e-Business relates to the use of the Internet for business purposes in a way that excludes the actual buying and selling of goods and services online. Thus, as examples, having a website, blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, Facebook account, Twitter following, Pinterest account, directory listing, Google+ account, e-Mail address, etc. would be considered to be within the domain of e-Business.
There are grey areas to the definitions. However, there are no “right’s” and “wrongs.” What is important is that you understand the opportunities that exist for using the Internet for business purposes and that you know how to access these opportunities.
In the world of “bricks” vs. “clicks,” local shops are opened in neighbourhoods the world over. These local merchants build an audience for their wares within their local communities. They market their offerings by way of the offline channels available to them. They also grow by way of the recommendations of those that are satisfied customers. These businesses know that to remain in business that they must get and keep customers. For online businesses, it is no different.
Customers seeking goods and services online are more impressed by the actual goods and services supplied than by the personality, education, and history of the merchant that supplies them. This may not be the case for branded and well-established businesses that have the support of brand conscious consumers. The objective is to satisfy online customers so that they advocate your business to others.
It has long been agreed that the keys to success for on and offline businesses include:
- attracting attention,
- building interest to the point of conversion to a sale and
- maintaining customer satisfaction to build brand loyalty so as to convert customers to be active brand advocates.
Along this path relationships are formed. Offline businesses are likely to build relationships more easily than online businesses will do. This is so as the offline business has a personal one on one interface with customers. The online business too will have the opportunity to build personal relationships but is likely that they will find it easier to build brand loyalty by way of consistent product satisfaction.
Take the Test
I’m sure you can close your eyes and take the test sitting in your favourite chair in the comfort of your home. Walk a local shopping mall and window shop the goods and services on offer. Generally, shopping falls into two categories; day to day necessities and other. When shopping for day to day necessities such as groceries - ease, speed and convenience coupled with price and quality (value) are likely to direct your choice of store. When shopping for services the opinions of others are critically important. When purchasing “other goods” the emotional attachment for the item generated by the touch and feel opportunity are likely to close the deal.
Now take the same test again, but this time, do it online. Try to research the same shopping mall online. The search result pages are likely to rank the national chain stores, and you are likely to run out of steam before you find most of the others.
Should you, however, have an online local directory this will effectively localise the Internet and you will have a better chance of finding many of the stores in the mall.
Now have a look at the websites. Most will be, what I will call, “about us” websites that do not have their product ranges on display in product showcases or online shops. This means that you are offered information on the company but not on the full product range. Think back to the walk through. It was a window shopping adventure through the mall where you saw products rather than “about” us posters!
Once one realises that online browsing is just like offline browsing, you will realise that it is about “window shopping” products and you are likely to agree that it is time for local business to add product showcases to their online websites.
All businesses are likely to commence with an internal online audience. This audience will be the “internal staff “ and existing customer base or audience. Staff members, existing customers and or selected others are likely to be invited to view a new website. In these circumstances are the needs of the internal audience easily catered for in a convenient manner by the website or do they too seek to see more?
Let us reflect upon the two tests that you have just taken. In each case, you had a specific location in mind. You wanted to search the local shopping mall that you selected. You did not want to be bombarded with hundreds of thousands of search result options from all parts of the world. This is an important realisation affecting the quality of the user experience, and the solution lies in localizing the Internet.
Localization can be geographically determined, or it could be defined to incorporate niche marketplaces such as all suppliers relevant to a wedding. As an example, if you look at www.webo.directory you will find a business directory that services defined geographic locations. On the home page, there is a Google search option that searches the businesses listed in the directory and no others.
It is my prediction that geographically defined and niche directories will increasingly become the vehicle of choice for local consumers wishing to obtain only relevant (local) content.
Generally, directories offer “results.” Results are defined as being telephone numbers and a limited amount of other static data. In essence, many directories are not a far cry from a telephone book. I believe that users seek content in addition to contact information. They want to see product ranges, user testimonials, guarantees, product manuals and more. They also seek deals and specials.
By meeting user needs on a local directory, the solution to local business being found on the Internet will be solved. For those that do not support the concept of localization, they will need to compete in a global marketplace where keyword saturation, backlink creation, article syndication and a host of other Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) requirements will need to be met in order to obtain a top position in the global ranking of search keywords.
When the decision is taken to market an e-Business on the Internet to attract new customers then, e-Marketing requirements become relevant.