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Overview of E-Business
Investing in E-Business
Am I ready for e-business?
The following lists can be used to help you decide if you are ready for e-business.
Assess Your Company
• Are your customers comfortable with the Internet?
• Are your customers asking if you have a website?
• Can you attract new customers through e-business?
• What is the potential market for your products and services?
• Do your suppliers have websites?
• Are your suppliers asking if you have a website?
• How easy would it be to describe your products or services on the Internet?
• How easy would it be to advertise your products and services online?
• Could you sell your products or services on the Internet?
Assess Different E-Business Options
• Assess what you know about e-business.
Do you understand the different types of options available to you?
• Consult with your local business community about e-business.
• Look at e-business options typically used by similar businesses.
You may want to consult with a business or industry association representative.
• Look at websites of small businesses to see what e-business options they have used.
• Assess the pricing models and costs of various e-business options.
Assess Your Competition
• Go to your competitors’ websites.
• Consider how your website could provide you with a competitive advantage.
Assess How E-Business Could Improve Your Business
• Consider what you want e-business to do for your business (e.g. expand your company beyond the local market, increase efficiencies, reduce costs, provide better customer service, facilitate business dealings with other businesses, advertise your products, etc.).
• Weigh the potential benefits with the costs of suitable e-business options.
• Decide on an e-business option or set of options. Consider starting in small steps with a flexible solution that can be built upon as you go.
Click the following button to see a list of things to consider before adopting e-business.
• Do you have Internet access?
• Do you have an e-mail account and a domain name?
• If you are considering an e-commerce solution, consider delivery methods, shipping costs and scheduling.
• If you are trying to attract customers beyond your local market area consider export requirements such as permits, insurance, and tariffs.
• Consider your marketing strategies for attracting people to your website.
• Evaluate whether you and your staff have enough knowledge to adopt your e-business solution. Does your staff require additional training?
• Do you have enough staff?
• Assess whether you have the right equipment (i.e. computer hardware and software) in place.
• Consider privacy and security issues. Do you have a system in place to back-up your information and protect you from computer viruses?
Reasons to Invest in E-Business
Click on the tabs below to learn the top 10 reasons to invest in e-business.
10. You Can’t Afford Not To
The costs of not doing e-business include loss of customers to competitors with good websites and loss of potential revenue.
There are also many existing tools and software, many designed for small businesses, that offer you low-cost solutions to meet your business needs.
9. Better Business Deals
It can help you find better business deals. You can use the Internet to find information about products, services and suppliers.
It provides you with quick access to product reviews and cost comparisons.
8. Increased Sales
It can increase your sales.
A website can increase your sales by providing a larger market, by making it easier for customers and suppliers to look at your products and services, and by making it easier for people to buy your products.
7. Improved Marketing Strategies
It enables you to improve your marketing strategies.
With the Internet, it’s easier to summarize and analyze information about customers visiting and buying from your website. You can use this information to modify your promotional strategies to maximize sales.
6. New Markets
It can help you reach new markets. People are increasingly using the Internet to find information and to conduct transactions.
Depending on your goals, the Internet can help you target new customers, including customers beyond your local market. Even if you don’t sell anything online, a website makes it easier for potential customers to find you.
5. Customer Service
It enhances customer service. The Internet allows you to give customers more choices while offering them quick and easy access to information about your business.
E-mail and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are two examples of simple, cost-effective tools that can improve your customer relations. Plus, the Internet allows you to service clients 24/7!
4. Distribution of Information
It enables quick and widespread distribution of information. By using a website that can be easily updated, you will be able to quickly supply customers with current information.
For example, you can change your products and prices more quickly and efficiently on the Web compared to a print-based catalogue.
It allows small businesses to compete with larger businesses.
From the vantage point of the customer, a professional Web presence can make your business comparable to larger competitors and enhance the credibility of your business.
2. Cost Reduction
It can reduce costs. E-business can reduce costs by decreasing the time it takes to complete business processes. Invoices can be processed quickly and accurately.
Studies show that an automated system can save two-thirds of the costs involved in manually processing a customer order.
1. Business Process Efficiency
It can make business processes more efficient. It can help improve the speed and accuracy of transactions.
For example, an online ordering system can eliminate or reduce manual paper work and telephone order taking.
Cost of Doing E-Business
E-business can involve costs associated with website design and development, hardware and software (both capital and ongoing maintenance costs), Internet access, and security (e.g. back-up in case of data loss, protection from unauthorized access to information, virus protection).
You should familiarize yourself with the features and services that are associated with the costs. With respect to website design and web hosting, you shouldn’t pay for more features than you need or will likely need in the near future.
For example, if you have a basic informational website to complement your regular business operations, 24-hour phone support is not necessary.
Investing in E-Business
The costs of e-business services and products vary considerably. For small business, there are many existing low-cost e-business and e-commerce alternatives that are likely to meet your needs, such as creating a company blog or dedicated page on social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.
The Web is an effective tool for conducting market research. You can search the Web for information about products and services, suppliers, competitors and marketing ideas.
According to the Nielsen NetRatings Search Engine Ratings, some of the most popular search engines and directories include:
LinkedIn is another website useful for business and employee information . Explore LinkedIn and find ways to build professional networks, recruit employees, locate suppliers and market your business.
Finding Business Information Online
The following list outlines some basic tips for helping you find business information online.
1. Information Needed
Determine what kind of information you need (such as product information, supplier information, information about competitors, information about e-business service providers).
2. Search Engine
Use a search engine to research information about a supplier or a company by entering keywords, phrases, type of service or product, or the name of a company you are looking for.
Encyclopedias, phone directories, yellow pages, newspapers, magazines and libraries can all be found online.
3. Geographic Area
Try including information about the geographic area in which you are interested to narrow the search results.
If you want detailed reviews on a product or service, you can use a search engine and type in the product name adding the keyword “review” (e.g. “review running shoes”). Many online magazines and newspapers also provide online content that can help you find industry specific expert knowledge
5. Bookmark Searches
A search should yield a number of results. If you are likely to use the search results again, bookmark them (Click on ’Add to Favourites’) in your web browser.
6. Alternative Searches
If you still cannot find what you are looking for, consider trying another search engine or ask a question on one of the specialized discussion forums on the Internet. Chances are, people have had the same questions as you and can help.
Finding Products and Services for Your Business
There are a number of benefits to finding products and services online. It can help you to quickly identify products and services that meet your needs. It allows you to comparison shop more efficiently and to figure out the best prices.
Many business products are described on Wikipedia, an online free content encyclopaedia .
Many suppliers, large and small, have websites with information about their products. They may also be set up for electronic purchasing transactions.
Business portals, on the other hand, give you access to a wide range of businesses on one website, decreasing the need to search each company website.
Business portals are websites that bring buyers and sellers together. Some of these websites match buyers and sellers, while other websites auction off products and services.
Product and Service Information
Click the buttons to learn about the key online sources for finding product and service information.
Review sites are websites where reviews of consumer products (e.g. electronics, appliances, books) and services (e.g. restaurants, Internet service providers) are posted, such as yelp.com and epinions.com.
There are also review sites that focus on professionals such as lawyers and accountants. A word of caution: because many reviews are posted anonymously, they can often be advertisements by the company itself.
Most auction sites act as hosts for other businesses or individuals. The host company organizes the site and provides product information, displays the product and processes payments online. A fee is charged to list the product or service.
The processes for buying and selling vary across auction sites, so make sure you familiarize yourself with these techniques by visiting the auction websites. Some auction websites have a feedback system allowing buyers to rate products or services.
Directories are a type of business portal. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with e-marketplaces. They can connect you to various businesses and types of products. These sites can be linked to detailed information (online catalogues) about the product including photos, specifications and prices. There are catalogues for specific industries and regions.
These are best found by using a search engine and searching for the specific industry, for example “steel industry product directory”. There are also product directories that can connect you to other businesses on the Web.
Company websites typically provide information about their products and services and prices. The websites also provide information about the company. Some websites also have e-commerce options, allowing you to buy the products online.
If you don’t know the names of the companies, you can use search engines (use keywords to describe the product or service) or you can ask other businesses about suppliers they use.
Finding Credible Suppliers
The following tips will provide some guidelines for finding credible suppliers.
If you are thinking of purchasing online, check to see if the financial transaction process has the appropriate security features to protect data.
• The supplier may have been reviewed on a review site. You can use a search engine to find out as much as you can about the supplier. A search for the name of the company or product will usually result in a large amount of information including feedback from consumers of that product.
• A supplier that responds to customer problems, and has published information about common problems or troubleshooting on their website, makes a good impression.
• If you are buying through an Internet auction, the reputation of the seller will be shown on the site itself.
Check to see if the website has a review process in place to protect against fraudulent businesses.
• A credible supplier will usually have a website.
• Check to see if the website has a section that allows you to provide feedback on the product or service.
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