very good material
Given the recency of the Web, there is limited prior research on electronic commerce, and theories are just emerging. In new research domains, observation and classification are common features of initial endeavors. Thus, in line with the pattern coding approach of qualitative research, we sought overriding concepts to classify attractors.
To understand how firms distinguish themselves in a flat world, we reviewed marketing research literature, surfed many Web sites, monitored Web sites that publish reviews of other companies' Web efforts, and examined prize lists for innovative Web solutions. After visiting many Web sites and identifying those that seem to have the potential to attract a large number of visitors, we used metaphors to label and group sites into categories. The categories are not mutually exclusive, just as the underlying metaphors are not distinct categories.
For example, we use both the archive and entertainment park as metaphors. In real life, archives have added elements of entertainment and entertainment parks recreate historical periods.
The entertainment park
Web sites in this category engage visitors in activities that demand a high degree of participation while offering entertainment. Many use games to market products and enhance corporate image. These sites have the potential to generate experiential flow, because they provide various degrees of challenge to visitors.
They are interactive and often involve elements and environments that promote telepresence experiences. The activities in the entertainment park often have the character of a contest, where awards can be distributed through the network. These attractors are interactive, recreational, and challenging. The potential competitive advantages gained through these attractors are high traffic potential and creation or enforcement of an image of a dynamic, exciting, and friendly corporation.
Examples in this category include:
• GTE Laboratories' Fun Stuff part of its Web site, which includes Web versions of the popular games Minesweeper, Rubik's cube, and a 3D maze for Web surfers to navigate
• The Kellogg Company's site lets young visitors pick a drawing and colour it by selecting from a palette and clicking on segments of the picture
• Visitors to Karakas VanSickle Ouellette Advertising and Public Relations can engage in the comical Where's Pierre game and win a T-shirt by discovering the whereabouts of Pierre Ouellette, KVO's creative big cheese
• Joe Boxer uses unusual effects and contests for gaining attention. For solving an advanced puzzle, winners gain supplies of virtual underwear. Instructions such as "Press the eyeball and you will return to the baby" are a blend of insanity and advertising genius.
Archive sites provide their visitors with opportunities to discover the historical aspects of the company's activities. Their appeal lies in the instant and universal access to interesting information and the visitor's ability to explore the past, much like museums or maybe even more like the more recently created exploratoria.
The credibility of a well-established image is usually the foundation of a successful archive, and building and reinforcing this corporate image is the main marketing role of the archive. The strength of these attractors is that they are difficult to imitate, and often impossible to replicate. They draw on an already established highly credible feature of the company, and they bring an educational potential, thus reinforcing public relations aspects of serving the community with valuable information.
The major weakness is that they often lack interactivity and are static and less likely to attract repeat visits. The potential competitive advantage gained through these attractors is the building and maintenance of the image of a trusted, reputable, and well-established corporation.
Examples in this category include:
• Ford's historical library of rare photos and a comprehensive story of the Ford Motor Company
• Boeing's appeal to aircraft enthusiasts by giving visitors a chance to find out more about its aircraft through pictures, short articles on new features, and technical explanations
• Hewlett-Packard's site where everyone can check out the Palo Alto garage in which Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started the firm.
An organization may be the exclusive sponsor of an event of public interest, and use its Web site to extend its audience reach. Thus, we find on the Internet details of sponsored sporting competitions and broadcasts of special events such as concerts, speeches, and the opening of art exhibitions. Sponsorship attractors have broad traffic potential and can attract many visitors in short periods.
They can enhance the image of the corporation through the provision of timely, exclusive, and valuable information. However, the benefits of the Web site are lost unless the potential audience learns of its existence. This is a particular problem for short-term events when there is limited time to create customer awareness. Furthermore, the information on the Web site must be current. Failure to provide up-to-the-minute results for many sporting events could have an adverse effect on the perception of an organization.
Examples of sponsorship include:
• Texaco publishes the radio schedule for the Metropolitan Opera, which it sponsors on National Public Radio
• Coca-Cola gives details of Coke-sponsored concerts and sporting events
• Planet Reebok includes interviews with the athletes it sponsors. The Web site permits visitors to post questions to coaches and players.
A Web site can provide a venue for advertisers excluded from other media. For instance, cigarette manufacturer
Rothmans, the sponsor of the Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro yacht race, has a Web site devoted to this sporting event.
The town hall
The traditional town hall has long been a venue for assembly where people can hear a famous person speak, attend a conference, or participate in a seminar. The town hall has gone virtual, and these public forums are found on the Web. These attractors can have broad traffic potential when the figure is of national importance or is a renowned specialist in a particular domain.
Town halls have a potentially higher level of interactivity and participation and can be more engaging than sponsorship. However, there is the continuing problem of advising the potential audience of who is appearing. There is a need for a parallel bulletin board to notify interested attendees about the details of town hall events. Another problem is to find a continual string of drawing card guests.
Examples in this category are:
• Tripod, a resource center for college students, has daily interviews with people from a wide variety of areas. Past interviews are archived under categories of Living, Travel, Work, Health, Community, and Money.
• CMP Publications Inc., a publisher of IT magazines (e.g., InformationWeek ), hosts a Cyberforum, where an IT guru posts statements on a topic (e.g., Windows 2000) and responds to issues raised by readers.
People have a need to be part of a group and have satisfactory relationships with others. For some people, a Web club can satisfy this need. These are places to hang out with your friends or those with similar interests. On the
Internet, the club is an electronic community, which has been a central feature of the Internet since its foundation.
Typically, visitors have to register or become members to participate, and they often adopt electronic personas when they enter the club. Web clubs engage people because they are interactive and recreational. Potentially, these attractors can increase company loyalty, enhance customer feedback, and improve customer service through members helping members.
• Snapple Beverage Company gives visitors the opportunity to meet each other with personal ads (free) that match people using attributes such as favourite Snapple flavour
• Zima's loyalty club, Tribe Z, where members can access exclusive areas of the site
• Apple's EvangeList, a bulletin board for maintaining the faith of Macintosh devotees.
An interesting extension of this attractor is the electronic trade show, with attached on-line chat facilities in the form of a MUD (multiuser dungeon) or MOO (multiuser dungeon object oriented). Here visitors can take on roles and exchange opinions about products offered at the show.
The gift shop
Gifts and free samples nearly always get attention. Web gifts typically include digitized material such as software, photographs, digital paintings, research reports, and non-digital offerings. Often, gifts are provided as an explicit bargain for dialogue participation.
• Ameritech's Claude Monet exhibition where you can download digital paintings
• Kodak's library of colorful, high-quality digital images that are downloadable
• Ragu Foods offers recipes, Italian-language lessons, merchandise, and stories written by Internet users. You can e-mail a request for product coupons. There is culture, too, in the form of an architectural tour of a typical Pompeiian house
• MCA/Universal Cyberwalk offers audio and video clips from upcoming Universal Pictures' releases, and a virtual tour of Uni versal Studios, Hollywood's new ride based on Back to the Fture. There is even a downloadable coupon hidden in the area that will let you bypass the line for the ride at the theme park
One noteworthy subspecies of the gift is the software utility or update. Many software companies distribute upgrades and complimentary freeware or shareware via their Web site. In some situations, this can generate overwhelming traffic for one or two weeks. Because some software vendors automatically notify registered customers by e-mail whenever they add an update or utility, such sites can have bursts of excessively high attractiveness.
The freeway intersections or portals
Web sites that provide advanced information processing services (e.g., search engines) can become n-dimensional
Web freeway intersections with surfers coming and going in all directions, and present significant advertising opportunities because the traffic flow is intense--rather like traditional billboard advertising in Times Square or Piccadilly Circus. Search engines, directories, news centers, and electronic malls can attract hundreds of thousands of visitors in a day. Some of these sites are entry points to the Web for many people, and are known as portals. These portals are massive on-ramps to the Internet. A highly successful portal, such as America Online, attracts a lot of traffic. Within this category, we also find sites that focus upon specific customer segments and try to become their entry points to the Web. Demography and geography are possible approaches to segmentation. The goal is to create a one-stop resource center. First movers who do the job well are likely to gain a long-term competitive advantage because they have secured prime real estate, or what conventional retailers might call a virtual location.
• Yahoo!, a hierarchical directory of Web sites
• ISWorld, an entry point to serve the needs of information systems academics and students
• AltaVista, a Web search engine originally operated by Digital as a means of promoting its Alpha servers
The customer service center
By directly meeting their information needs, a Web site can be highly attractive to existing customers. Many organizations now use their Web site to support the ownership phase of the customer service life cycle. For instance, Sprint permits customers to check account balances, UPS has a parcel tracking service, many software companies support downloading of software updates and utilities, and many provide answers to FAQs or frequently asked questions. The Web site is a customer service center. When providing service to existing customers, the organization also has the opportunity to sell other products and services. A visitor to the Apple Web site, for example, may see the special of the week displayed prominently.
Organizations are taking a variety of approaches to making their Web sites attractive to a range of stakeholders.
Web sites can attract a broad audience, some of whom are never likely to purchase the company's wares, but could influence perceptions of the company, and certainly increase word-of-mouth communication, which could filter through to significant real customers. Other Web sites focus on serving one particular stakeholder--the customer.
They can aim to increase market share by stimulating traffic to their site or to increase the share of the customer by providing superior service. Of course, an organization is not restricted to using one form of attractor. It makes good sense to take a variety of approaches so as to maximize the attractiveness of a site and to meet the diverse needs of Web surfers. For example, Tripod uses a variety of attractors to draw traffic to its site. By making the site a drawing card for college students, Tripod can charge advertisers higher rates. As Exhibit 21 illustrates, there are some gaps. Tripod is not an archive or the exclusive sponsor of an event.
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