Uses for e-business
E-business is about conducting business online. Many aspects of your business can be improved by moving them online. Here are some ways you can use e-business to your advantage.
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Intranet and extranet
An intranet is like your business' own Internet. It can do everything the Internet can do, but it is only available to your employees rather than the world. An intranet will link offices that are in different locations. It can minimize the number of physical meetings, facilitate information sharing, increase the speed of development and consistency of information, and be used to coordinate internal company operations, such as product design, production, inventory control, and shipping.
An extranet is a portion of your intranet that you make available to users outside of your network. An extranet can be used to coordinate with outside partners to automate business operations such as order taking, supply chain management, logistics, billings, and feedback.
Business to business
Using the Internet for business-to-business (B2B) activities holds the greatest potential for many small businesses. There are two distinct aspects to this model that separate it from the more familiar business-to-consumer e-tailing model:
Flexibility in pricing
Transactions between businesses often require variability in the pricing of products between purchasers.
Cooperation of business systems
Businesses involved in B2B e-commerce allow their internal systems to work together to share information and interactions, resulting in less human intervention. The result is increased productivity and greater savings.
How can small and medium-sized enterprises benefit from B2B e-commerce?
Purchasing indirect supplies
Many suppliers offer catalogue-based websites for corporate purchases, similar to buying online from a business-to-customer website, for indirect supplies such as office furniture, pens, paper, and general office equipment.
Purchasing direct materials
Establish a relationship with a vendor that supports e-procurement of direct materials to reduce costs.
Selling products or services to new vendors
Join in an e-marketplace to open up new opportunities to sell your products across the globe.
Leveraging your existing Web presence
Perhaps you already have a business to customer e-commerce website. Greater sophistication can be added into your online store to target your business clientele.
Investing in your own e-procurement solution
Examine your purchasing process, and identify potentials for automating procurement. With a manageable expenditure you could realize a significant return on investment.
Everything you do to promote your business online is Internet marketing. For example, Internet marketing strategies include (but are not limited to) website design and content, search engine optimization, directory submissions, reciprocal linking strategies, online advertising, and email marketing.
Here are some examples of the time and cost-saving benefits of using the Internet to market your products or services:
- The Internet is the widest channel of communication available to small businesses.
- The Internet allows you to collect immediate feedback from your client base with little out-of-pocket expense.
- Internet marketing can be more efficient than print marketing materials and advertising strategies which can be expensive to produce and traditionally have a short shelf life.
No matter what business you're in, Internet marketing should form part of your marketing mix. How large a part it plays will depend on your particular needs and budget. The tools you use to develop your online presence and to drive traffic to your website will also depend on your particular business and target market demographics.
Internet marketing is a fast-changing industry that readily adapts to improvements in technology. There are always new marketing tools available to small businesses. Some of these tools are listed below.
- Online marketing
Online marketing techniques like social networking, emailing and blogging are useful and involve little to no direct costs.
- Email marketing
Discover the advantages of marketing your business with email.
Business to customer
The global reach of the Internet has enticed many retailers, from home-based businesses to large corporations, to sell their products online.
An electronic storefront refers to a website with many pre-built e-commerce components that a merchant can use to set up an online store. These storefronts give merchants the ability to build an online store using only a Web browser.
Electronic storefronts can be a cost-effective approach for small businesses that are new to e-commerce and unsure about whether they want to pay someone to develop a custom solution. However, there are definite drawbacks to using electronic storefronts.
- You are responsible for creating and maintaining the site yourself, which can be time consuming and involve a steep learning curve.
- The ability to customize the look of your storefront may be limited if you are using a template.
- Basic services may be inexpensive, but optional components may be quite costly.
- You are usually limited to using the payment processing or fulfillment services that come with the storefront, which may not be offered at a competitive price.
As with most aspects of setting up an online store, you should closely examine the costs, benefits, and options associated with the various storefront packages before making a final decision.
- Online sales
Learn how to set up a secure payment system for your online sales.
Human resources management
People looking for jobs do not pound the pavement anymore. They do their research by viewing businesses' websites and sending their resume after clicking on the "careers" link. Shift workers like to be able to see their schedule online. An employee website keeps your staff informed and lets them send you feedback. E-business lets you better manage your staff and helps your staff feel more involved in the business.
- Implementing tools for human resources administration
Learn how to save time and money by using online tools and technologies that can make managing your human resources procedures more efficient.
Customer relationship management
Who is really buying your product? When do they buy? Is there a trend to your customer's habits? E-business can help you get into the heads of your customers, letting you better cater to their needs. Happy customers mean better business.
- What is customer relationship management?
In today's competitive market, it is vital for you to manage your relationships with your customers systematically, efficiently and profitably.
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