G&DA banner.gif (26773 bytes)

George Matyjewicz (10051 bytes)

George Matyjewicz
George Matyjewicz, 
Chief E-Commerce Officer for Silk Road Gifts, Inc.
 is a veteran of the Internet and computer field. He can be reached at (770) 752-7022 Ext 821 or e-mail to georgem(at)gapent.com
 
Contacts:
Silk Road Gifts, Inc.
1250 Broadway
15th Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 560-7800
b
 
USGift.com
233 Peachtree Street
Harris Tower
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 836-8900
 
Netship
Anapolis, MD
(800) 472-6332
 
Shipper.com
City of Industry, California
(888) 472-6332
 
ifulfill.com
Dundee, Michigan
(888) 883-8046
 
Live Person
462 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10018
(917) 210-9000
 
Pipe Live
1233 Walt Whitman Road
Melville, NY 11747
(800) 768-0072
 
George Matyjewicz
Alpharetta, GA 30022
(770) 752-7022 Ext 821
E-Commerce Solutions:
Creating a B2B Web Site: 
What You Need To Know

This is the year for business-to-business (B2B) Web sites, because thatís where the revenue and profits are, according to e-commerce consultant George Matyjewicz. .

Determine what you want to do online. Who is your target customer? Why should someone do business with you? What differentiates you from online competition? Where is your sales territory? What is your order minimum? How do you handle re-orders? How up-to-date are your back office order processing, inventory and accounting systems?

Donít rely on your understanding of the market. Hold a series of focus groups with your target audience and listen to what they say they want. Focus groups are relatively inexpensive -- $5,000 to $7,000 each, and you should do three. They are among the best investments you can ever make. Ask participants if they will purchase from you online, how do they find you now and what would convince them to come to your site.

The Internet is a global market, which can potentially give you international business and create related issues. Do you want that - or do you only want domestic business? Do you presently sell factory-direct or through wholesalers or distributors? Are they able to handle a different mix of customers and orders? Recently online fulfillment services have emerged, that can fulfill your orders, even if you are a small manufacturer or distributor. Netship.com, shipper.com and ifulfill.com are three that will handle companies with less than $10 million in sales (or less than 50 orders a day). For larger companies, Fingerhut and Ingram are two to consider. For a recent manufacturer-client in China that sells direct to retailers, we partnered with USGift.com, an online service that targets retailers with annual sales between $500,000 and $5 million. That company will consolidate retail orders, place a larger order, and ship the smaller orders. Win-win for all.

Your site. Consider what to include in your site. Terminology and convenience of use are paramount. Split your site into two sections: one for those discovering you for the first time, and one for existing customers who donít need to see your promotion. Be sure the buyer using your site can navigate between products and categories easily. A good rule to follow is "two clicks to find, three clicks to buy." Focus on your core business and avoid the temptation to stray -- like accepting banner ads from others.

Communications and support. Our focus groups told us that the number one concern was communication, knowing when there were delivery issues, being able to contact somebody and get a prompt response (preferably from the same person) by e-mail, fax or telephone. Donít think that a Web site will require less support. Since the Net is global, and since folks like the convenience of "shopping" at their convenience, you may need 24/7 support to answer questions via e-mail, online "live person" discussions and offline telephone calls. "Live person" technology allows one of your customer support reps (CSR) to chat with a customer online, to answer specific questions and pass additional promotional products to the customer. Two companies offering this service are Live Person and Pipe Live. It works wonders for supporting and add-on sales.

Develop a marketing or branding strategy. Do you want to sell unique product to your customers under their brand? Or do you want to promote your brand? How much of the market do you want to own? (Venture Capitalists want you to own 30 percent of the market). Itís harder to promote B2B sites; trade shows and magazines are the two most popular ways. And donít forget to build an online community where folks with like interest can gather and share ideas. Think about having experts online.

Comfort and trust. For customers to buy from you, they must be comfortable doing business with you, trust your products and that you are going to be around for awhile. Tell them who you are, what you do and why they should do business with you.

Avoid the latest and greatest. Content is still king! Customers would rather know more about you and your products than how pretty your site looks. Avoid meaningless graphics or "splash pages", i.e., pages that come up without any links to other sections, or that only have a statement or graphic. Also, many people still use slow modems, and lower capacity machines and cannot tolerate streaming videos or java scripts. Unless you are selling music, forget sound in a B2B site. Test your site on different browsers. Netscape works differently than Internet Explorer which works differently that AOL. Features that look great on your machine may not work on others.

Confidentiality is a concern, not only with financial information, but also when they submit an idea. Make a privacy statement.

Quality products are mandatory for success. Online customers cannot touch and feel the products, so you need to convey the fact that you do quality work and that they can get samples before they buy. But, control sampling, so you know who ordered what and that they donít order more samples. Consider a policy that will apply the cost of the sample toward the purchase.

George Matyjewicz, Chief E-Commerce Officer for Silk Road Gifts, Inc. is a veteran of the Internet and computer field. He can be reached at (770) 752-7022 Ext 821 or e-mail to georgem(at)gapent.com

###