Editor's Note: Make the Internet Work for YOU
That headline seems dated, doesn’t it? Like it’s 1999 or something? Actually, I very much have 2009 in mind. Through the eyes of merchandise sellers of all kinds — retail, catalog, dot-com, B-to-B, brand marketers, all of the above — using the Internet for e-commerce continues to be a work in progress even a dozen-plus years after it hit the mainstream.
Ten years ago, the Internet was full of promise. It seemed like you could sell anything online, throwing out all those old, outdated retail business models. Then, of course, came the dot-com bust, followed by the other assorted ups and downs of this decade.
Early on, the Internet was about throwing it all out there and seeing what stuck. Today, marketers of all kinds turn to the Internet with greater selectivity. As Rick Braddock of FreshDirect, who co-wrote the second of a three-part series on the impact of the Internet on the changing face of retail (see pg. 22), said recently, “The true power of Internet marketing is the ability to interact, to develop superior customer knowledge and real-time rhythm to significantly build one’s business.”
Braddock feels real Internet marketing “is still in its infancy,” because there’s been too much focus on digital advertising. Few marketers, whether they’re from the catalog/retail ranks or “born” on the Web, have focused on building genuine, loyal customer relationships online. That, he said, would be “especially valuable in the ‘one-click’ purchasing environment.”
For B-to-C marketers, much has been said recently about banner ads not really working — especially for building customer relationships. Search is great, but those consumers are on the hunt for single, specific items.
Then there’s the booming social media space. Everybody’s looking to make a buck that way, but is there really a way? Or are we only talking about a way to gab with customers on their own levels, using it primarily as a goodwill vehicle? I encourage you to check out Amy Africa’s take on social media (see pg. 16). Twitter may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
So which e-commerce efforts will be viable in the years ahead? Consider the following:
- Online consumers hold marketers to a higher standard than store or catalog shoppers. You may think your Web store is terrific, but examine its policies, usability, ordering mechanisms and other factors more closely. You’ll be surprised how many improvements you can make.
- Make greater use of your customer data. As Braddock noted, Amazon.com has succeeded while most failed this past year by using customer information more effectively.
- Re-examine the relationship between your marketing channels. Consumer buying behaviors have changed a lot over the past year alone. See how that affects you.