Purpose of a E-commerce Web Site
There are many purposes for e-commerce efforts. Too often, organizations design web sites without considering what the purpose is for the web site. The purpose helps define the type of information needed to support the web site. The target audience(s) and purpose( s) should determine the type of information, amount of information, and mechanics for accessing the information from the support system. For instance, the prospective buyer is looking for benefits. When he/she finds the product or service that provides the desired benefits, a transaction will take place. If the seller’s message includes a complete company history, product features, and attributes, and other irrelevant information instead of benefits, the prospective buyer will quickly lose interest and visit another site. Also, the web site must be designed to provide easy access to the desired information through a logical series of linkages. The user must be able to 24 Advertising and Marketing in Electronic Commerce understand the linkages and quickly access only the information desired.
A major issue, often overlooked, is whether the web site is designed to replace the organization’s current marketing and advertising strategies or supplement present efforts. A company can use e-commerce as its only means of generating sales or as a means to enhance its present traditional advertising and marketing endeavors. Different marketing and advertising strategies apply for brick-and-mortar companies versus those organizations that do business only over the Internet. For example, a retail chain can use e-commerce to add to its existing customer base supplementing its instore sales. E-commerce could be used to generate an inquiry for the retailer. Then, the retailer or dealer could close the sale, or, sales may be completed online. The on-line sales supplement the organization’s traditional in-store sales. Part of the information system consists of getting existing customers to visit the web site to view additional merchandise: clearance items, items that are no longer stocked by the retailers (bulky items like furniture, special orders, etc.).
Establishing an interface between in-store customers and Web contacts is essential. An organization can replace its brick-and-mortar outlets by choosing to do business only by e-commerce. In this case, the existing dealerships, retail establishments, etc., are closed. For example, retail chain Z closes all stores converting all marketing operations to on-line activities. A catalog business has the same options as a brick-and-mortar operation: to continue to do business by catalog and supplement its orders through e-commerce or to convert entirely to e-commerce and dispense with the catalog. Clearly, the place strategy shifts from emphasis on the retail location to emphasis on the on-line location. However, the distribution strategy becomes more important in terms of the ability to fulfill customer orders on time and in a satisfactory manner. Promotion strategies emphasize attracting the target audience to the web site and obtaining on-line orders instead of the store or dealership visits where merchandise can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, etc., before purchasing and, often, serviced after the sale. The information base of present and desired customers, their wants and needs, a means of tracking orders, deliveries, and customer satisfaction must be established. Finally, a new business can decide to maintain both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sites (supplemental) or to rely exclusively on e-commerce techniques for advertising and marketing its products and services.