IMS has solutions for "web enabling " businesses

E-Commerce opportunities for ISP's

Q.gif (1032 bytes)Now you have a cheap traffic plan (see outline) so how we propose to solicit  merchants for hosting and product displays at the EcomCity project?

A.gif (896 bytes)Help them to build a better mouse trap!

E-commerce initatives take planning and teamwork

IMS suggests the process of establishing an E-commerce site into three basic building blocks: Strategic Analysis, E-com Technology, and a dynamic studio test bed. If you are interested in pursuing business opportunities in E-commerce, you will have to offer all three of these blocks to your clients -- plus expertise in organizational issues, selling, marketing, and merchandising. And that means a strong consultative selling approach, with the muscle in your organization (or through partnering arrangements) to back it up. Good telemarketing skills will also help.

E-commerce is not just about technology, any more than designing a good Web site is just about graphics. The successful E-commerce solutions providers are as much business and marketing consultants as they are masters of the hardware and software tools that make them possible. True E-commerce is built around a solid plan.

So the value proposition you offer -- and deliver -- to clients must include a whole lot of strategic consulting, organizational training, ROI analysis, "how to sell over the web" advice and many other knowledge-based services well before (and after) you start pulling the technology together and designing the site. Those who limit themselves to the technical and presentation design aspects of the process are not really E-commerce solutions providers, and will not be in a position to capture the next wave of clients.

Being an E-commerce business expert is critical for finding clients in today's E-commerce world.

That's because many of the early adopters of  E-commerce sites had a pretty good handle on Strategic Analysis and processes from a sales and marketing process standpoint (or were able to muddle their way through to a solution). Therefore, what they primarily outsourced was the Technology and Studio blocks -- hardware, software, design, maintenance, and hosting.

Today's low hanging fruit is the next wave of businesses who want (or think they should) be on the Web, but who have much less sophistication in the strategic, organizational and marketing processes involved. They will rely much more on their outsourced suppliers to help them than the first wave. Being able to provide these services is your ticket to grabbing a share. They also need second generation web access for themselves and their branch locations.

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The prospective clients you target must meet a set of criteria that will enable you to be successful. They must have products and services that lend themselves to non-direct contact selling. They must be dealing with business or end user customers, who are confident in dealing on-line -- often, the same types who were perfectly comfortable ordering over the phone. They must have some basic systems in place for handling direct orders. What they don't need to be (and, your ideal client won't be) are E-commerce business experts: that's your job. Direct ship order fulfillment from the supply chain and trading partners definitely helps sell the concept.

What they'll look to you for is expertise in a variety of areas. Here are just a few:

  • What other companies and competitors in your client's line of business are doing on the web, and how what you do for them can be better.
  • Setting appropriate expectations for the site by clearly defining objectives, and establishing appropriate measurement criteria.
  • Establishing a clear evolution path for the site, to complement more and more of the company's core activities and customer relationship and support programs.
  • What has to be done organizationally by the client to prepare for and engage in e-commerce?
  • What selling chain and trading community is in place for their industry?
  • Maintaining security -- not just with hardware and software tools, but with appropriate employee policies and procedures.
  • The best selling systems and procedures applicable to the web and how these can be melded into existing telephone based approaches.
  • Tips and tricks to increase usage of a site, and to up-sell and cross-sell.
  • How to get the word out about the site.
  • Legal aspects of doing business on the web, including implications of European legislation on e-commerce in the U.S. Overseas opportunities for marketing or direct imports.

And the list goes on, and on. Point is you need to go into the customer with a mindset -- and capabilities -- prepared to deal with all the issues related to getting into E-commerce. And, there's a big payoff for this: It's one big way to turn what might have been a one shot project into a continuing revenue stream by actually helping on an ongoing basis with the marketing and business processes, not just hosting, maintenance, hardware and software enhancements. The more you're integrated into a client's organization as the experts in all three of the building blocks the more work they'll ask you to do.

So how do you broaden your and your employee skills to do this?

Actually, you're staring at it, right now as you read this: the Web. There's a host of extremely valuable information on business and marketing issues, tips and tricks, and commercial and government publications available on the web. Just run a search on e-commerce, and you'll see. Look to IMS as a  E-commerce solutions provider that offers up some good ideas on how to position ISPs to prospective clients.

The key is to integrate this data and knowledge into the same sort of structured organizational development and training program you use to keep yourself and your employees up to date on the latest technical advances and products. E-commerce tools that are easy for merchants to use, both browser and DBMS interfaced, with plenty of add-on revenue producing options is the way to go. Hosted e-commerce sites tend to stick with their original hosting service providers as long as they can provide the technical support and keep up with rapid advancements in cart/merchant services. It will pay off in a tremendous competitive advantage for ISP/hosting services!

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