About PM4Web

The PM4Web blog was born as an outlet to return knowledge back to the web development community. My goal is to share my experiences as a project manager from over the years in a manner which helps you succeed with your own projects.

24 September, 2008

Creating an e-Strategy

How a website can boost traditional marketing techniques

What is an e-strategy? Good question, I have to admit it is a rather vague notion. One way to describe it is to say that it’s about mixing technology with traditional marketing strategies. As these approaches interconnect, they compliment or magnify each other, thus producing an affect where the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

In more specific terms, an e-strategy is the business strategy applied to an online presence. It generally does not focus on technology comparisons, but rather is geared towards presenting the best possible approach for achieving an organisation’s goals.

Why would a business want to develop an e-strategy? The main reason is because it’s a game plan for how to get the most out of their web presence. The idea is to exploit the Internet and emergent technologies in order to increase revenue or reduce operating costs. A common way of reducing costs would be by automating as many activities as possible. For example; an online book store which does just-in-time printing could send an automatic communiqué directly to the printing company when a book is purchased (the book would then be printed and mailed off to the buyer).

Part of an e-strategy is to make it clear that good technology in itself is not enough, a holistic approach is what is needed. Traditional business techniques also need to be used in order to produce growth and out-do competitors.

As part of this process, a few key questions need to be answered; what role can the Internet play in the business strategy? What is the driving force behind the business? How are customer or target market needs fulfilled? What does the future hold for the business domain and how is change going to be handled?

There are many ways that the Internet can help a business. The examples I have here are by no means an exhaustive list, I’m sure some lateral (creative) thinking would reveal even more options.

Demand Aggregation – as the size of a company’s patronage grows, so to does its ability to secure a good deal for its customers via buying power (e.g. a driving range could buy golf balls in bulk to sell to club members at a better then retail price).

Producer Direct – a business which sells products online can bypass the cost of having a physical store-front. This allows them to pass on savings or ‘perceived value’ to customers (e.g. eBay or Amazon).

Product Re-bundling – having a multitude of customers that grow in an organic manner opens up the potential for related but separate products or services to be offered in combination. This would not normally be possible on a stand-alone basis (e.g. a gym could approach a sports store and strike-up a synergy where-by gym members received discounts on sporting goods).

Customer Self-service – technology can be used to reduce the amount of time staff spend directly interacting with customers for simple tasks or enquiries. A classic example of this is a customer researching a product online rather then phoning a store to ask a shop assistant about the item.

One-to-one Marketing – this strategy emphasises personalising interactions with customers. Having a customer’s full name at the top of an email is a simple implementation of this approach. This increases the likelihood of them actually looking at the email rather then discarding it as junk mail. A more effective usage would be a website where customer demographic information such as age is tracked. This could then be used to target promotional advertising more effectively (e.g. there’s no point showing home loan packages to teenagers).

Channel Integration - this is about having a number of different ways to communicate with your customer or fulfil their needs (e.g. phone, product brochures, direct mail, physical store-fronts, etc). A popular implementation of this approach on websites is to ask a person if they want to receive promotional material via email during a sign-up process.

An e-strategy needs to explain how technology can serve a business’ goals (e.g. to have products on supermarket shelves by the end of the year, to raise skin cancer awareness, etc). This is done by determining how business objectives can be linked to an Internet-based solution such as a website.

Without an e-strategy, technology-based solutions developed reactively may produce short-term benefits, but turn-out to be ineffective and expensive in the long run. For example; if you wanted to develop a mobile-device interface for a social networking website, you could produce BlackBerry and MS Windows Mobile applications, or you could try and capture a far greater audience by targeting just the Symbian OS considering it’s installed on 72% of all smart-phones (Source: www.itwire.com/content/view/14348/127/).

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