.. . Monitor E-Mail Inquiries and Complaints It is vital that you find a way to monitor e-mail inquiries and complaints from your site visitors. Even if you have an employee handle this e-mail for you, have them print out an extract of key questions and complaints so you can keep your finger on the pulse. We have found that my blind sides are quickly spotted by visitors, who’ll fire off an e-mail. Do not look at these e-mails as enemy fire; these are your friends who will help you improve your site.
When you spot a question occurring repeatedly, it is a sign that you need to deal with it more fully or more visibly on your site. And, it tells you what is important to your visitors. 2. Provide Online Questionnaires You might want to create an online questionnaire with which you can gather information from your site visitors. What kinds of questions are important? Internet World subscription form is an example questions asked by a Business-to-Business magazine (http://www.iw.com/subs/subs.html).
3. Send Out E-Mail Questionnaires The strength of online forms is the ease with which the data can be collected for analysis. The downside is that online forms are essentially passive; they wait until someone comes to them. E-mail questionnaires, on the other hand, are active; the recipient can fill it out and reply without having to open a web browser. E-mail questionnaires, however, may be the survey of choice because of their immediacy and ease in sending. 4.
When a purchase is made in the site ordering system the cookie (if any) is retrieved and a record is made of the source of the sale. 5. Examine Order Files Another way to learn about visitor shopping patterns is to analyze individual order files as well as summaries. Once a visitor places an order or provides an e-mail address, any information collected about that individual can be used to develop a personal profile. Amazon.com uses such information to offer recommendations of other books or purchases based on your previous purchases. 6.
Provide Site Personalization Larger company sites are employing database tools that harvest information about visitors by what products they look at or purchase, which banners they click on, etc. Then this data is merged with other databases providing demographic information by ZIP code, etc. to give a customer profile. 7. Study Your Traffic Logs Considerable data about your customers and their surfing habits can be gained from studying the traffic logs for your website. These can tell you how the visitor came to your site, browser used, route used to surf through your website, most popular pages, domain name of visitors, and much more.
Careful attention to customer data is a major factor in distinguishing successful from unsuccessful sites. Neglect it at your peril. (Web Marketing Today. Nov. 1999) II.
Segmenting your Internet Market Once you have studied the customers who are likely to purchase your products or services, you may find that there are several kinds of customers, each with different interests and needs. When you segment your market in this way, you increase your chances of success. One of the most profitable exercises you can conduct is to segment your site visitors into specific categories. This takes market research on your customers and then careful analysis, but it will enable you to be much more successful in your website marketing efforts. Then include in your Internet Marketing Plan a paragraph or two explaining how you segment your potential customers.
Later in the plan, you will indicate which products or services are most suitable for each segment, and a marketing strategy to reach each segment of your market. From a web-marketing standpoint, one of the difficulties you face when you offer a number of products aimed at different groups is to segment visitors quickly and move them to their own section. Imagine the problems with a company as diverse as Microsoft (http://microsoft.com), for example. Their website uses these kinds of categories: Product Family Sites BackOffice Developer Tools Office Windows Web Services bCentral MSN Customer Sites Home & Personal Business Developer Education IT Professional Partner/Reseller Notice the redundant way they segment by both product/service family as well as by customer type. We think Microsoft does a pretty good job at this.
(Wilson, Web Marketing Today) IV. E-Commerce in Lebanon The Internet invaded the Lebanese market in 1995, where at that time few companies (ISPs) monopolized the market. However, in less than five years, companies working in this sector rose to more than twenty companies competing to have a higher market share and attracting more customers, which led to many price wars recently. At the beginning, Internet was only sought for the fun and entertainment part of it, not knowing how important this technology is for trade, economy, knowledge, etc. But with time, companies got to understand the importance of business on the Internet, leading to the existence of a new sector in the national economy, that of information and communication. This evolution paved the way for e-commerce to flourish the Lebanese E-Market.
A. Lebanese Companies on the Net Roula Mousa, managing director of Netways, could hardly control her excitement while speaking on the global implications the World Wide Web will have on the worlds future. Speaking at a workshop hosted by the ministry of economys trade information center she pointed to the range of benefits that being plugged into the Net could bestow. If a company needs to know how their stocks are doing on the Beirut Bourse, it can always just punch in *www.bse.com.lb* and get the days closing prices. Want to check out new real-estate investment opportunities in the country? Check out *www.homesandland.com* and you can get a listing of land and property for sale according to your specifications.
The possibilities are endless, but its a war here, she said. If a company wants to compete in todays global village, it needs to learn how to market and sell its products, recruit employees and search out clients, all over the Net. For this reason, the ministry of economy will be hosting free Internet workshops for Lebanese companies on a monthly basis. There are more than 100m Internet subscribers across the world, of which 60 per cent are in the US. Of that number, 100,000 are from Lebanon, half of them university students.
There are more than 8m websites on the World Wide Web and, according to the estimates, more than 5,000 Lebanese companies are represented on the Net. Some have made it into a valuable tool. Exotica is an example. Through its website at *www.exotica.com.lb* a client can order, pay by credit card and have delivered an order of flowers or a potted plants, without having to do more than click a mouse button. The typical Internet E-Commerce includes catalog-shopping merchandise, distribution, wholesaling and other commercial activities. The success of these solutions will be driven by consumer confidence in the security and confidentiality of their transactions.
The basic way to handle commerce via the internet is to setup an HTML form where users can enter the items they wish to buy, shipping address and credit card information. By using a secure socket layer (SSL), server and browser will ensure that third parties cannot discover the credit card information. Alternative way to increase the security of credit card transaction is to use a trusty transaction company between the merchant and customer, so the merchant does not see the customer’s credit card number. II. Customer Adaptation to E-Commerce Websites Reaching the world, and more specifically lucrative Arab markets, does not need grandiose planning. Computers are spreading and making Arab citizens potential consumers to an electronic form of commerce dominated by multinational firms with huge financial and technological resources. Despite foreign competition, the Internet can fuel economic growth in our country.
E-commerce is practiced differently between the two powers that dominate virtual business in the world, Europe and the United States. European e-commerce is mostly comprised of retail selling, such as buying flowers, cameras and computers on the Internet using credit cards, or other secure payment methods designed not to let financial accounts fall into the wrong hands. In the U.S., there is a large and increasing consumer appetite to buy goods and financial services on the Internet, but firms also rely on the Web for their supplies and to keep stocks at a minimum through what is known as business to business transactions. In Lebanon, the volume of both types of virtual trading is negligible. Businesses tend to think of the Internet as a method of displaying their goods and services on-line, not as a tool to increase sales and cut costs.
At the global level, forecasts for e-commerce growth are quite daring: From $59 billion last year, international consultants Deloitte says that virtual trade would cross the $1 trillion barrier by 2002, mainly from business-to-business deals. Asia, it seems, is destined to continue lagging behind with a less than $50-million share compared to more than $800 million for U.S. businesses. Such calculations cast of grim shadow over the Arab East, which is already being left behind the rest of the world economy in the traditional fields of industry and services. The vast majority of Asias e-commerce is conducted in advanced nations such as Singapore and Japan.
What can we expect then from Arab businesses? How can we avoid being confined to another footnote in the globalization story? The Arab virtual market is small. The U.A.E. is the most virtual with more than 200,000 Internet surfers up to April. Lebanon is in good shape with respect to its Arab neighbors and is not very far from 100,000 subscribers. The Syrian government limits the spread of the Internet to its citizens who dial-up using Lebanese providers.
Saudi Arabia is finally booming after the government allowed a highly censored Internet to reach the population. In terms of personal computers, we notice that Saudi Arabia has formidable infrastructure (almost 1 million PCs), which justifies the Internet explosion there. The Levant enjoys much less purchasing power, but hopefully economic liberalization will finally hit the whole region, raise the standard of living and spread computers more rapidly to an eager, multi-lingual and educated population. One of the very few studies I managed to come across showed that 9 percent of Arab Internet surfers make on-line purchases. But the market for credit cards, the main settlement mechanism on the Internet, is also growing. Lebanons 30,000 credit cards two years ago are have exceeded to 100,000 in 1999, and is expected to rise to 300,000 in 2001 with banks such as Credit Libanais working to introduce state of the art chip-based plastic. Lebanon defines itself on the virtual map by a set of encouraging numbers and some innovative approaches to e-commerce.
A liberal business code has allowed the spread of tens of Internet firms that are competing primarily by undercutting each others prices and making the costs of accessing the Web among the lowest in emerging markets. Lacking huge R budgets, Lebanese firms are devising low cost, yet effective, ways to wipe consumer fear of the Internet. Fransabank began by introducing a credit card with a monthly limit of $100-$200 to be used when making on-line purchases. If a credit card number is stolen, the resulting losses would be minimal. Other banks among them Lebanon & Gulf Bank, Credit Libanais, Blom, Audi, Inaash have followed with even lower limit Internet pre-paid cards.
Local service providers are teaming up with international firms to market the secure payment methods adopted internationally, such as Data Management, which linked with Kleline, and Inconet with Global Sign. While a major credit card issuer, CSC has teamed with Moscanet for providing a new way of secure payments in Lebanon. Another positive development has occurred on the Web itself. Some firms managed to break from the monotony and dullness that characterized Arab sites and carved a niche of selling goods to a large base of Lebanese expatriates, such as sweets manufacturer Hallab. In the financial industry, customers of the Arab Finance Corporation trade on-line.
Despite these bright spots, the market is stagnant and has not reached an international level of maturity. Most sites are dull, slow and difficult to manipulate. I tried to buy a book on-line from a local site. I only had a choice of the latest available publications (about six books) and waited for what felt like a decade for the necessary page to open. It was much easier to go to the bookshop, buy the book and come back before the page finished downloading.
So there is huge room for technological improvements to make the Internet faster and the connection more efficient. But a fair bit of investment is needed to upgrade system speed, create sophisticated sites and conduct large-scale marketing campaigns to familiarize the consumer and merchant with the new medium, especially the business-to-business side. The probability that such investments can be made through the small firms that form the market is tiny. Their small sizes limit their access to finance and the amount of salaries they can pay specialists capable of taking the e-business a step up. (Majzoub R., downloaded from http://www.dailystar.com.lb) V.
Conclusion Individuals will be able to process documents and pay their bills using the governments network. Mohammed Amin of the Ministry of Economy and Trade made the announcement and several conceded that at present there are obstacles in the path to the future – incomplete telecommunications infrastructure, non-existent e-commerce legislation and a lack of consumer awareness. Electronic commerce and its various services represent an easy and inexpensive opportunity for Lebanese businesses to compete on the regional and global markets, said al Amin, director-general at the ministry. The public and private sectors are both responsible for the development of e-commerce in Lebanon, said Amin. The Lebanese government intends to play an active role in this area. The government strategy includes the creation of a flexible legislative framework for electronic commerce and its adoption as the model in government transactions. The government also hopes to encourage small and medium sized businesses to adopt new technology and increase investment in information technology education and infrastructure.
Louis Hobeika, chairman of Sodetel, stressed the importance of IT development in all companies. Speeding transactions and minimizing costs is the key to doing business, he said. Electronic-commerce helps businesses reach this target. According to Hobeika, certain drawbacks limit the propagation of electronic-commerce in Lebanon, including slow network speed, consumer awareness and secure transactions. Fraud on the Internet is a major concern for an e-commerce company, he said.
But the fact is that less money is lost to Internet fraud than mobile phone fraud. According to Forrester Research, only $1 is lost to Internet fraud per $1,000 revenue transactions, compared to $19.63 for the cellular phone industry. Electronic-commerce turnover reached $59 billion in 1998, mainly in business-to-business deals. In the future, technology will allow people to bypass local authorities such as Customs, said Salah Rustom, president of CIE Lebanon. Governments that show flexibility in their legislature will benefit more than those who dont, he added. The Beirut Chamber of Commerce is working on a proposal to facilitate the movement of information, goods and services, said Hobeika.
Few Lebanese companies make use of their website for business, said Rami Majzoub, sales executive at Reuters. They use it mainly for promotional purposes. Majzoub suggested that e-commerce could help Lebanon regain its global muscle, but that the market was still in its infancy and needed incentives to grow. Lebanon has the competitive advantage in certain areas including low dial-up costs, a growing number of credit card holders, and businesses that recognize the potential of the web, said Majzoub. But the industry is still at a crossroads and needs to consolidate and attract joint venture capital to grow to its full potential.
Majzoub invited businesses to recognize the electronic market, and to act now because tomorrow is too late. Foot Notes: 1) Meta tag: is a programming script tag used in HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), which is used for developing web sites. This tag includes a description of the web site and some keywords that describe the web site. The purpose of it is to allow search engines to index the web site for users to easily locate it. Example: *META NAME=KEYWORDS CONTENT=university, education, Lebanese American University, etc ..* *META NAME=DESCRIPTION CONTENT=LAU is the leading university in the Middle East etc ..* 2) Merchant: is a company that links between the web surfer and the company of the web site.
It ensures that the credit card of the surfer is valid, that he has the amount of money to be paid in the bank, and transfers the needed amount from his account to the companys bank account. Bibliography 1. Majzoub, Rami. Seminar on e-commerce at the Bristol Hotel. September 1999 (http://www.dailystar.com.lb) 2. Al-Ittihad Al-Iktissadi.
30th Edition, February 2000. (pp. 29). 3. Haraky, Aly. Future of Commerce is Digital: Point and Click.
August 1999. (pp. 1). http://www.dailystar.com.lb 4. Wilson, Ralph F. The Web Marketing Checklist. Web Marketing Today. Issue 57, June 1, 1999.
5. Preparing a Customer Profile for Your Internet Marketing Plan. Web Marketing Today. Issue 76, April 1, 2000. Marketing and Advertising.