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Marketing and Sales on the Internet
by Bill Eager

The Internet is quite possibly the most effective medium for sales and marketing since the invention of the printing press. Auto and computer manufacturers, airlines, hospitals, real estate firms and sporting goods stores use Web sites to attract customers and increase sales. Web demographics suggest that users represent ideal customers for a wide variety of products. An amazing six hundred million people around the world now have access to the Internet. That's 10% of the world's population. In the U.S. more than 42% of users have incomes that exceed $50,000, 49% are between the ages of 30 - 49 and 41% have college degrees. The gender gap is almost invisible as 41% of users are women and 59% are men - 1*.

Electronic Shopping Gets Real
Can you make money on the Internet? Absolutely. The volume of dollars spent for online retail purchases have increased from approximately $70 million in 1996 to more than $66 billion in 2004 with another $50 billion in online travel! Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com started out as: "The Earth's Biggest Bookstore" and is now simply the biggest store. With almost a million visitors an hour, the 2004 holiday season found Amazon selling 32 items a second and shipping more than 2 million units in one day!

Online retail is commonplace with both traditional catalog companies like Land's End http://www.landsend.com and Spiegel's http://www.spiegel.com allowing users to locate, view and securely purchase hundreds of different products. We have also seen that real-world stores like Walmart take advantage of the power of "clicks and bricks" by selling both in stores and online.

Electronic commerce requires security, authentication and transaction. A customer's credit card information is encrypted as it is transmitted through the Internet, the card is authenticated by a third party and then funds are electronically transmitted into the merchant's bank account. The processes and systems required to achieve this integration are in place today.

Reach Your Customers One-By-One
With more than twenty million Web sites to choose from it might seem impossible for your prospects or customers to locate your Web site. Amazingly the Web does just that! More than television, radio or magazines, the Web narrowcasts. Customers with specific tastes and interests visit the Web sites that fit their needs. Of course the use of search engines, online advertising and getting other sites to link to yours are key factors in online visibility.

For businesses, the best marketing tactics are those that craft messages and information for individual customers. Known as one-on-one marketing, the Web is ideally suited for this application. A Web site can maintain a profile of a customer's interests (stored in a database). Every time the customer revisits the site, any new information about products or services that may interest them is automatically presented on the screen … even with a personal message. By keeping a database of these profiles as well as the e-mail addresses of visitors, you can periodically send out personalized "electronic mailers" to notify customers of new services.

1* Data from Louis Harris & Associates and Baruch College

Copyright Bill Eager. All Rights Reserved.

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