Lessons,Learned,from,the,Downf DIY Lessons Learned from the Downfall of Dot-Coms
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Business headlines today are filled with stories of high-profile dot-coms thatcrashed and burned, despite all the venture capital funding, hype and publicityreceived. This turn of events show that success online is not directly proportional tothe amount of capital a business has. Heres how small businesses can thrive ine-commerce, and with some chutzpah, fight side-by-side with the well-oileddot-coms. By Nach MaravillaPower HomeBiz Guides Every online entrepreneur must understand the simple rule of doing business on theInternet: customers rule!Consumer power drive todays economy. With a simple click of the mouse, thecustomer can decide whether your business deserves his dollars or not. A recentBain and Company study finds that over 2,000 customers in three retail segments-- apparel, groceries, and consumer electronics/appliances -- suggest that 10percent of customers cite better service as the reason they shop online. With theinformation explosion on the Internet, the balance of power has shifted from themanufacturer to the retailer, and now down to the consumer, as consumersbecome more jaded, cynical and savvy about marketing.Many dot-coms have crashed and burned because they thought that the basicprinciple of satisfying customers is now passe in the new economy. Take thenow-classic case of Boo.com, a well-oiled and much-hyped luxury goods e-tailer.The demise of Boo.com was a result of its focus on technologies that, whileinnovative and ahead of its time, were too cumbersome and complicated forcustomers. It mistakenly thought that the warning on its homepage: This site isdesigned for 56K modems and above could appease potential customers of itsslow-loading graphics. There was too much style over substance, that for many, itwas more trouble than it was worth to actually buy something. After only sixmonths and burning nearly $200 million, Boo.com, the poster child of Internetexcess, had to say goodbye.There is one clear lesson that is emerging from the recent shake-up in the dot-comworld: only the businesses, whether big or small, that serves their customers rightwill be left standing. The key driver of online success (or failure) is the customerexperience. As the novelty of online shopping wears off, online customers willplace more focus on the quality of service. Despite all the venture capital financingreceived, the big dot-coms will fail if it does not serve its customers correctly.Small businesses should take heed you have a fighting chance if you treat yourcustomers right! You may not have the huge capital, the best technology or thehype and publicity of these well-oiled dot-coms; others do not even have staffs!However, you can still compete effectively online by focusing on your customers,figuring out what they want and need and making life easier for them. Focus ongetting the basics right: superior service leads to satisfied customers; satisfiedcustomers lead to referrals and referrals are the most effective way to build a widecustomer base.The crucial thing is to learn to integrate customer experience in your businessstrategy. Here are the three steps:1. Identify your customers goals and your goals.The first step is to identify your best customer segment and understand their needsprecisely. Not all customers are profitable, so tailor your offer to your bestcustomers. To do so, you need to get clear answers to questions like:* Who are your target customers? Know the demographics of your visitors.Demographics are a powerful information to help you better respond to yourcustomer needs. With this information, you can set out your site to your targetmarket by clearly defining your sites business plan and marketing goals. * What do customers want from your site? Remember, not all customers areprofitable, so you need to identify your best customers and tailor your offer tothem. Make sure to understand what your best customers really need and whythey have defected. By learning the purpose of your visitors, you are in a muchbetter situation to provide them with what they want. The better you serve theirpurposes, the more they will appreciate your site. * Why are they visiting your site and would they return after their first visit? Doeverything to entice your customers to identify themselves to you, such as specialdiscounts or other incentives. Despite privacy concerns, you would be surprised byhow much information customers will willingly volunteer if they think you aretrustworthy! Study online competitors, off-line competitors, and any comparabledot-coms that are facing similar issues in a different market. * What technology do they use, what features are they familiar with, and how longdo they want to spend at our site? A lot of online businesses fail because eithertheir designs are far too bandwidth intensive, or it did not do its homework and haszero knowledge of the customers ability and usage of the site. 2. Your companys mission should be to provide great customer experience.You must commit yourself to creating the best possible customer experience foryour site. Some brick-and-mortar organizations making a crossover toe-commerce have ingrained behaviors and attitudes that hinder delivering superiorcustomer service. If other people are involved in your online business fromindependent web designers, to programmers or marketing personnel make surethat everyone shares your vision. If you have employees, it is best that you assignone of them to be your customer service champion whose main job is to overseehow the company is continuously improving its service. Linking rewards to serviceis also an effective way to promote better service. Your organizations goal shouldbe to provide a great customer experience that makes it quicker and easier forcustomers to buy your products or services.Use objective data. Solicit customer feedback, run survey forms, or get a friend toevaluate the site. Gather and use information to improve your relationship with allof your customers. However, refrain from sending them with frequent direct mail orwith unsolicited e-mail. As much as possible avoid selling your customerinformation to anyone: it will anger your customer for violating your promise ofprotecting his or her privacy.On the Internet, showing brochures and sales promotions alone is not going to cutit with the consumers. While competitive pricing is the first step, the role of everyonline entrepreneur is to become relationship-focused if his or her business is tosurvive. In terms of technology, it is crucial that online companies invest intechnology but there is no need to go overboard. Use available technology toimprove customer service and manage costs.3. Keep an eye on customer experience.It is essential to continually monitor and improve customer experience. Watch (andrespond to) customer e-mails, actively listen to feedback and comments, andoccasionally involve outside experts to give objective guidance.A great customer experience can result in strong word-of-mouth exposure,positive publicity, and increased revenues. However, customer experience is neverperfect. Building a greater customer experience is not an event, but a continuousprocess towards online success.