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Rules for Success in the New Economy #4: Sell Any Way

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Most e-business[md]displaying an offer and taking the order[md]is conducted pretty much as in the physical world. But the new technological capabilities of the Internet are changing the face of e-commerce.
This article is adapted from e-Marketing Strategies.
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Instead of displaying goods and services on static Web pages on fixed Web sites, e-business consumers soon will use personal shopping services that will send their requests out for bid and return with merchant offers in the form of multimedia "advertorials" on a product or service. New services are allowing Internet users to search for and exchange various file types directly from their desktop without having to set up a Web site or upload files to a server. In essence, this new technology can easily create a virtual private network (VPN) that can compete with e-businesses on the Net today.

Doing business on the Net was once a fairly simple procedure:

  1. Set up an electronic storefront with a series of Web pages displaying your product or service offering.

  2. Tie them together with a simple-to-use navigational structure.

  3. Provide a shopping cart of some type for the shopper to use, and offer to take his or her credit card or mail-in check for payment.

Most businesses on the Web today are mirror images of their real-world counterparts. Very few are using the capabilities of the selling technology of the Net and are merely applying old rules to the New Digital Economy. But the selling rules are changing—fast. New ways have appeared for accepting digital payment for products, services, and information. Buyers will be using new methods to find and view your company's offers. Web pages will give way to new forms of media that will present your company's offers in unique and dynamic ways. And selling on the Net will decentralize in ways not even dreamed of just a short while ago.

Your emerging marketing plans must incorporate selling into multiple channels and in multiple ways.

Presentations, Not Web Pages

Your e-business needs to start planning to offer your products and services through more than a static Web page. "Pushing" the offer to the buyer instead of "pulling" the buyer to Web site will become the dominant way of selling on the Net.

"Push" marketing is not new. It too has been on the Net for several years. Pointcast (now called Infogate) was one of the first players on the Net to introduce a "push" technology. Pointcast would push content to Net users in the form of news, weather, sports scores, and stock quotes. It was so popular, in fact, that it became a bane to network administrators. All this pushing of data ate up a large amount of bandwidth at businesses, and many of them made their employees remove Pointcast from their desktops.

But "push" technology combined with rich media will make a comeback; this is how product offers will be presented to consumers in the future. It's only a matter of time—perhaps as short as a few years—until the bandwidth will open up for just about everyone using the Net. Most businesses have a fast connection—at least a T1 or wireless dish—and cable and DSL are making inroads to our homes as each day goes by. Increased bandwidth will allow users to experience all types of rich media offers in streaming audio and video, as well as multimedia product and service presentations.

Here's how it could work. Let's follow a typical consumer we'll call Fred. He wakes up in the morning, pulls himself out of bed, drags a comb across his head, and takes off for the kitchen. While he's waiting for the microwave to heat up his coffee, he fires up the video terminal on his microwave oven door and heads for the BotSpot. He scans the list of shopping bots there and chooses one. After the bot's friendly greeting plays from the house speakers above Fred's head, he punches in a short form telling the bot to search for a graduation gift for his niece.

Fred supplies the basics—the gift's intended recipient and event, the price range, the terms and conditions of sale, gift criteria to consider (and not to consider), and so on. Then he kicks back and tastes the coffee.

In a matter of minutes, the shopping bot delivers to Fred's oven screen a list of possible gifts. One in particular catches his eye and he clicks it. Immediately, a one- or two-minute advertorial appears, paid for by the merchant. Fred views the multimedia presentation, decides that it doesn't fit the bill, and goes on to view three more multimedia advertorials. He finds one product that's exactly what he wants and buys it.

Consider what Fred didn't do. He didn't visit a merchant site—or one of those overfed Web portals. He didn't surf a predetermined Web channel offered to him by his microwave oven's Web browser. He didn't visit a bloated Web site full of Web pages telling him how great a shopping experience he was going to have. In fact, all he saw was a presentation of each product, in the form of a multimedia product presentation.

Only a small percentage of the Net population has the bandwidth necessary to view rich media offers at this time. But your e-business need to prepare for it now. And think in terms of transmission sites—not Web sites to present offers to buyers.

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