Electronic Commerce 101

Electronic Commerce is the buying and selling of products and services via the Internet. E-Commerce sites range from a simple page with products and a phone number, to real-time credit card processing for downloadable products such as software and music, and even to sophisticated auction sites acting as marketplaces. The most convenient aspect of e-commerce is the freedom from time zones and time restrictions. It allows the ability for one to shop and procure items anytime of day. The Internet consultancy, eMarketer, reports that the number of active business sites in the U.S. engaging in e-commerce activities has grown to significantly.

Common buzzwords divide the industry into two areas of focus:
B2B represents business to business transactions and B2C represents business to consumer transactions. B2B e-commerce projections for 2003 range from $1.2 trillion to $10 trillion. B2B encompasses e-commerce, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and supply chain management, to name a few. Large corporations such as GE and Citicorp are developing their own e-commerce/procurement business sites to bring all the players together in a particular sector. Using aerospace as an example, Boeing, Lockheed, Loral Inc., would be able to buy and sell equipment, recruit engineers, auction older airplanes, find the optimal leasing/financing option, and perform many other business functions all on one site. This process would be more cost-effective and ultimately increase communication.

B2C e-commerce projections for 2001 surpass $17.8 billion. B2C web sites complement traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. Kmart is an example of a traditional store that has an e-commerce web site to complement itself. Amazon.com has branded itself as a stand-alone e-commerce, with no affiliation with a traditional store. Today, entrepreneurs have the ability to start B2C sites with very little upstart cost. With a product niche and strong business plan, one can layout the concept of a web site, get it professionally designed, and ultimately launch an online business. Online marketing is also extremely helpful, but must be incorporated successfully into the scheme of the business.

Finding your way in the EC world
With the dot-com explosion has come a new breed of job titles encompassing both worlds, B2B and B2C. It still stands to reason that there are two paths offered: business and technical positions. On the business side, employees tend to work in the following arenas: Business Development, Account/Client Development, Consulting Services, Sales, Marketing, Online Marketing, and Public Relations. Executive management titles include Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Technical Officer.

The most common technical and creative titles include Webmaster, Applications Programmer, Content Developer, Engineer, Designer, Project Manager, System Admin, Database Development, QA, Network Support, Graphic Designer, Art Producer, Video Editor, and Sound Editor, among others.

Succeeding in Business Development
First of all, you need to start with a great product. It’s hard to sell or develop new business relationships if the product cannot sell itself. You should be the instrument to market it and bring it into the limelight. It’s your job to educate a client on the benefits of your product. Become familiar with the product to the point of being able to talk about it in your sleep. When giving a product presentation, the information should be second nature to you.
Learn every facet of the business and get to know the key players within your own organization. Treat your upper management as your favorite client. Be mentally prepared with your product knowledge and listen to your clients. Your sincerity – or lack thereof – will definitely shine through any phone call, presentation, or meeting. Research and understand your target audience before meeting with the decision-making executives. Preparation is extremely important, as it may make or break the deal.

If you do not have answers to clients’ questions, tell them that you will look into the matter and call them back. Never let them know that you are not prepared with the right answers. They may start to question your ability or even the strength of the product. Remember, your client is a lifelong friend. Nurture each business relationship as it will lead to referrals and help increase your business. Communicating with clients on a scheduled basis prevents problems from arising. The worst feeling is having done business with clients, only to lose site of their progress. Keep a calendar of your clients’ special events and stay in touch.