Open Market lays out 10 rules for setting and running a successful Web-based business. The company develops high-performance software products that allow customers to deal in business-to-consumer and business-to-business commerce on the Internet. Other Open Market products deploy Internet-based business applications in an enterprise, creating an intranet. The technology allows companies to centrally manage business transactions using content on multiple distributed Web servers, with state-of-the-art security.
Treat the Internet as a new medium
Resist the temptation to dust off old material and put it online. Make sure your site exploits the Internet's unique properties, such as access to all users, the facility to provide unlimited information, create distinct communities, personalise services for individual users and interact with customers. Avoid pitfalls, such as diluting brands, unappealing content, commoditisation of valuable information and poor design.
Start with the customer
A variety of people use the Internet. Which ones do you want to talk to? What do they want to know? What will your audience find interesting?
The success of your business depends on enticing people back to your site. You should get to know your customers. Customise your content, and keep it fresh and relevant. This will give users a reason to return to your pages.
There will always be new browsers, technologies and capabilities. Marketing approaches and business relationships will also be constantly changing.
You must be up-to-date with these changes, but keep your options open by sticking to standards.
Build a service, not a Web site
Customers won't buy from a business just because it runs an efficient site. They buy from companies that give them value for money; they want to deal with people they can trust; organisations that know them and can offer options they cannot get elsewhere.
Leveraging existing business
Make the best of the things your business does well. The biggest payoff for the Internet is likely to be its ability to strengthen your current business. Build on your assets, such as brand names, operational infrastructure, information and customer relations. Explore ways in which the Internet can reduce costs of finding customers, reach new markets and fill gaps in your product line.
Expect measurable returns
You should expect your investment to justify itself on a basis which can be measured. Set up a benchmark of how much it costs you to communicate with customers using your current procedures, and design your electronic service to do this better.
You need to think radically to survive. The Internet and other open networks will change your business over the next decade. No business will escape its influence. Take risks and do not accept the norm.
Plan for success
Get a system that enables you to attract customers and manage information; one that will help you build relationships and handle different ways of getting revenue and providing service; a system that does not force customers to adapt to your needs and one with a technical architecture that supports any browser.
You gain a lot by acting swiftly. You'll learn the rules in a new medium, create business models that others have to follow, and establish your brand in a marketplace that will force a concentration of suppliers. Most importantly, you'll have time to reinvent your business on your own terms.
Source: OpenMarket Inc, a New England based company specialising in software products to aid Internet commerce. Further details can found on www.openmarket.com.
See Barometer, page 11 for the latest Microsoft developments in electronic commerce.
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