The e-Commerce Arsenal: Twelve Technologies You Need to Prevail in the Digital Arenaby Alexis D. Gutzman
In the war for Web dominance, the site that converts visitors into loyal customers is the winner! When potential customers drop by a site, they expect an experience
EDM, wireless access, listfeed programs, WAP, XML: They don't sound sweet, but these (and other) power-packed Web technologies are the honey that keep online customers coming back for more.
In the war for Web dominance, the site that converts visitors into loyal customers is the winner! When potential customers drop by a site, they expect an experience that's fast, hassle-free, and packed with useful features otherwise they'll click that "Back" button and be gone...maybe forever!
The E-Commerce Arsenal explains that mere icing-on-the-cake elements such as colorful graphics or "Flash" effects just don't cut it. Instead, this savvy book presents 12 powerful existing and emerging technologies that enable a Web site to do something that's tangibly valuable to customers. For example:
- Shopping "wizards" that help customers find an item (even when they don't know what it's called)
- Instant e-mail that confirms an order and gives a delivery date
- Personalization of the site for each customer's interests.
Both marketers (who don't know how these technologies work) and computer professionals (who want to grasp their profit potential) will find detailed information on these "killer apps." Divided into three areas (driving traffic, site functionality, and customer service), the book provides:
- A jargon-free explanation of each technology (what it can do and how it works)
- Examples of current sites using each technology (illustrated with screen captures)
- Resource information for implementing each technology.
- AMACOM Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.26(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.14(d)
Read an Excerpt
2. The Recipe for SuccessTHE SITE
Once you get traffic to your site, you have to keep it there and entice it through your purchase process. There's more to a site than a good interface, clear navigational elements, and cool graphics. You certainly need good site navigation, an intuitive interface, and a site that's fast to load, since even people with 56K modems are actually connecting at closer to 28K than 50K because of overcapacity of ISP phone banks, slow network traffic, and poor phone lines. Most shoppers take these elements for granted these days. What sets apart the sites that are worth recommending to friends? Mostly, the features that enable shoppers easily to find and buy the products they need the first time and every time. Part III of this book takes you through the five technologies that can help set your site apart in a positive way.
There are two kinds of personalization: overt and covert. Effective sites use both types, whenever possible. Overt personalization ranges from the mildly cloying "Hello, Alexis, Welcome back!" to the invaluable capability to remember billing and shipping information to facilitate a speedy checkout with minimum rekeying. Covert personalization is much more subtle and harder to find. It can be remembering what you purchased on your last visit and showing you complementary products. Or, based on your anonymous profile, it can involve recognizing you before you purchase anything and showing you products you're likely to care about.
If you've ever gone to a search engine and typed "home mortgage" or "auto loan," you've probably noticed that the banner ad at the top of the page is suddenly relevant to what you're looking for. This is a form of covert personalization. The search engine and its advertising partners may not know who you are, but they know what you're interested in based on your previous behavior. Your own site can use similar, more subtle techniques to make sure that the content the visitor sees is always relevant, or at a minimum, inoffensive.
PERSONAL SHOPPERS AND SHOPPING WIZARDS
It's no longer enough simply to give your customers a search box on your home page so they can look for the products they want by keyword. Although I wouldn't eliminate that search box for the surgical shopper just yet, for shoppers who come to your site to solve a problem, I would recommend you add a way as well to find the products that solve that problem. Sites that offer problem solving in addition to shopping will stand out above the crowd.
There are three types of shopping assistants that come readily to mind. The first is the wizard, which offers shoppers a number of options, each choice leading to an additional set of options, each selection of which eventually leads to a product. These are great for gift giving. I found a hanging candelabra for my husband's aunt and uncle at Eddie Bauer.com this way. The first question was about the amount I wanted to spend, and subsequent questions asked about the interests of the gift recipients. This wizard helped me find something unique that I would never have thought to look for in the regular Christmas inventory.
The next option is the kind of thing you find at Garden.com. You come to the site with a problem. I, for instance, need something that flowers to put in pots on my patio. The site helps you find an appropriate solution for your environment based on climate, time of year, sun/shade ratio, and so on. Begonias were the answer to my problem. I wasn't even sure what a begonia was when I first went to Garden.com.
The final option combines something I hate, natural language processing, in which the computer looks for keywords in the English query that I type, with something I love, context-sensitive assistance, in which each subsequent query is based on previous results returned or on where I am in the site. This type of guided shopping is ideal when the shopper knows the category of product he wants but doesn't know enough about the differences between products in that category to be able to devise an intelligent solution. The laptop computer is a perfect example of a product well suited to this type of tool because most people don't understand what the tradeoffs are and what all the product specifications mean. It's easier for most shoppers to indicate that they're looking for a good laptop for travel than it is for them to search by weight, not knowing how heavy or light laptops get.
ACCEPT MULTIPLE CURRENCIES AND SHIP GLOBALLY
It really is the World Wide Web. IDC estimates that by 2003, 38 percent of all online shoppers will be outside the United States. The barriers to global shipping and delivery are large, but not insurmountable. Chapter 10 takes you through the technical, operational, and logistical issues you'll need to address to do business worldwide.
REAL-TIME ACCESS TO INVENTORY AND ORDER STATUS
Shopping on the Web should be gratifying, because all the information a shopper needs to make a purchase decision is there when he is in the mood to buy. Too many sites fall down on the job of providing complete information. They may fail to tell customers when the products they're placing into their carts will ship, how long shipment to specific zip codes should be expected to take, where the products customers have ordered are in the shipping process, and even what the status of returned orders is.
Sites that answer all these questions will find that their customerservice costs go down and their repeat business goes up. Most organizations have access to this data somewhere in the bowels of their customer-service or order-management systems. Why not put the data where the customers can use it and save everyone a phone call?
INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH CONTENT-MANAGEMENT SOLUTION
Many sites rely on their own homegrown content-management systems. Some have a staff of technicians and graphic artists who actually make changes to the code (the Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML) that changes what you see when you load that site directly. Others have proprietary software that's administered from a desktop application that permits the content owners of the site-marketing, technology, public relations, or merchandising, depending on the site-to manipulate the contents of the site without having to involve technicians. Both of these solutions to keeping a site's content up-to-date have serious problems.
A forward-thinking site needs to be built around a serious contentmanagement solution, one that's being maintained by an organization that does nothing but keep it up. Very few sites can afford the resources to put into their own content-management solutions to make them comparable to the best third-party solutions available. Sites that want to compete will bite the bullet and spend the serious dollars required to provide this kind of content-management solution.
Customer service is typically regarded as a necessary evil. Customers demand it, but any improvements made to it come at significant cost. With the customer base on the Web growing so rapidly, few companies can afford to sustain high customer satisfaction ratings. The two most common forms of customer service are e-mail and phone support. The first is inadequate because it takes too long. The second is inappropriate because most U.S. households have only one phone line.
Part IV of this book explores the two key technologies that can turn your site into a place where your customers can see that customer service is paramount. These technologies turn the tables on the traditional customer service equation, in which more service equals more expense, by (1) providing customer-service technologies that scale with the site without incurring additional costs as more customers use them, and (2) offering service at the moment of purchase, when expensive-to-attract customers are most likely to abandon their shopping carts rather than complete their purchases.
REAL-TIME PRESALES CHAT
Real-time chat as a sales and customer support tool has definitely caught on. In September of 1999, real-time chat was almost impossible to find. Sites have realized that this form of customer support, in addition to being timely, is also cost-effective, because support representatives can assist multiple customers at once. It works because it can help you catch customers at that crucial buying moment when they've already taken the time to review your inventory and put the products they want into their shopping carts but are still deciding whether to stay and finish the purchase, whether the shipping charges are fair, and whether they think they can get a better deal elsewhere. Real-time chat is also a great tool for cross-selling customers and thus increasing order totals. Chapter 13 takes you through the technology, the business case for using this technology on your site, and the choices of vendors that can help you provide this kind of support on your site right away...
What People are saying about this
A practical guide built on a foundation of compelling facts. The E-Commerce Arsenal gets straight to the point so you can sharpen your competitive online edge.
Ms. Gutzman has demonstrated a unique ability to address both the technological and the business issues that are driving the new economy. Her practical, 'hands on' experience with e-commerce technology, products, and services results in insights and commentary that challenge both the reader and conventional wisdom. It should be required reading for management teams in this constantly changing environment.
A roadmap for how to get and keep more Web customers?more efficiently and effectively. This book should be on the shelf of every retailer contemplating joining the online market community.
Alexis Gutzman's Web articles about e-commerce are authoritative and sometimes irreverent but always thought-provoking.
Alexis Gutzman's columns are some of the sharpest pieces on the technology scene. I don't know many people who can zero in with such stunning accuracy on what's new, what's different, what's important?what's hype versus what really counts. She's the genuine article.
Alexis has a broad understanding of the many technologies required to do battle in the new Web economy.
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