commerce will also automates the sales process. Customers can "point & click" on the products they wish to purchase, fill out the customer information, and the product will be shipped and received in a matter of few days. The administration department does not have to fill out any paperwork because the customer had done it already. Thus, the efficiency will be greatly improved. With an e-commerce solution, the business will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People from anywhere in the world with an Internet access will be able to visit the site at any time. They will not be restricted to the "normal" business operating hours. A "brick + mortar" business is normally limited to serving the customers in its local geographical location. With an e-commerce solution, that business will not be limited a geographical restriction, rather it opens itself to the global on-line market. Essentially, the business' market exposure will be greatly increased.
In conducting my study, I have researched extensively on the Internet for resources. I chose the Internet as my primary research medium because e-commerce is still a fairly new technology. Since it is technology related, the Internet will provide the most recent data available. Printed publications will not be able to adapt to changes as fast and efficient as electronic publications. I researched many e-commerce related web sites along with some companies that conduct statistical studies. Some of the e-commerce web sites that I looked into are E-Commerce Times, eRetail, and eMarketer. The statistical research firms that I researched are Forrester Research and Jupiter Communication. Both firms provided valuable statistical data that shows the rise of consumers shopping on-line and the predicted dollar amount that will be spent in the coming years.
In conducting my study, I completed the following tasks:
- I searched extensively on the Internet for sites that are e-commerce related. Upon visiting the sites, I evaluated each sites for the contents, thoroughness, and objectiveness. There are literally hundreds of sites that are devoted to e-commerce. However, after my careful examination of most of them, I narrowed down to four sites that I will research for this report.
- I have also researched many firms that conducts statistical researches. The two firms that I will be utilizing for this report are Forrester Research and Jupiter Communication. Both firms are known for their preciseness, non-objectiveness, and thoroughness. The statistical data I collected from these two firms will support my recommendation that every business should have an e-commerce solution implemented.
From my research, I have developed twenty reasons why every business should incorporate an e-commerce solution into the business operation. They are listed below.
1. To Establish A Presence
There are approximately 70 million people worldwide that have access to the World Wide Web (WWW). No matter what industry or business one is in, one can not ignore 70 million people. To be part of that on-line community, one would need to be on the WWW for them. Because if one doe not do it, one's competitor definitely will.
2. To Network
A lot of what passes for business is simply nothing more than making connections with other people. Every smart businessperson knows, it is not what one knows, it is whom one knows. Passing out one's business card is part of every good meeting and every businessperson can tell more than one story how a chance meeting turned into the big deal. Well, what if one could pass out the business card to thousands, maybe millions of potential clients and partners, saying this is what I do and if you are ever in need of my services, this is how you can reach me. One can, 24 hours a day, inexpensively and simply, on the WWW.
3. To Make Business Information Available
What is basic business information? Think of a Yellow Pages ad. What are one's business hours? What does one do? How can someone contact the business? What method of payment does one take? Where is the business located at? Now think of a Yellow Pages ad where one can have instant communication. What is today's special? Today's interest rate? Next week's parking lot sale information? If one could keep one's customer informed of every reason why they should do business with them, doesn't one think one could do more business? One can on the WWW.
4. To Serve The Customers
Making business information available is one of the most important ways to serve the customers. But if one looks at serving the customer, one will find even more ways to use WWW technology. How about making forms available to pre-qualify for loans, or have one's staff do a search for that classic jazz record one's customer is looking for, without tying up one's staff on the phone to take down the information? Allow the customer to punch in sizes and check it against a database that tells him what color of jacket is available in one's store? All this can be done, simply and quickly, on the WWW.
5. To Heighten Public Interest
One won't get Newsweek magazine to write up about one's local store opening, but one might get them to write up one's Web Page address if it is something new and interesting. Even if Newsweek would write about one's local store opening, one would not benefit from someone in a distant city reading about it, unless of course, they were coming to one's town sometime soon. With Web page information, anybody anywhere who can access the internet and hears about one's site is a potential visitor to one's Web site and a potential customer for one's information there.
6. To Release Time Sensitive Material
What if one's materials need to be released no earlier than midnight? The quarterly earnings statement, the grand prize winner, the press kit for the much anticipated film, the merger news? Well, one sent out the materials to the press with "The-do-not-release-before-such-and-such-time" statement and hope for the best. Now the information can be made available at midnight or any time one specifies, with all related materials such as photographs, bios, etc. released at exactly the same time. Imagine the anticipation of "All materials will be made available on our Web site at 12:01 AM". The scoop goes to those that wait for the information to be posted, not the one who releases one's information early.
7. To Sell Things
Many people think that this is the number one thing to do with the World Wide Web. However, I have made it number seven to make it clear that I think one should consider selling things on the Internet and the World Wide Web after one has done all the things above. Why? Well, the answer is complex but the best way to put it is, does one consider the telephone the best place to sell things? Probably not. One probably considers the telephone as a tool that allows one to communicate with one's customer, which in turn helps one sell things. Well, that's how I think one should consider the WWW. The technology is different, but before people decide to become customers, they want to know about one, what one does and what one can do for them. Which one can do easily and inexpensively on the WWW. Then one might be able to turn them into customers.
8. To make picture, sound and video available
What if one's widget is great, but people would really love it if they could see it in action? The album is great but with no airplay, nobody knows that it sounds great? A picture is worth a thousand words, but one does not have the space for a thousand words? The WWW allows one to add sound, pictures and short movie files to one's company's info if that will serve one's potential customers. No brochure will do that.
9. To Reach a Highly Desirable Demographic Market
The demographic of the WWW user is probably the highest mass-market demographic available. Usually they are college-educated or being college educated, making a high salary or soon to make a high salary. It is no wonder that Wired magazine, the magazine of choice to the Internet community, has no problem getting Lexus and other high-end marketer's advertising. Even with the addition of the commercial on-line community, the demographic will remain high for many years to come.
10. To Answer Frequently Asked Questions
Whoever answers the telephones in one's organization can tell one that their time is usually spent answering the same questions over and over again. These are the questions customers and potential customers want to know the answer to before they deal with one. Post them on a WWW page and one will have removed another barrier to doing business with one and freed up some time for that harried phone operator.
11. To Stay in Contact with Salespeople
One's employees on the road may need up-to-the-minute information that will help them make the sale or pull together the deal. If one knows what that information is, one can keep it posted in complete privacy on the WWW. A quick local phone call can keep one's staff supplied with the most detailed information, without long distance phone bills and tying up the staff at the home office.
12. To Open International Market
One may not be able to make sense of the mail, phone and regulation systems in
all the potential international markets, but with a e-commerce solution, one can open up a dialogue with international markets as easily as with the company across the street. As a matter-of-fact, before one goes onto the Web, one should decide how one wants to handle the international business that will come one's way, because one's postings are certain to bring international opportunities to one's way, whether it is part of one's plan or not. Another added benefit; if one's company has offices overseas, they can access the home offices information for the price of a local phone call.
13. To Create a 24 Hour Service
If one has ever remembered too late or too early to call the opposite coast, one knows the hassle. Not all businesses are on the same schedule. Business is worldwide but one's office hours aren't. Trying to reach Asia or Europe is even more frustrating. However, Web pages serve the client, customer and partner 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No overtime either. It can customize information to match needs and collect important information that will put one ahead of the competition, even before they get into the office.
14. To Make Changing Information Available Quickly
Sometimes, information changes before it gets off the press. Now one has a pile of expensive, worthless paper. Electronic publishing changes with one's needs. No paper, no ink, no printer's bill. One can even attach one's web page to a database which customizes the page's output to a database one can change as many times in a day as one needs. No printed piece can match that flexibility.
15. To Allow Feedback From Customers
One passes out the brochure, the catalog, the booklet. But it doesn't work. No sales, no calls, no leads. What went wrong? Wrong color, wrong price, wrong market? Keep testing, the marketing books say, and one will eventually find out what went wrong. That's great for the big boys with deep pockets, but who is paying the bills? One is and one doesn't have the time nor the money to wait for the answer. With a Web page, one can ask for feedback and get it instantaneously with no extra cost. An instant e-mail response can be built into Web pages and can get the answer while its fresh in one's customers mind, without the cost and lack of response of business reply mail.
16. To Test Market New Services and Products
Tied into the reason above, we all know the cost of rolling out a new product. Advertising, advertising, advertising, press release and advertising. Expensive, expensive, expensive. Once one has been on the Web and know what to expect from those who are seeing one's page, they are the least expensive market for one to reach. They will also let one knows what they think of one's product faster, easier and much less expensively than any other market one may reach. For the cost of a page or two of Web programming, one can have a crystal ball into where to position one's product or service in the marketplace.
17. To Reach The Media
Every kind of business needs the exposure that the media can bring, as I touched on in reason #5 "To Heighten Public Interest", but what if one's business is reaching the media, as a newswire, a publicist or a public policy group. The media is the most wired profession today, since their main product is information and they can get it more quickly, cheaply and easily on-line. On-line press kits are becoming more and more common, since they work with the digital environment of more and more pressrooms. Digital images can be put in place without the stripping and shooting of the old pressrooms and digital text can be edited and outputted on tight deadlines. All these can be made available on an e-commerce solution.
18. To Reach The Education and Youth Market
If one's market is education, consider that most universities already offer Internet accesses to their students and most K-12's will be on the Internet within the next few years. Books, athletic shoes, study courses, youth fashion and anything else that would want to reach these overlapping markets needs to be on the WWW. Even with the coming of the commercial on-line services and their somewhat older populations there will be nothing but growth in the percentage of the under 25 market that will be on-line.
19. To Reach The Specialized Market
Sell fish tanks, art reproductions, flying lessons? One may think that the Internet is not a good place to be. Well, think again. The Internet isn't just for computer science students anymore. With the 70 million and growing users of the WWW, even the most narrowly defined interest group will be represented in large numbers. Since the Web has several very good search programs, one's interest group will be able to find one's company, or one's competitors.
20. To Serve One's Local Market
I've talked about the power to serve the world with a e-commerce solution. How about one's neighborhood? If one is located in San Francisco Bay Area, the Raleigh NC area, Boston or New York, there is probably enough local customers with Internet access to make it worth one's while to consider Web marketing. A local Palo Alto, CA restaurant even takes lunch orders through the Internet! But no matter where one is, if the big client has Internet access, one should be there too.
After detailed analyzing and studying of the effects and benefits of incorporating an e-commerce solution to an existing business, it is clear that an e-commerce solution will benefit the business in every aspect.
The implementation of an e-commerce solution will generate a brand new revenue stream, expand the market exposure, and decrease the operation cost. Many Fortune 500 companies, such as Dell Computer Corp., have already adapted e-commerce into their business operation. As I have mentioned earlier, Dell Computer Corp. is currently generating over 1 million dollars in revenues from their web-site. Many well-known "brick & mortar" businesses are starting to establish their presence on the web. For example, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, the top book retailer in North America, has just launched their web-site earlier this year following the success of Amazon.com. Amazon.com, the top book & music seller on the web, has been referred to have one of the most efficient business operation in the world today.
Based on the conclusion of this study, I recommend the following:
- Every business should implement an e-commerce solution into the business operation.
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"E-Marketer, Where Business Begins On-line." E-Marketer. 1999. (9 August 1999).
"E-Retail, News and Information for Internet Retailers." E-Retail. 1999. (9 August 1999).
"The Electronic Commerce Guide." Internet.com's Electronic Commerce Guide. 1999. . (9 August 1999).
"Forrester Research: Helping Businesses Thrive on Technology Change." Forrester Research. 1999. (9 August 1999).
"Jupiter Communication: Market Research on the Consumer Online Industry." Jupiter Communication. 1999. (9 August 1999).E Commerce Explained - A Research Paper
Doctor Mike Cooper has been a college level instructor since 1986. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems and a Master's Degree in Data Communications. He is a retired Army Officer and a veteran of 33 months service in Vietnam. Dr. Cooper has lived in Thailand, Belgium, Germany and still travels extensively.