Channels to the Hearts and Minds--On-line 2005
Featured Author - Lucy West
The physical, e, and wireless world continues to grow!
The e-channel for shoppers continues to grow, with so many nay-sayers and doubters. You'd think this issue would die, with more and more shoppers buying from far flung vendors: Boston to the Nanga Tribes for buying original crafts; Dallas to Huangshan City, China, etc.
In spite of nasty spam, more activities go on-line—games, travel, research, etc. On-line is now part of the total life experience. The challenge will be to make it even better for users; build capacity (again), making the various channels (wireless, cellular, fiber to the home, etc.) work well together.
First, on-line is now part of the information technology component of the enterprise. This aspect is slowly but surely destroying many industries that rely on providing "content and information as part of a paid service or subscription", such as magazines, research firms, etc. In fact, most of these leading edge firms have found value-added service on top of "free information", and the old timers are struggling to add some pizzazz to their service model. There are great strategies for bringing people closer together here!
Competitive analysis is a major beneficiary of the on-line revolution. The advice to product firms is to make sure you use this channel well. If your competitors put a solid footprint of their product on-line, it would behoove you to do likewise. In spite of the risk of imitation, shoppers for software, electronics, even jewelry really are doing their research. One person of over 200 executives in a room did not do on-line research for products before they bought. So both business and consumer have come to rely on this channel. It's hard to level an investment dollar, which is the big question as executives deal with ROIs for efforts to enhance their business. Where did they buy? In the store. So we build more stores, when in reality it was the web that "sold the deal". Learning more about our customers is key.
In addition, this channel will only get more pervasive with all the wired and wireless channels to the hearts and minds of the buyers being served. Globally, the Telco industry continues to consolidate: AT&T with SBC, Sprint and Nextel (there is a strange history), MCI and Qwest or Verizon;, France, Japan, US, Canada, etc. And part of the strategy in doing so is to provide a totally integrated service. We hope that these will bring net value to customers. At my roost here in Canada this week, Rogers covers the wireless Internet, cable TV, etc., as well as my own cell phone. One firm provides it all. The customer's needs become the focal point. Poweredcom of Japan sees the broad context-seeing content as part of the picture (no pun here) as well as the mobility of the customer. Sam Nakane, CEO of Poweredcom, said that his "ultimate goal was to become 'a ubiquitous Internet service provider' that would become a window for users to stay connected wherever they are through one phone number and one bill."
As convergence continues at all levels—devices, carriers, and content/retailers—, the question still remains. What will be the impact to these various businesses? Consider
- Retailers need to provide a way to make their customers more loyal—this takes some imagination, like creating and improving the experience for customers and also creating real loyalty programs (Will Amazon's Prime be one of those?).
- Content-information services, games, and other services—being a destination site is key, as well as managing relationships with channel partners.
- Carriers should make it easy for customers, or they will defect and put up with multichannel challenges until they get everything they want from that one carrier (consumer configurations like: T-Mobile, Comcast, Cingular, AOL, or Verizon, RCN, Yahoo, etc.). And these methods simultaneously service their work and play!
The money is clearly there for the winning providers! But you have to listen to your customers and serve their needs!
This article is from Parallax View, ChainLink Research's on-line magazine, read by over 150,000 supply chain and IT professionals each month. Thought-provoking and actionable articles from ChainLink's analysts, top industry executives, researchers, and fellow practitioners. To view the entire magazine, click here
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