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15 Reasons to Put Your Business On-line

1. It is Inexpensive.

Setting up and maintaining a web site can be a very inexpensive proposition - particularly when compared to a traditional "brick and mortar" shop. Furthermore, the cost of processing an electronic transaction is a generally a small fraction of the cost of processing an order by phone or in person. Once put into service, a web site will pay dividends for many years into the future with a minimum of fuss and overhead.

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2. Improved Supply Chain Management.

Many companies are turning to the Internet to purchase the supplies and services that they rely on to operate their businesses. The Web is seen as a simpler, faster and less expensive alternative to traditional paper-based supply management processes. Even electronic data interchange (EDI), regarded just a few short years ago as cutting edge supply chain technology is on the verge of becoming obsolete as companies shift to a web-based architecture.

The Internet promises seamless connectivity, expedited shipments and streamlined tracking and monitoring capabilities. The paperwork and compatibility problems that have plagued supply departments for decades are giving way to real-time electronic order processing. With round-the-clock availability, "just-in-time" inventory management will begin to become a reality for millions of small businesses, allowing them to compete more effectively with their larger competitors.

3. Unlimited Inventory Capability.

The most successful on-line book, music and video retailers have shown that by having a "virtual inventory" of millions of titles, they can satisfy the demands of a vast and diverse audience. This capability has allowed aggressive "cyber-retailers" to quickly build market share.

Traditional retail establishments have obvious limitations on what they can reasonably offer in a store or catalogue. No store, for example, could reasonably house every known title. On-line storage, searching and retrieval capacity, on the other hand, is virtually unlimited. Companies like Amazon.com have exploited this fact to considerable advantage. Retail boundaries will continue to be redrawn over the next decade as the Internet redefines the industry.

4. Access to Millions of Potential Customers.

The World-Wide-Web opens your business up to literally millions of potential customers. Some estimates indicate that within the next decade, close to a billion people worldwide will have access to the Web. The implications of this are profound. Established and start-up companies alike are taking advantage of this incredible new marketing medium. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dell Computer, one of the early pioneers in Internet commerce now garners about $2.2 billion per year in annual sales from the Internet (see WSJ, December 7, 1998, Internet Supplement, "Click and Buy", George Anders, page R4).

5. Customers Expect It.

You rarely see a company advertisement anymore that is not accompanied by the familiar Internet address caption www.company.com. The momentum of the Internet is so extraordinarily powerful that it would be a grave mistake to underestimate its potential importance - regardless of the type of business you are in.

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6. Gateway to the World.

The Internet is by no means a U.S. phenomenon. The immediate electronic dispersal of breaking global news to remote destinations is a testimony to the far-reaching impact of the Internet. Businesses are quickly coming to realize that the Internet is becoming the portal to the world - breaking down marketing and communications barriers and opening up vast new global markets.

7. Open for Business 24 hours per day.

A good Internet site keeps on working 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Orders can be processed, information provided and marketing information gathered around the clock.

8. No Geographic Restrictions, Barriers or Boundaries.

Your company's web site will be as accessible to someone on the West Coast as it will be to someone in Middle America. A good Internet-based marketing program is an excellent way to expand the geographic scope of your business without the expense and complication of opening up and managing additional stores or offices.

9. Automatic Site Monitoring.

Recent Internet software developments include sophisticated site-monitoring features that allow users to evaluate the effectiveness of their sites on a daily basis. The Internet's electronic format enables business owners to gather and sort large quantities of raw information relating to the use of their Web site by prospective customers. With the proper tools, this information can be aggregated and used to develop valuable marketing statistics. In this way, Web sites can be continuously fine-tuned to reflect consumer reactions to specific promotions and offerings.

10. Electronic Payment and Order Processing.

On-line payment and order processing creates simple and rapid transactions. Electronic (debit and credit card) payments are immediate and becoming more secure by the day. From a small business perspective, electronic payments are favorable because of their positive impact on cash flow. Cash flow is enhanced as electronic payments are received at the point of sale. Of course other forms of non-electronic payment such as personal checks and cashier's checks are still common forms of payment - even in electronic commerce. As the Internet becomes more secure however, expect to see a much higher proportion of payments occurring electronically for Internet-based transactions.

11. Eliminate the Middleman.

The Internet can potentially reduce a company's reliance on middlemen. In the world of cyberspace, marketing agents, distributors and wholesalers can all be bypassed as businesses deal directly with global suppliers and customers.

12. The Internet is Interactive.

If your site is properly designed, customers will be able to conduct personalized product searches, communicate requests, desires and concerns, and receive post-sale support - all from the comfort of their home or office.

13. Maximum Impulse Potential.

Because shoppers can purchase your products on-line with a few clicks of a mouse, the step from window shopper to product owner is a small one. A well-scripted ad line can quickly convert browsers to paying customers.

14. No Shoplifting Potential.

You can leave your site unattended for hours or days with no fear of product shrinkage due to shoplifting or employee theft. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most retail establishments - many of which spend a considerable sum of money on security.

15. Ability to Customize Electronic Advertising.

The Internet allows astute companies to capture a substantial amount of detailed marketing information on customers and prospective customers. As business owners become more aware of the characteristics and preferences of their customer base, they will be in a position to tailor their advertisements to specific groups or individuals. These targeted advertisements can be sent instantaneously and virtually without cost to multiple customers.

Many companies set up electronic "guest lists", allowing visitors to "sign in" and receive product updates, electronic catalogues and other company information. Other companies take this a step further, providing prospective customers with special passwords that confer access to "exclusive" products and information (in exchange for a certain amount of detailed customer information).

How to Establish an On-line Presence

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