A recent report done by Yankee Group, a Boston-based market research company, states that at the end of 2004 around 34 percent of small and medium sized businesses in North America are selling goods and services on the Internet and another 25 percent is planning to do so within next 12 months. Online sales in the United States represented 8.4 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2004. This figure is increasingly rising. This means, if your company is not paying serious attention to this vital channel of sales and marketing, you are simply missing the boat.
In its basic form a website is a bundle of pages full of texts, graphics and other electronic files published on the Internet for people to view. How you organize your website depends totally on your online goals. Websites are built for various purposes. You can use a website as a sales point, a marketing channel, a corporate image building tool, a branding channel, an information center, a CRM center, a product launching center, and for number of other reasons. When you plan to build a website, you should base your online strategy keeping in mind two things: your online objectives and your potential audience.
SOME OF THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF CORPORATE WEBSITES ARE:
Information providing sites
Most of today’s sites fall in this category. The simplest of them are actually mere reflection of offline corporate brochures.
Promoting company The idea behind some of information-driven sites is to give maximum information related to the company. A holding company, for example, may prefer to have a site like this. These sites usually include: company history, company related news, mission statement, profiles of key executives, a good FAQ section, etc. Graphics are used in these sites only to accentuate the text information. However, the sites may include video and FLASH presentation as well.
Promoting products or services A pharmaceutical company to promote its recently launched medicine may develop a website surrounding the product. The sole purpose of this type of sites is to create awareness of specific products or services.
Creating brand awareness A manufacturing company that sells its products exclusively through distributing channel may develop a website to provide ultimate information on the products and create brand. These sites complement company’s offline promotional efforts and always built in consistence with other commercials.
Online sales are done through the e-commerce sites. Main characteristics of an e-commerce site include:
1. Detail products or services information with pictures and sometimes with multimedia presentations, drawings, charts, etc. 2. Shopping cart – so that the buyer can select one or several items to purchase. 3. Payment gateway – so that the buyer can make payments for the products or services purchased.
A Website that offers a broad range of resources and services such as email, forums, company pertinent news & articles, members only area, etc. is generally called a portal. Portals are intended to be the gateway for their respective audience.
Business to Business Exchange is an online platform where buyers and sellers come to communicate, collaborate and make business transactions. The main objective of a B2B Exchange is to create a venue, filled with features that allow members to efficiently conduct business processes through the Internet. A private B2B exchange is a corporate portal with a marketplace. It is designed to provide services to the company’s own buyers, sellers and workforce.
Before starting to build your website you should first develop a plan in line with your online objectives, target audience and resources. You can write your plan thoroughly as a storyboard. A storyboard is something similar to a flowchart of all the website components you deem necessary. Once you have a clear picture of what you are going to build, sit with your developers and create a technical scope of the project. This is absolutely necessary! In most of the cases your entrepreneurial vision will differ drastically with the way a programmer look into your requirement.
While working on your scope or even after publishing your website bear in mind the following crucial aspects of effective websites:
Page loading time In the euphoria of having a great slick website, often, we use images that make the pages too heavy. A page which takes just one second to load with T1 speed will need full 55 seconds to load with a 28.8 modem. Web surfers are impatient bunch of click-happy people; they don’t like to wait too long! Make sure you optimize each and every page of your website before launching the site! Otherwise, you will loose a large portion of your would-be visitors for nothing!
- Look at your pages from a visitor’s prospective. - Eliminate all images that are not so important to deliver your messages. - Optimize the remaining images with available tools. - FLASH images are may be cool, don’t use them just because they are cool. Use them wisely. Host your website in a server with a good bandwidth.
Navigation Your website’s links should be well-defined, persistent, and easily visible. If the site is large with many pages, you must have a site map page. Remember that not all visitors will land to your homepage, in order to keep them browsing through your site make navigation from your main landing pages as easy as possible. Try giving them compelling reasons to do so by using catchy links. Also, make sure that all your links work correctly and take a visitor to right place.
Webpage consistency All your web pages should have one consistent look. This will give your website a professional appearance, and visitors while browsing through your site will always know that they are still on your website.
Content is the king If you want your visitors to return back to your site, regularly add fresh, relevant and quality content to your website. Internet users are information hungry people, feed them with fresh information on a regular basis and you will have good number of loyal visitors to your website.
If you already have a website make sure you optimize your website from user’s point of view. According to Gartner, a market research company, even a minor investment in improving the usability of a company website will yield an annual return of 10 to 20 per cent. It increases brand awareness, leads to higher user adoption rates and possibly more transactions per user. Average order size starts to rise and the site generates more return visits from customers.
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Nowshade Kabir is the founder, primary developer and present CEO of Rusbiz.com. You can contact him at mailto:nowshade[at]rusbiz.com, http://ezine.rusbiz.com , http://www.rusbiz.com
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