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September 24, 1999
Big hits don't necessarily make for big e-businessNeena Haridas at Pragati Maidan
Says Nath, "Deployment of e-commerce involves serious technical issues such as targeting and assessing the right market segment, pitching the service appropriately and assuring repeat traffic."
Repeat traffic is name of the game. Successful e-commerce is much more a marketing issue than a technical issue.
"The problem in India is that people think Internet is technology. No. I want people to realise that it is communication," Nath says.
To get repeat traffic the e-biz man has to know the pulse of the audience, the surfer. Internet time is instant. A mistake in hooking is a business lost forever.
Easier said than done, the moot question is how do you get people to come back to you? To begin with, the mistake most make is to interpret 'hits' as the benchmark for effective traffic.
Nath explains: "Tell me, you might be running a bookshop on the Net. You will have several other frills such as posters and contest or whatever. A young guy might 'hit' your site to ogle at the Marlin Monroe poster. His girlfriend will hit the site to take a look at Tom Cruise. Do they come and buy books from your site? Have you made any business out of these 'hits'? None. They just came, occupied the space in your pipe and probably even prevented a real buyer from entering your site because of the congestion.
"The point I am making is that we should get over the 'hits' mania. Instead, we must concentrate on minimising the hits and maximising profits."
Maximising profits means increasing traffic of course. Now this can be done in three different ways. One is to use the conventional media such as newspapers, magazines and television for advertising. This increases popularity but might not necessarily bring traffic to your site because the target audience might be different.
Two is to increase cross-links on your site. Get links on your site as well get links for your site on other sites. This is an effective way of increasing traffic but it might not really increase business on your site. Links are important because unless you create a way for people to know you, how will they come to you. But if you create dummy links, then you will soon lose whatever little traffic you managed to generate. "And if you take my word, don't cheat," says Nath with a chuckle.
The third strategy is to enter search engines. This is very effective if done honestly. The problem is these days search engines are packed with information. You might just be one of them. Your smartness lies in getting noticed and for that you got to be innovative and be simple.
One of the threats that e-business chaps are paranoid about are the new "informediaires" on the information highway... the bots, such as Google, who give a comparative study of products and offer the best price. These guys are offering better and newer features everyday.
"But believe me there is no way you can escape them. If you don't get listed with them, it's your loss. So the best way to make the best of it is cooperate," Nath advises.
"On the security issue too, e-commerce guys are a confused lot. Now here, one has to have some discretion. Nath articulates: Imagine this, you go over to the stand to buy a newspaper and the guy says he will sell it to you if you prove your identity and show your ID card or something. What would you do?
"Well, I would just walk out and forget about the guy for good. Well, that is exactly what is happening on the Net too. If you make the entire process of selling something too complicated, asking for digital signature and all, you could be in for a rude shock. People would simply walk out on you. This is applicable for business-to-consumer transactions.
"Now when there is business-to-business transaction, it is better to be careful and provide complete security. Else, you could be in trouble again.
"Beyond all the techno babble what it really means is that an e-biz guy should keep himself simple. Have a user-friendly site, be consistent and fast. And if you have the start-up advantage, half your job is done.
The rest depends on your ideas!
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