Bosses keen to get online make the mistake of jumping in technology first, but instead they should ask themselves the same business questions they asked when they first set up.
This was the advice of David Ormesher, chief executive of Closerlook.com which helps firms get on the Internet, speaking at the Internet World show in Chicago this week.
He said: "The Internet is not just about technology. You can't take a package off the shelf, write some HTML code and put up a site. You need to ask the same questions you asked when you started the business - who is your customer, what kind of business are you in, what do you want to do on the Web?"
He said many visitors to Closerlook.com's stand at the show are frustrated that their companies' sites have not met with expectations. The number of visitors are not as high as they wished and the user experience is poor, he explained.
Ormesher said companies are now moving to phase three in their Web strategies and should examine ways of improving the intangible elements, such as ensuring speedier delivery of goods ordered online and making the site easier to navigate. Allowing visitors to personalise the site is also a plus, he said.
Explained Ormesher: "The first generation of Internet sites involved putting brochures on the Web, the second was to make money from their site, now we are moving to the third phase - the value is not in how many products you can list on the site but how your site can meet customer needs."
He advised companies to examine how the Internet would impact on their business strategy and processes and if they are a retailer, to understand that the Web is giving consumers a direct line into manufacturers, and to find ways of turning this to their advantage.
Closerlook.com recently advised Internet startup, Web Promotion, to drop its broad approach, including banner advertisements and search engines, to concentrate on 'opt in' email. This also involved changing its name to Yesmail.com.
Opt in email is the antidote to spam emails and allows consumers to control the advertisement emails they receive. Users specify what they want to receive from companies by logging their details with Yesmail.com. Opt in email boasts click through rates of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent, compared to 0.5 per cent for banner ads, claimed Ormesher, adding that Closerlook.com has positioned Yesmail.com as the protector of consumers.
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