MIAMI BEACH, FL — A consortium of e-commerce executives from major U.S. corporations met to discuss the present and future of conducting business over the Internet. The conference and exhibition were sponsored by Frost & Sullivan (, a marketing and consulting business that has been sponsoring leading-edge conferences for over 35 years.

Some of the seminars were designed to provide marketing and business forecasts to companies of all sizes and answer questions about the future role of e-commerce in marketing and selling.

Integrating the Web

Speaker Ken Burke said it directly and succinctly: “The Web is a direct business.” Burke, owner of Multimedia Live, told attendees that integrating the Web into all “channels” of business is the key to future success. He listed three main ingredients to website success:

1. Acquisition (finding customers);

2. Conversion (selling to customers); and

3. Retention (getting customers to come back).

Burke said all three ingredients work in a 360-degree loop and all form a feasible alternative to traditional business-to-customer channels.

“The Web tends to be a cheaper way of doing business than the normal retail method,” he said.

Curiously enough, Burke noted that it is advantageous for businesses to keep customers coming back to their website by encouraging them to buy from competitors. His logic is that customers will get in the habit of using the Web to make purchases and will eventually benefit all businesses on the Internet.

“If you can get a customer to buy from multiple channels rather than just you, you have a 30% to 40% chance of retention.”

Bricks and Clicks

Burke said that the best of both worlds is to have a consistent marketing message on websites and in stores. He feels that too often some retailers try to over-hype their products and services via the Web and don’t offer similar products and services in their walk-up businesses.

“Make sure there is a consistency between the website and the store,” he said. “Have the same prices and the same merchandising. The people who merchandise the stores should also be merchandising the website.”

He cited Radio Shack as one of the “true multi-channel resellers” in the United States.

Burke added that even if a business has a good, informative website, the employees have to be keen to what each customer wants — and know what they don’t want to hear.

“Your customer doesn’t care about your problems,” he said. “They only want to know what you can do for them. They don’t want telemarketers telling them the history of your company.

“Get your customer into the store to solve their problems or cross-sell.”

He added that in order for a business to effectively integrate e-commerce with traditional retailing, all employees must work toward the same goal. Doing that involves what he terms the “moment of truth.”

“Push everything down to the lowest level of worker — and empower them with the same responsibilities as everyone else,” Burke said.

Burke concluded his presentation with a thought on the future of e-commerce, emphasizing integrated data solutions, which includes customer information.

“Customer data is so important,” he said. “If you aren’t used to [collecting] customer data now, in three years you will be.”

Burke can be reached at (e-mail).

Publication date: 08/13/2001