BUSINESS ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB

March 13, 1997 Electronic Commerce


Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, March 13, 1997, noon to 1 PM (US Eastern Time) These sessions are scheduled for noon-1 PM every Thursday.

These sessions are hosted by Richard Seltzer. If you would like to receive email reminders of our chat sessions, simply send a blank email message to businessonthewebchats-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/businessonthewebchats and sign up there.

For transcripts other previous sessions and a list of future topics, click here.

For an article on how to make "business chat" work (based on this experience), click here.

Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.


Threads (reconstructed after the fact):


Introductions

Richard Seltzer 11:37am (199.3.129.189)The scheduled chat is on Business on the WWW.If you are here for that discussion,please identify yourself.

We're here to share experiences about doing business on the Internet -- particularly the World Wide Web. What works? What doesn't work? Why? What are the trends that matter? How can you/should you adapt to the Internet culture and environment?

I work for the Internet Business Group at Digital Equipment in Marlboro, MA. In that capacity, I end up talking to people from large companies about how they can use the Web for business.I also have my own personal Web page -- which is content rich and no frills -- which I do for practically nothing and draws a fair amount of traffic and attention.

In a chat session like this things can get pretty frantic. It's sometimesdifficult to follow the threads of conversation. And there's no time to write down interesting URLs and facts. So each week, Itake a copy of the raw transcript and edit it to make the threadsclearer and post it at my own little Web site so anyone could takea look. You can see transcripts of previous sessions at http://www.samizdat.com/#chat

Richard Seltzer 11:41am (199.3.129.189)Today, we plan to focus on Electronic Commerce. How do youspell success in today's marketplace? Where should companies focus theirefforts to get the best return for their Internet investments?If you using the Internet today to sell products or services, pleasetell us about your experiences.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 11:56am (207.67.22.30)Good Afternoon

Richard Seltzer11:59am (199.3.129.189)Welcome, Ed, I'm connecting from Los Angeles, where I'm at Internet World. (Over600 companies and 290K sq. ft. of exhibit space, and lots of attendees.A far cry from the first one in the spring of 1994 in San Jose, which looked like a tiny bazaar.)

Richard Seltzer 12:01pm (199.3.129.189)Continuing last week's discussion,we want to know how do you spell success in today's marketplace?what's selling and why? where should companies focus their efforts toget the best return for their Internet investments? do "communities count? what business models can work for the little guys? The more concrete examples the better.

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:04pm(199.202.197.26)Good afternoon.

Joe Wiseman 12:05pm (199.126.223.130)Just joining the group

Richard Seltzer 12:05pm (199.3.129.189)Welcome, Alan and Joe, where are you?What are your interests? Do you buy or sell on-line today?

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:08pm (199.202.197.26)I'm from Montreal. Don't have a web site at the moment.

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 12:35pm (204.165.159.3)Hi, Richard,How are you doing?

Richard Seltzer 12:08pm (199.3.129.189)I'm in LA at Internet World, where everybody in creation is trying to sell an "electroniccommerce" solution. I'm looking for areality check. Is the Internet ready forthe sale of plain old hard goods? If so,how do you make such a business work? If not, what can you sell profitably over today's Internet?


Interesting E-Commerce Links

Richard Seltzer 12:02pm (199.3.129.189)Yesterday, here at Internet World I sat in on the session of a friend, Larry Chase, http://www.chaseonline.com He does the on-line review of commercialWeb sites "Web Digest for Marketers". In his session he went to a numberof useful and interesting electronic commerce sites that I hadn't seen before.You might want to check some of these out. You can find a hyperlist of most of these and others as well at http://wdfm.com/click.htm I'll enter my picks as separate messages in hopes that they won't get lost in the usual rush of traffic here. And, of course, I'll include them in the transcript.

Richard Seltzer 12:02pm (199.3.129.189) http://www.quotesmith.com/ Insurance price comparisons among numerouscompanies. (for term-life, medicare supplement, etc.)

Richard Seltzer 12:02pm (199.3.129.189)Travel --American Airlines NetsAAver http://www.americanair.com/ buy tickets on line (at discount for filling empty seats at the last minute), bonus frequent flier miles for buying on-line, and convenient way to check your frequent flier miles balance

Richard Seltzer 12:03pm (199.3.129.189)Travel --Microsoft's Expedia http://www.expedia.com -- book a flight, be alerted to special low-fare deals

Richard Seltzer 12:03pm (199.3.129.189) http://wwwehkamp.nl/Veiling (all kinds of stuff, in the Netherlands) http://www.samplesale.com (fashion, clothes, in the US) http://www.sale.com (in the US) "Dutch auctions", lots of goods on-sale and theprice keeps going down until somebody buys it


Cost of advertising/publicizing a Web site? (banner ads, free stuff, etc.)

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:07pm (207.67.22.30)Question to the group: How much of your web site budget.. if you have one, goes towards advertising the site itself? Or is that something that isn't really considered important by most.

Richard Seltzer 12:09pm (199.3.129.189)Ed --That's what I'm most interested in as well.Yes, it appears that lots of companies are selling over the Internet.Some are generating significant revenue selling non-information,non-computer products -- plain old hard goods that you could buy at the corner store. But what does it cost to make that happen? Not the cost of setting up and maintaining the site, but rather the cost of generating the traffic and enticing the people to buy -- the cost of the promotions and the ads and the give-aways. Apparently, it can be done today, but can it be done profitably? And if so, what's the formula for success?

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:13pm (207.67.22.30)i think it takes three things to sell successfully on the net. As in the real world... Location, Location, Location. You have to be where the people are. If you build it they will come only if they can find you and they know you are there. I know yahoo gets big bucks for the banners advertising they display... somewhere to the tune of $80,000 bucks for two weeks on the main page. But that gets the hits. I hear 1% click through.

Richard Seltzer 12:18pm (199.3.129.189)Ed --I must admit that I am very skeptical regarding the effectiveness of banner ads. yes, you can get people to come to your site -- once.But once they are there, what that you canshow them/give them will induce them to buyor to come ever again? That's where there's the investment (in building a relationship with a potential customer) and the real cost (in special offers, etc.) come into play.

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:19pm (199.202.197.26)Richard - it's true. I've heard that business-to-business selling is where the majority of growth is expected to occur in electronic commerce. And I would imagine that a web site is probably mostly useful for the initial contact in some larger business-to-business sales.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:51pm (207.67.22.30)Alan, what I like about the net is that the information you provide , if good, will continually attract people to you. If they percieve you as the expert in a given area and they are ready to buy my guess is that you will be the first one there to get the inquiry. It's all abour generating qualified leads.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:24pm (207.67.22.30)Richard, I agree. The key is to get people to come back. But in order for them to come back they have to get there first. i feel that banner ads are a great way to get noticed but you have to give something once they get to you for them to come back again in most cases.

David Kaufman 12:26pm (206.119.236.43)What about sites that offer sweepsteaks ? Does that help drive repeated usage ?

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:27pm (207.67.22.30)I really am fond of yahoo's banner ads where you can "buy words" to have your banner come up at. FTD bought Flowers in the past so they come up when people type it in. What is it worth to get a semi-qualified lead like that? I'd be curious to know what the click through to order rate %'s are for FTD and others.

David Kaufman 12:29pm (206.119.236.43)I think the clicks/purchases ratios are not that far off of what typical direct mailers are seeing --???

TBarnes 12:29pm (204.146.132.141)Richard--regarding audience, my two cents worth is that it helps to offer "free" stuff to attract the audience. Isn't that what Netscape did?

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 12:38pm -- (204.165.159.3)TBarnes: Everyone is talking about free stuff these days. As Richard said, its important to make people come again. So, the freebies have to be useful to the visitors.I once visited www.gatx.com, they sent me a free wooden plane. I liked it, but it didn't motivate me to visit them again.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:45pm (207.67.22.30)Sudah.. Where could I get that free plane. ;-) I don't think mailing out stuff is the answer. The mailing costs could kill you and everyone likes free stuff if it's easy to get. Side point... most of the free information at the Internet Expo that people pick up will be tossed the next day.

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 12:50pm (204.165.159.3)Ed, the plane was a tiny one :) Anyways, talking of free stuff, I think most people give free stuff to get your email or snail mail for future targeted mailing.

TBarnes 12:44pm (204.146.132.141)Sudha, yes, you're right. I guess the Netscape example doesn't work because what Netscape did was force people to come back for upgrades...(although users could just not upgrade) If you change what the freebies are (and still make the interesting/useful) people will most likely come back.

Richard Seltzer 12:53pm (199.3.129.189)Sudha -- I agree that giving away free stuff isn't a panacea. I got a call a few days ago from a friend who has a tinyWeb site selling herbal tea. They were onlygetting about 10 visitors a day and very littlein the way of sales. So they offered free samples. Somehow the message got propagated through distribution lists (unbeknownst to them),and they suddenly were getting hundreds of requests per day for their free samples(with no significant increase in hits attheir Web site, and no increase in sales).

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 1:04pm (204.165.159.3)Richard: About your friend selling herbal tea: There are 2 steps to getting a sale. Giving free samples is to makepeople taste their tea hoping that in the long run, they'll become customers. Just like traditional marketing, they need to followup to make the sale. Maybe they can layer their site with various discount offers before getting to the point where they show the form for free tea. Then they can track as to how many poeple went to which level and what pages they viewed. This way they can differentiate the prospects and followup. But, you have a point. Such freebies are like PR and give long term results.

Richard Seltzer 12:32pm (199.3.129.189)Ed --I agree that you need foot traffic. (Actually, I'm sure we're very close on this issue.) I just believe that it is important to startwith step one -- to build a site that will encourage people to return again and again.Once you have such a site, then do whateveryou can to get as many of the right set ofpeople to take a look as you can --with the confidence that you'll hold andbring back many of them. In that case a banner ad at the right place at the right time might make sense. But far too often, newcomers just create a site with goods for sale, set up an on-line payment system, and start spending money on banner ads.When they don't get the sales levels they want (and people don't come back), they spend more on banner ads and offer all kinds of discounts and giveaways to induce purchases -- a very costly proposition that may never lead to profitable business.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:35pm (207.67.22.30)Richard... you put my thoughts into words. Thanks :-)

Richard Seltzer 12:36pm (199.3.129.189)David --Please correct me if you have different data, but my impression is that there is no correlation at all between direct mail results and on-line promotion/sales results.And keep in mind that you need to keep track of the total cost of the sale -- setting up and maintaining the site, promoting the site to draw traffic, and the cost of thespecial deals (sweepstakes or whatever).Remember that there has to be some reason for a customer to come back. Otherwise you've spent a lot of money to attract someone once, and then the investment is lost.

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 12:41pm (204.165.159.3)Richard, I missed the earlier part of David's message. But wonder why you are saying there is no correlation between direct mailing and sales online.I think the direct mails will attract users to visit if it is targeted and worded right. So, it will definitely increase visits. Once a person visits, if the front page is designed to communicate what the site is about, there is a greater chance that the person will consider a sale

Richard Seltzer (199.3.129.189)Sudha -- I agree that direct mail (snail mail or email) can attract users to a site. I was reacting to the comparison of direct (snailmail) sales of goods to on-line sales of goods at a Web site through attracting traffic with bannerads etc. I don't think there's any significant correlation there. I believe that it's a different kind of commercial environment.

Arnold Reinhold 12:36pm (199.172.62.5)My problem with banner ads is that if I don't stop what I am doing and click thru, I can't find the ad again. Compare this with newspaper ads. I see them while reading and can go back when done.

Richard Seltzer 12:40pm (199.3.129.189) Arnold -- Amen. I believe there are many, many problems with banner ads.(I hate to see them. I'd rather see companies investing their money, time,in effort in providing real value for customers and building relationships.I think the real electronic commerce benefitof the Internet comes from building relationships rather than the transaction itself.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:40pm (207.67.22.30)Arnold, from a sales standpoint I think the urgency to "click now" could be a good thing. You only get one chance.

Arnold Reinhold 12:45pm (199.172.62.5)Ed, I usualy have a goal when I am on the web and do not want to be distracted. If I could easily "bookmark" the ad, I might visit when I have completed my task. It would be easy to include a "review ads" feature at yahoo.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:53pm (207.67.22.30)Arnold, great point on the ads. bookmarking would be a grerat advantage, especially since I find myself and possibly most people don't like to throuw things away once their on their computers.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:37pm (207.67.22.30) One advertising tool I find invaluable is a domain name. If it is the right one for your business and your product many people will go right to your site by typing in www.pooltable.com or something similiar.

Richard Seltzer 12:42pm (199.3.129.189)Ed -- Yes, a logical domain name is very important today. But I suspect thatthat whole new set of kinds of domain namesthat's coming soon will quickly dilute that. I'll need to remember more than just the company name. (On the other hand, those of us who got in early and have simple.com names may have a temporary advantage :-)

David Kaufman 12:54pm (206.119.236.43)Sorry - I missed a few minutes here - but you might as well get used to Banner ads - we are going to be living them for a long time to come - I know no one likes them much - but I really don't like a lot of TV advertising either - how can we make them best work for us is the key to succeeding here. I have to think there is a more compelling way to get people to come back to a site than lots of freebies -- but there are lots of places for people to go -- so you have to get out from the crowd and shout over the noise so to speak ? any magic bulletts here ???

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 12:58pm (204.165.159.3)David: Here's my 2 cents about how to differentiate yourself on the net. #1. Stay visible where your target viewers are -maybe search engines, related sites or even traditional media. #2. Make your site clean and give them what they are looking for right on the front page. #3. Most Important: Once they register or get your freebie, provide a consistent service that will make them build a relation as Richard says.

David Kaufman 1:00pm (206.119.236.43)good advice Sudha- thanks everyone!

Arnold Reinhold (199.172.62.5)The sluggish feel the web has over phone modems deters side trips. If cable or adsl catch on business oppty may improve a lot.


On-line payment systems

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:07pm (199.202.197.26)My interests are in Internet payment systems. I'd like to hear about what retailers are doing to make on-line payments easier for their customers.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:09pm (207.67.22.30)On-line payments easier through secured transaction capable programs or site setup?

Richard Seltzer 12:10pm (199.3.129.189)Alan --I think the first question has to be --what are you trying to sell? The convenienceissue and the right way to go depends entirelyon the kind of item, the price level of the item, etc.

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:11pm (199.202.197.26)Ed - through e-cash like systems and things like shopping-cart software.

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:12pm (199.202.197.26)Richard - I remember reading somewhere that Amazon books said that one of the strongest factors which determined a sale was how quickly they could bring the user through the selling process - from browsing to payment.

Richard Seltzer 12:13pm (199.3.129.189)Alan -- what's your target audience?how do they typically buy today? whatadvantage do you hope to get from completingthe transaction on-line (rather than billing or having them call an 800 number, or taking theorder by email, or having them open an account by whatever means they please giving you a credit card number and then doing businesswith you on-line without your having to worry about secure on-line transactions.

Richard Seltzer 12:16pm (199.3.129.189)Alan --Once again, I think it all depends on what you are selling.Books usually have relatively low per item price and people make spontaneous choicesto buy. Higher priced items involve a different decision process. And lower priced (paying a very small sum for a piece of information) another as well.

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:16pm (207.67.22.30)Alan.. how many items would you sell on line?

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:17pm (199.202.197.26)Actually I'm not currently selling anything on the web. I'm interested in examining the market for a secure payment system for a developer I'm acquainted with.

Richard Seltzer 12:20pm (199.3.129.189)Alan --Well, there are lots of secure payment systems out there today. Do a search at AltaVista http://altavista.digital.com They range from business-to-business(on-line catalog kinds of things), toc redit card, to new on-line pseudomoneyof many kinds. What need are you trying to fill? Who do you think the customer is?

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:24pm (199.202.197.26)The payment system is similar to DigiCash. It uses secure encryption to permit point-and-click transactions through a web-browser. The customer is retailers who want a secure and affordable alternative to accepting credit cards

Richard Seltzer 12:28pm (199.3.129.189)Alan -- So what's the price point (related to the cost per transaction for the merchant)?DigiCash, I believe targets purchases about25 cents. Millicent (from Digital) targetspurchases as small as a hundredth of a penny.Ordinary credit card transaction seem todo well over $5 or $10. And for big ticketitems, you aren't going to consummate the deal on-line. So what niche are you aiming for and what's the value-added you'd provide?

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:32pm (207.67.22.30)Alan, there was a great article in inter@ctive mag. a week or two ago (see http://www.zdnet.com/intweek/) It talked about the sex industry on the net and how they are tackling their billing problems. If i remember right they did discuss some billing on-line issues and software.

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:35pm (199.202.197.26)Ed - thanks I'll take a look at it

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:34pm (199.202.197.26)We're planning to target sub-$10 transactions... basically those where it isn't economical for credit cards to compete. Unlike millicent, each and every transaction is cleared on-line (for better security) but it also means that transactions under $.10 start to be less cost effective. One of the main benefits for retailers is that it's much easier to begin accepting electronic cash than it is to sign up to accept credit cards. In addition, there are no chargebacks either.

Richard Seltzer 12:38pm (199.3.129.189)Alan -- What's the advantage overDigicash, Cybercash or whatever?

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:43pm (199.202.197.26)The major advantage is simplified user-to-user transactions. People can send "electronic cheques" to each other via email. However, another major advantage is that system is extremely flexible... it can be used for things rangind from loyalty systems (e.g. point or airmiles systems), cash, or other online tokens such as casino chips. We think that some retailers would like the possibility of having their own customized cash/payment system in order to tie their users into their site.

Richard Seltzer 12:46pm (199.3.129.189)Alan --On-line checks sounds like a good idea.The notion of having a customized payment system that ties people to only doing transactions at a particular site sounds counter-cultural.The open, the more generally usable the better.

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:53pm (199.202.197.26)Richard - That is true, in many cases open is better, however, things such as loyalty systems etc are often created for the purpose of one-to-one relationship building with customers. Much like air miles or retail credit cards can tie a user into using a specific retailer we think an electronic payment system might do the same thing (particularly if coupled with other incentives). Building an on-line community around a web-site can be enhanced by using a payment system as one of your motivators.


Building a "commercial educational site"

Joe Wiseman 12:12pm (199.126.223.130)I've joined the group from Stephenville, NF, Canada. I have made purchases on the web and am currently building a business case to set up a commercial educational web site.

Richard Seltzer 12:14pm (199.3.129.189)Joe, please tell me more. What would a "commercial educational site" sell? Information? Or hard goods to be delivered by snail mail etc.?

Joe Wiseman-Stephenville 12:19pm (199.126.223.130) I'm planning on both ie sell our CD ROM titles through the site, allow access to some free material and charge a fee for more extensive usage. Is anything out there like that?

Richard Seltzer12:23pm (199.3.129.189)Joe -- Yes, there are many sites trying to do that kind of thing and struggling over what is the right mix, the right price,the right free stuff to draw a loyal audience,the right business model. One of the first-- Britannica -- apparently didn't get it right the first time and is trying again. (I need totake another look at their site http://www.eb.com/ to see what the latest pricing scheme is.

Richard Seltzer 12:25pm (199.3.129.189)Joe --I guess the toughest part - and the place to start - is building an audience. What do you have that is unique and valuable that would make people want to come to your site?And how can you get your regular users talking to one another and contributing useful content to your site that will draw and hold other users. In my opinion, that's the way to build a business -- audience first, then the sale of goods and services. Counter opinions?

Joe Wiseman 12:30pm (199.126.223.130)We develop curriculum-specific educational software. Children who use our programs will do better in school

Joe Wiseman 12:33pm (199.126.223.130)We have posted a free site and found people in Califormia who wished to link with their site.

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 12:36pm (204.165.159.3)Joe: What is your free site?

Richard Seltzer 12:37pm (199.3.129.189)Joe --What's your URL? I'd like to take a look.

Joe Wiseman 12:39pm (199.126.223.130)Sudha, it's at http://www.stemnet.nf.ca/Community/SSTS/

Joe Wiseman 12:44pm (199.126.223.130)We expect that folks will want their children to do better in school. We believe that will draw them back assuming we provide them with the proper programs to meet that need. What do you say? Do you have children?

Richard Seltzer 12:48pm (199.3.129.189)Joe --Yes, I have kids. I'd be very curioushow you intend to build your market.The main issue might well be whether you will try to target the parents (who havethe money) or the kids (who need to be motivated to return).

Joe Wiseman 12:54pm (199.126.223.130)Richard, how old are your children? The www site we posted is for parents of pre-schoolers. Your point about targeting parents or kids is a good one. Will "if we build it they will come apply?" What if what we build is really good. We can hit all the subscribers of K-12OPPS at gsn.org

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org)12:52pm (204.165.159.3)Joe: I checked your site "Stepping Stone". Is it a regular periodical? What about the Poetry in a Nutshell?If its a regularly updated periodcial, we can add it to Coola Webzine Carrier selection. Lemme know.

Joe Wiseman 12:57pm (199.126.223.130)Sudha, there is a lot of stuff at Global School Network. Our material is not a webzine. Interesting idea though. Poetry in a Nutshell is a CD ROM multimedia title. We are going to release 5 titles between now and the middle of July. I will be in New York next week meeting with US publishers.

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:56pm 199.202.197.26)Joe - I think I've heard of your product before. Are you working with Mr. Maddock?

Joe Wiseman 12:59pm (199.126.223.130)Alan, John Maddock is my partner.


How do you turn a community into paying customers?

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 12:46pm (199.202.197.26)Regarding relationship building - everyone seems to be convinced on it's importance. But how do you turn a community into paying customers? Is there a risk that your target community will cost more to maintain than you will achieve in sales?

Richard Seltzer 12:47pm (199.3.129.189)Alan --I believe that the community is the firststep, and that without it your other efforts aren't likely to be self-sustaining and profitable.

Richard Seltzer 12:50pm (199.3.129.189) re: building relationships and getting return traffic -- some of the best examplesare sites that provide a useful service that many people need --e.g. an exchange rate service (up-to-date currency rates and on-line calculator) (I'll have to look up the URL).

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 12:55pm(204.165.159.3)Richard: Thomas Cook has a currency convertor on their site at http://www.thomascook.com/

Arnold Reinhold 12:53pm (199.172.62.5)There is so much on the web that no one has time to revisit sites without a very good reason to do so.

Richard Seltzer 12:55pm (199.3.129.189)Arnold --Yes, exactly. People need a very good reason to return to your site. That's the challenge in setting up and building the site/business.That's also the asset that you build thatgives some hope of sustaining a profitable business over time, despite the ever increasingcompetition for people's attention.


Wrapup

Richard Seltzer 12:56pm (199.3.129.189)All -- once again time is running outjust as the discussion was starting toget going. Sorry about that. Pleasebe sure to post your email addresses and URLs so we can keep in touch.Also please send me followup email with related comments and questions, so I can include those with the transcripts. My email address is seltzer@samizdat.com

Richard Seltzer 12:58pm (199.3.129.189)Please let me know if you would like to continue this topic next week? I feel there is a natural transition to talking more about on-line advertising and promotion -- what works and doesn't and what does it cost etc.Does that sound right to you?

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 1:00pm (207.67.22.30)Richard, sounds good. If I could ask, If anyone finds stats on any current internet advertising %'s please post them to the transcripts. Thanks.

David Kaufman 1:03pm (206.119.236.43)Advertising %/s are pretty suspect at this point - that is a major reason why there is not more of it -- there are not any good standards for the advertisers to measure to see if their $$ are being well spent --

Sudha (sudha@web-net.org) 1:05pm (204.165.159.3)Yes, we should contine next week. Bye everyone.. Thanks Richard

TBarnes 12:58pm -- (204.146.132.141) tbarnes@osf1.gmu.edu

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 12:58pm (207.67.22.30)Time Flies when you're having fun.

David Kaufman12:59pm (206.119.236.43)I can be reached at TGIF1@aol.com

Arnold Reinhold 1:01pm (199.172.62.5)reinhold@world.std.com

Joe Wiseman1:02pm (199.126.223.130)innova@auracom.com

Ed Jaros - Green Bay 1:02pm (207.67.22.30)ed.jaros@sparknet.net Website Strategist http://www.sparknet.net

Alan Majer (networks@vir.com) 1:04pm (199.202.197.26)networks@vir.com Website under construction...

Richard Seltzer 12:59pm (199.3.129.189)Thanks to all for joining in.Please do post your addresses etc.and send me email at seltzer@samizdat.com Hope you'll join us again next week.


Followup Messages

E-Commerce Nielsen Report

From: Ed Jaros <ed.jaros@sparknet.net> Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 14:03:24 -0600

this just in. Great tie-in to our chat http://cnnfn.com/digitaljam/9703/12/internet_shopping_pkg/

Ed Jaros, Website Strategist, http://www.SparkNET.net


Web-based customer support -- Juno

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 15:52:49 -0500 From: Sudha Jamthe <sudha@web-net.org>

I am attaching an automated response I got from Juno when I tried to email their support line asking some question about their service.

It's frustrating as its not helping me. Guess this technology has to go a long way.

I wanted to write to you because I remember someone mentioning customer support thru the web few weeks ago in the chat and I thought it was cool.

Do you have any reference about customer support on the web? Isn't it very important to provide consistent service to keep a loyal free customer base?

Su

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 11:24:10 -0800 (PST)

From: support@juno.com

To: sudha@bgs.com

Subject: Help from the Juno Technical Support Center:

Your Request:

Hi

Unfortunately, none of our available help documents matched your request. In order to help us find the most appropriate documents for you, please reword and resend the detailed description of the problem you are experiencing. You do not need to write out full sentences in order to get help. If you prefer, simply type in a list of keywords. For instance, typing in "modem Supra 9600 configuration" (without the quotation marks) will work just as well as "I'm having trouble configuring my 9600 baud Supra modem."

We have provided some tips for getting better help below. However, if you continue to have trouble finding an appropriate document, you can receive live technical support by calling 1-900-555-JUNO (1-900-555-5866). Please bear in mind that you will be charged $1.95/minute for the call and that you must be 18 years of age or older to use this service.

Because Juno is a completely free service, it is particularly important that we conserve resources for our core mission, which is providing free e-mail. For the small minority of people who require human intervention to get Juno working, we provide that service, and all we ask is that those members help cover the much higher cost of live technical support.

Tips on Getting Better Help

Please keep your request to one paragraph. Our search engine (the computer that searches through documents for you) ignores everything after a hard return (pressing enter on your keyboard).

Think of how you would describe the problem to a support technician, then pick out the important words (such as installation, modem, network, sending e-mail, etc.). Try just using just these words, as that may cut down on incorrect matches.

If you are having trouble with your modem or computer, try typing in the name of the manufacturer as well as the full name of the modem or computer.

If you have received any error messages from Windows or Juno, type them in exactly as they appear on your screen.

If the search is unsuccessful, try for a more general search. For example, if you tried a search for help on a specific modem manufacturer and no documents matched, try just searching for help on "modem".

Also, try using synonyms for more important keywords. For example, here is an example of a potentially unsuccessful request and a successful one:

* I'm having trouble with my monitor every time a new ad scrolls by.

This request may be unsuccessful because it contains a number of words that can appear in various help documents, and also because it does not provide any synonyms for the important words. For example, a better version of this request would be:

* I'm having trouble with my monitor or display when a new ad scrolls by or changes.

This version would allow us to search more keywords and to provide you with relevant help documents.

We hope these tips will help you reword your request and retrieve pertinent documents.

Thank you for using the Juno Technical Support Center.


Web-based customer support -- FedEx

From: Kaye Vivian <kvivian@cloud9.net> Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 01:25:23 -0500

I just read Sudha's letter from Juno and had a similar experience today with Federal Express. This might be an interesting topic to discuss one day when we've finished with some of the commerce issues. How *do* businesses provide "personalized" customer service effectively through the Web, when there may be a flood of requests (as in the case of popular Juno and FedEx)? Automated responses are helpful, in that they say someone is doing something somewhere, but Sudha's example and this one clearly show that something more is needed. My package was 3 miles from my house at 10 am on Friday, but missed the carrier delivery and no one let me know it was there (I could have driven over!). I didn't feel good from this response. It told me nothing, and in fact, left the burden on me to do anything more I wanted done about it. That's not service. It's a polite kind of stonewalling and left me feeling bad about FedEx, a company I usually feel pretty good about.

Kaye

(transcript follows)

QUERY --

From: FedEx Feedback <feedback@fedex.com> Date: Mon, 17 Mar 1997 17:39:08 -0500 To: kvivian@cloud9.net

Subject: Delayed Package

Nature of Request: Package Trace Questions/Requests -- U.S. Same Day Service Shipments

How would you like us to respond: E-Mail

E-Mail: kvivian@cloud9.net

Specific Shipment Information

Package Tracking Number: 3828557747

Approximate Ship Date: 031497

Destination Country: U.S.A.

Questions/Comments -- The package I was expecting did not get delivered on Friday, although it arrived in Elmsford on Friday morning. Why didn't someone call to tell me tell me it was available, if for some reason the delivery could not happen? And why then wasn't it delivered the next day (Saturday)??

This sets back an important proposal by three days. Not your usual high quality work. I'm very disappointed and must now put in some very late nights next week since I lost the weekend to work as I had planned. :(

Kaye Vivian

AUTOMATED REPLY

I'm sorry you've experienced a delay. FedEx strives for 100% satisfaction both in our deliveries and our service to you.

If you would like more information about the nature of the delay or would like to request a refund or credit, please call Customer Service for more information, at 1-800-Go-FedEx.

Or, for online assistance with your invoice questions, please point your browser to http://www.fedex.com/cgi-bin/inv-adjust/

Again, we apologize for any inconvenience you have had.

Leitha Matz, Webmaster for FedEx


Web-Based Customer Support -- Coola

From: Kaye Vivian <kvivian@cloud9.net> Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 15:24:13 -0500

After sending you the long, automated FedEx message yesterday, I got this one today, and thought I would forward it as an example of *good* customer service. It's clearly a personalized response, and they have actually tried to address my issues, indicated that they are doing something with my suggestion, and given me a warm fuzzy about taking the time to send them my suggestion. I don't know Coola (except insofar as I have bumped into them in your chats), but I must say this kind of response makes me feel favorably disposed to do business with them again. They apparently care about their customers. Makes me want to be one.

Kaye Vivian

Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 14:26:20 -0500, From: SJ <help@coola.com>, To: kvivian@cloud9.net

Subject: Thanks for your feedback to Coola

Hi Kaye,

We are constantly looking out for feedback to find out what our users like. Appreciate your feedback.

I think _TOP HTML has to be in the frame code. Am passing this to our dev team and will keep you posted.

Let us know of any other periodical or new feature you might like in Coola.

Thanks,

SJ, Coola Support Team


Peapod: Exceptional electronic business!

From: Tracy Marks <tmar@tiac.net> Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 06:18:21 -0500

Richard wrote:

>I hear ads for Peapod and the sale and home delivery of groceries but haven't met anyone who used it.... I know that Peapod(after brief trial offer) is quite expensive...

I've been doing 80% of my grocery shopping through Peapod since mid-December. My experience has been extremely positive; in fact, I will rave about them. Their software is inordinately easy and enjoyable to use, exceptional in design and navigation, and even comes with a free email account. The payment issue is moot - you give your credit card number by phone when you set up your account, and never have to deal with it again.

Peapod offers 21,000+ supermarket items, with a lot of customer choice involved. You create your own regular grocery list, you develop your own substitution policy, and you choose your delivery times. You can even click on a food item and get the caloric and nutritional value.

And if you want to return an item (I haven't), since delivery times are throughout the day, a Peapod person will just pick it up.

About the cost - as a person who hates supermarkets and has done most of my food shopping at the local grocery, I think that the additional 12% per month above supermarket costs using Peapod is less than at my local grocery (the cost is 10% of your order, plus $4.95 a month). I order $100 worth twice a month, and only take about 10 minutes to determine and send my order. My total food shopping time is now about an hour a month rather than the eight or so hours a month it was previously - plus deliveries arrive at a convenient time for me, and are carried right into my kitchen.

And every item - vegetables, meat etc -. has been choice. The Peapod staff is trained in choosing quality items....I guess I can't say enough positive things about Peapod, and I recommend that everyone try it for a month, just to experience a superb example of electronic commerce (and no, I don't work for them....and BTW, they're at <http://www.peapod.com>.

Tracy Marks, tmar@tiac.net tracy@marks.net http://www.windweaver.com/index.htm


On building a successful web site

From: Tracy Marks <tmar@tiac.net> Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 07:12:08 -0500

A comment and a question...

Ed Jaros wrote:

>I recommend...that when setting up a web site the #1 goal should be to provide useful information that is unique....

And Richard wrote:

> What do you have that is unique and valuable that would make people want to come to your site?... In my opinion, that's the way to build a business -- audience first, then the sale of goods and services.

I can already attest to the above. My site, Windweaver Internet and Windows 95 training <http://www.windweaver.com> opened barely a month ago...and I haven't even actively promoted it yet... only just submitted it to half a dozen search engines. But I've had 3,000 visitors in the last two weeks, and am getting at least five thank you messages a day from satisfied guests.

Where are they coming from? I'm an active member of three large educational tech mailing lists...most of the time answering questions, and providing useful information. So when I announced my site opening on these lists, my visitors increased by several hundred a day (though Gleason Sackman's frequent posting of my list messages in Net-Happenings is responsible for at least half the activity). I've even had several long-distance web design job offers - and I wasn't even soliciting!

I really haven't been actively trying to sell anything at this point -- just happen to love helping people and putting together information on my site that I find valuable. But I need to start earning income from my online activities, and am not clear yet how to do that, since my primary work interest is local in-person training and not the services (a searchskills course and a manual) I plan to offer online.

In any case, I believe in the "providing a service" ethic on the Web, and attracting people by demonstrating - without charge - the quality of your work. Then they come to you....and come back repeatedly.

AND A QUESTION - THE PRICE OF "SUCCESS"

Alan Majer wrote:

> But how do you turn a community into paying customers? Is there a risk that your target community will cost more to maintain than you will achieve in sales?

Both these questions concern me. In regard to the latter, part of the maintenance cost is the I.S.P.costs for traffic. In fact, this is what has kept me from submitting Windweaver to search engines. If one is getting 300 visitors a day BEFORE promotion, and barely avoiding incurring extra traffic costs, what happens when one really starts a promotioncampaign? My I.S.P. charges $40 per gigabyte per month... and as a single businessperson in the low-paying adult education field, I don't want 1,000+ visitors a day if it's going to cost several hundred dollars a month in traffic fees.

I hunted around for other I.S.P.s that charge less, and found that most charged much more than TIAC. So I find myself wondering WHAT DO WEB SITE OWNERS DO? I've posted this question on several lists and haven't received a single response, so I remain completely in the dark in regard to how people avoid or offset traffic costs. Do sites which receive 100,000 visitors a month have their own server...or pay $500 for traffic? And so now I'm asking for guidance in regard to this issue...

(If advertisers are the answer - I'm not sure how much I want advertising on my site that isn't completely adapted to my carefully chosen color scheme, because it would ruin the elegance of my design ...which leads me also to wonder if one can control the colors and design used by advertisers....?)

Thanks for a chance to share and pose my questions...

Tracy Marks tmar@tiac.net tracy@marks.net http://www.windweaver.com/index.htm

REPLY

Traffic costs depend on the size of the files accessed as well as the number of times accessed. With plain text pages, you could get many more hits without incurring extra traffic charges.

-- Richard Seltzer


Online sales tracking

From: Kaye Vivian <kvivian@cloud9.net> Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 11:14:41 -0500

I saw this article this morning and thought it good fodder for the noon discussions. You might want to try to contact John Wells of NetStores and see if he'd like to join the chat! Or perhaps Steve Guggenheimer at iCat Corp., a catalog software developer whose product includes traffic analysis features. :)

The article is from ZiffDavis (InterActive Week):

http://www5.zdnet.com/zdnn/content/inwk/0405/inwk0051.html

Here's a couple of the more salient comments:

"...Wells is finding that some simple data analysis can help turn his objectives into a merchandising reality. A growing number of online retailers, ranging from Wells' Netstores to Frederick's of Hollywood Inc., are basing their merchandise strategies on trend information gleaned from customer traffic...

...Using software developed by Viaweb Inc., a company that hosts Wells' stores and nearly 100 others in an online mall at www.viamall.com, Netstores can determine not only where its customer traffic is coming from, but which visitors buy the most...

When Netstores first started tracking patterns in June 1996, its monthly sales doubled to $20,000. Now, the company generates $50,000 in monthly sales, an increase that can be attributed to its increased knowledge of its customer base, Wells says..."

Interesting. And though retailers online have been slow to adopt models for traffic analysis, that will undoubtedly and inexorably change.

Kaye Vivian


Web ads

From: Sudha Jamthe <sudha@web-net.org> Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 11:00:11 -0500

BTW, I am preparing a presentation about Web Site Marketing in Emerson College. Thinking about different revenue models from what I've seen so far, the web ads industry (if I may say so) seems to have matured faster than the rest of the other areas. ie, there are a few established players and there seems to be some standards set.

Doubleclick and Focalink claim to hold 80% of Internet ads between them. Their terminologies, rates, required number of hits seem to be the same. The entry to such a market is not easy for new comers. Another facet is the link exchanges. Many are coming up daily.

It will be great if you can invite one of these companies and focus on this in an upcoming chat.

See you online tommorrow.

Su


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The full text of Richard Seltzer's books The Social Web, Take Charge of Your Web Site, Shop Online the Lazy Way, and The Way of the Web, plus more than a hundred related articles are available on CD ROM My Internet: a Personal View of Internet Business Opportunities.

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