STAGES IN THE EVOLUTION OF AN E-BUSINESS: the spiral
- INTERNET PRESENCE
- EXISTING PROCESSES ONLINE
- E COMMERCE
- CUSTOMER SERVICE
- REFINED/NEW PROCESSES
- NEW BUSINESS
Most customers start with an attempt to have a presence on the web. This is usually static and consists of general information such as information about the company, available online, instead of on paper. It may also include some limited collaboration, between customers and the company, usually in the form of e-mail, discussion groups, or other forms of limited information exchange or interaction.
Existing process on-line:
The company then moves to put some of their existing business process online. This may translate to allowing customers tracking order status, or product/service availability/stock status or it may mean even accepting orders from existing authenticated customers online. However usually accepting payments or starting new accounts may not come in at this stage. In this second stage, the web site owners try to improve communication. If they did not have email availability on the site previously, they added it. If they already had e-mail then they look to add other enhancements, like directing, mail filtering and auto-replies. They may add features like chat or make their own discussion groups more useful and effective by making them granular. This is where the earlier mentioned “collaboration" element comes into its own.
It is in the third stage that e commerce solutions and features are added to the website. The result being customers can actually transact traditional business like buying something online and pay for it. This enables the site owners to expand their customer base and therefore their business. This is the most crucial phase as it helps small companies to actually take their business global and become global players, as is normally done by the large ones.
Customer service puts the interests and importance of the customer front and center. CSAT is important at every stage, however, it is particularly important to make the website very customer centric at this stage. It has to be useful to its visitors so that the customer loyalty will grow and become more durable. This is normally achieved through personalization (notifications, special offers etc) or by enabling extranet features such as access to customer specific information viz. Order entry, status, problem resolutions.
The websites generate millions of items of data. The site owners will want to know what all this information will mean for their business and whether it will translate to better business. This is where BI comes in. It lets them fine-tune who they’re attracting and what they have to do to improve their business, such as what offers to post for the kind of traffic they’re attracting etc. On the web, gratification is instantaneous/immediate and you can tell if the campaigns are successful in short order (ref. MC)
The website now becomes a very important and inherent part of the companies business. It becomes imperative to integrate the website with rest of their IT, taking advantage of what they have learned and the knowledge of what they can now achieve on the Web. This is achieved by refining the Web based business processes and creating new ones.
Ultimately, the use of the web as an integral part of the company’s business processes may even enable the company to enter into a whole new business or create unique businesses.
Not every customer we may come across may adhere to the phases described above, or even go through every stage. Some skip stages or go through them in some other order. Today, we see more and more companies who did not even have a website going head-on into web-based self-service or e-commerce. They skip right through Web presence (if they did not have one) to directly go to web self-service or e-commerce. It is also common to see e-commerce precede Web self-service. We need not hesitate to suggest/recommend a more aggressive path through the cycle or a step out of order if it solves a high-priority problem for a particular customer.
Part of this, is the pressure of more and more businesses becoming aware of the importance of the Web. But it is also the availability of more technology and more ways to accomplish solutions. Today we’re far ahead of the early days of the Web when each site meant an investment of millions of dollars, months or years of effort and highly skilled programmers to do anything. Now, even companies with no IT department at all can outsource their web needs to specialists in Internet solutions ( like Kanoon/Drona) and find a fast and cost-effective solution.
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