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Eastern Shore Sees Impact of the Internet on Growing Companies

From the Eastern Shore News, Saturday, March 3, 2001
By Dianne Dawson, Special to the News

"The Internet has had a tremendous impact on businesses" says Bruce Evans, proprietor of Cape Charles House Bed and Breakfast (http://www.capecharleshouse.com).
E-commerce is growing on the Shore as more and more companies set-up websites to sell products and services through the Internet.

Short for electronic commerce, e-commerce refers to sales transactions that take place over the Internet. These can range from the fairly simple (print a form, fill it out, and then fax, mail or call it in) to sophisticated real-time transactions in which the customer pays by credit card and the purchase is approved by their credit card company before they leave the website.

Randy Lewis, Island House Restaurant, hopes to see a big impact from their website, which he is redesigning (http://www.wachapreague.com). They plan to book fishing tours, reserve rooms and eventually ship crab cakes to customers off the Shore.

The Network Future Task Force, a project of the Eastern Shore Regional Partnership, is sponsoring a series of educational workshops for business owners who want to learn more about the Internet, E-commerce and how their business can benefit. Their mission is to "improve the quality of life on Virginia's Eastern Shore, enhance communications services that will facilitate economic development, increase the vitality of civic and cultural discourse and provide technological assistance to the local business community".

When you visit a website and order something, that's e-commerce. Behind that website is a business. A successful e-commerce website is supported by an e-business, which simply means that the company has thought through the whole process. This includes decisions on topics ranging from the selection of what products to market via the Internet, the website design, and the marketing plan, to internal policies and procedures, pricing and payment options, order processing, inventory management, customer service and employee training. The technology for e-commerce can vary from simple to very complex. The successful e-business has an e-strategy in place that includes a means of measuring the success of the website.

The Blue Crab Bay Company (http://www.bluecrabbay.com) is another Eastern Shore company that has seen its business grow through the Internet. "People expect you to have a website", says Caroline Teeling, Design Coordinator for the Blue Crab Bay Company. "A lot of people don't know [they should] get the domain name now, even if they don't have a website yet." With domain names going at the rate of five per second, according to Network Solutions, the premier provider of domain names, it is a wise business decision to get the name you want now, before someone else does.

That's what has happened with the name "island house". An Internet search shows that the most desirable forms of that name are taken, leaving our local Island House Restaurant searching for more creative ways to use their name.

For the consumer, e-commerce offers convenience and selection. Comparison-shopping is a snap. Consumers can also learn more about a company and it's policies. For the business, e-commerce offers the opportunity to reach customers outside the geographic vicinity of the business's physical location, opening the door to increased revenues and market share. In addition, the website can answer common customer questions, share customer testimonials and capture the e-mail address of those willing to provide it for follow-up marketing.

There are many good examples of e-commerce websites right here on the Eastern Shore. Visit local artist Thelma J. Peterson's website at http://www.thelmapeterson.com or the website for the Bed and Breakfast Wilson-Lee House at http://www.wilsonleehouse.com.

If you are a business owner considering an e-commerce website, here are nine items for further study:
  • Products
    Some products are well suited to sell on the Internet, others are more difficult.
  • Ordering
    Ordering can be as simple as online forms to print and mail, or more sophisticated, completely automated real-time transactions. If you have several products, you will want a "shopping cart".
  • Payments
    You can arrange for customers to pay online with credit cards, checks, or electronic fund transfers.
  • Integration
    You may want to consider setting up your system with the idea of being fully integrated. This reduces or eliminates the need for manually transferring data from one software application to another.
  • Return Policies
    The more liberal the policy, the more comfortable the customer will be in buying online.
  • Secure Transactions
    Work with your web host to ensure that you are using the SSL (secure sockets layer protocol) for transactions.
  • Privacy Policies
    Customers want to know how you will use their private information and assurance that you won't sell or rent it to third parties.
  • Marketing
    The idea that "if you build it they will come" is a myth. You must promote your website in a variety of ways to generate or increase traffic.
  • Website
    Good design that's fast loading and easy-to-navigate is the rule here. Be concise yet informative.
If you are interested in learning more about e-commerce projects on the Eastern Shore and/or attending the workshops sponsored by the Network Future Task Force, you can contact Brenda Holden, Regional Partnership Chairperson, or Beth Parkhurst, E-Commerce Coordinator at (757) 414-0731 or via e-mail at bparkhur@vt.edu.

This series of articles is sponsored by the Eastern Shore Regional Partnership. The partnership consists of 38 members that are key decision-makers representing local government, secondary education, higher education, civic associations and the private sector, their mission is to enhance economic growth and development for the local bi-county business community. There are six initiatives that the Regional Partnership is addressing:
  • Destination Center and Resort Hotel
  • Business Development and Workforce Training Center
  • Space Flight Academy
  • Wholesale seafood market with blast freezer
  • Sustainable waste water treatment for Cape Charles
  • Networked Future Task Force
In this series of articles, more detail will be provided on the key points made in this introductory article as well as additional information about e-commerce here on the Shore.

Dianne E. Dawson, M.A., Business Coach, is principal of Dawson Resources, LLC, a coaching, training and web design Internet company on the Eastern Shore.
Visit http://www.dawsonresources.com or send an e-mail.


Copyright 2001 by Dianne E. Dawson
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