Because so many customers are adopting the Web to transact business, e-commerce is exploding.
Online sales to consumers is projected to reach $184 billion in 2004. Business-to-business online sales will grow at an even faster rate, and are expected to pass the consumer e-market at about that same time.
Customer loyalty and satisfaction will be the differentiating factors between successful and unsuccessful online initiatives. If you're one of the many marketers hoping to move customers to the Web (after all, it's clearly the most cost-effective way to enable many sales, marketing and support activities), there are some truths about the e-world that you need to know.
Information is the key ingredient of excellent customer experiences on the Web. In lieu of direct interactions, data collected online will help you understand your customers' needs, target and personalize interactions, and customize product and service offerings.
Currently, however, some customers have relatively low confidence in doing business on the Web. They're particularly fearful of sharing their personal data because of concerns about fraud, misuse of their financial information, identity theft and invasive marketing.
Indeed, much more information about consumers is collected and seemingly available to more people at a much faster rate. In addition, such information often is stored in databases that are connected to the Internet, making it, in theory, easier for thieves and hackers to get their hands on the data.
I believe this puts e-commerce at a critical juncture. Information is its lifeblood, but the most successful companies will be those that earn customer trust. Only then will customers share their information.
Bob Dorf, president of Peppers and Rogers Group, notes: "Privacy is the single greatest threat to the successful implementation of one-to-one. Any company that is going to do [one-to-one marketing] and not totally respect the privacy of the customer's information is just waiting for disaster … begging for a disaster."