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August 27, 1998


The dos and don'ts of Web retailing

Priya Ganapati at Pragati Maidan

Email this story to a friend. Back to IIW coverage index. While most companies know about and are looking forward to the advent of e-commerce, few are prepared for the trying time ahead before things finally stabilise.

Razi Mohiuddin, vice-president, Infodata Systems Inc, tried to describe the pros and cons of Web retailing. In a short session on the dos and don'ts of the subject, Mohiuddin tried to explain what sells best and how in cyberspace.

Mohiuddin stressed that Web retailing sites should take care about the questions they asked customers.

"Don't overload the customers by asking all the information at one go. Every time they buy a product, ask them a question. If you ask a 100 questions at one go, you'll get no answers," he said, adding that access to the web page had to be easy and that the home pages had to be well-organised if the customer was to be drawn back.

Mohiuddin suggested that retailing sites could cover varied material, based on user interest.

"If a particular user is interested in a book not currently available, you could still suggest titles that could possibly interest him," Mohiuddin said, adding that e-commerce continued long after the transaction was closed.

Product availability and shipping time play key roles in such dealings, with a good tracking system also being very important. Mohiuddin cited the case of the CISCO web site, which had developed a system to track and configure orders so that changes could be made even after orders were placed.

He also highlighted the growth of "self-service" customers.

"Provide the information and let the user come and get it," he said. Earlier, companies kept a large staff component just to push products. But today, if the customer wanted anything, s/he could choose and pick the best deal available on the Web, he said, adding that product reviews by other buyers and ranking the products would also help. He also suggested allowing interaction with the creators of the product. People felt reassured in such a case, Mohiuddin said.

The idea, he said, was to build a community. "If you don't have a community there is no reason to come back to your site," he said.

Shifting to popularisation of web sites, he said word of mouth was still considered the best way.

"For our website we had our people scanning the chat rooms and news rooms -- where word spreads very fast -- for any adverse reaction to our product.

Back to IIW coverage index. "We would then go back quickly to see if the problem could be fixed. You have to get word out about your website, either on the street corner or on the web corner," he said.

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