So, you have built the world’s greatest web site. “Build it, and they will come”, right? Oh, if life could be so easy!
A carefully planned site and thorough marketing plans are key elements to building and planning your web endeavors. However, these solid plans will not be enough to compete on the internet. Changes in internet business trends (e-commerce) are taking place at a rapid rate and will quickly affect your business. These rapid changes are what business and marketing analysts call TRENDS. Careful businessmen keep tabs on competitors actions, analyze customer behavior patterns and watch general economic trends. If it is your objective to build a successful business on the internet, you will need to keep tabs on these trends, and it is important that your businesses internet strategy is flexible enough to adapt to these trends.
Trends on the internet come and go, and having a competitive advantage may only last a few months. The pace of the internet business world is much faster than the pace of the “brick and mortar” business world. Your business and marketing plan will need to be flexible enough to compensate for these changes in your competition, customers and the economy. This will also require you to make some important decisions and act on them quickly. Remember, on the internet, competition is on a global level and larger companies have millions of dollars to dump into the internet. You will need to think and act quickly to stay ahead of the pack.
Many businesses build their internet presence with a notion that their site will run itself, customers will just happen upon their site, and no effort will be needed to maintain the success of their site. Businesses on the internet are no different than “brick and mortar” businesses. They need to be well planned and have a solid marketing objective, but rapid changes on the internet require additional efforts from these companies. Watch the trends!
So, where do you look for these trends that keep you ahead of the pack? Fortunately,the internet itself provides you with a vast pool of resources to analyze trends
Analyzing Your Customers
This should be the first place you start. Your customers are the backbone of your business. Your customers actions may reveal trends that lead you to adjust how your site works, where you focus marketing dollars or something as drastic as what you sell.
Take a look at your server log files. What areas of your site do your customers go to the most? When? Why? Where are they coming from to get to your site? Are they searching, shopping, researching a product? How long are they on your site?
Other information that you can obtain from your customer is even more valuable. Build a form for them to respond to you. Beta test new features on your most valuable customers before spending all your money on a site change. Feedback and emailing opportunities for customers will keep you informed on what they want and will provide you with immediate answers to customer buying trends. Your customers may also reveal demographic trends such as their age, sex, and occupation. For example If you build an online form, and more single people seem to be coming to your site, you may want to adjust your marketing plans. You may decide that based on these trends to focus marketing on carving out a niche with single people (after all your trend analysis shows it is working). On the other hand you may decide to refocus more on the married crowd instead in order to gain an additional customer base.
Keeping track of customer trends is easy. Most often your customer will let you know what you are doing right, right away, and you will be able to monitor your success based on their actions using your server log files.
Researching Online Magazines/Search Engines
The great thing about analyzing trends for internet business is that the press and, more importantly, Wall Street loves the internet. What does that mean? – Articles, resources and information galore!! Even more helpful is the fact that this information is all on-line. Through a careful search, you can find a wealth of information. News agencies write about successes and failures of internet companies. You can get a good idea of what your competition’s marketing strategy is from these articles. In effect, you can adjust your companies strategy based on your competition’s strategy.
Use a search engine to research the competition. Type in your competitors name and search through the information about your competition. Use AltaVista to search for the links that your competition has established.
You or your client will know the trade magazines of your industry but check some of these sites first. They may provide some more general trends that can be helpful.
Analyzing Your Competition
Check out their web sites. What are they doing better? Search for articles and information on them online (see online magazines above). Do your homework to find out how you can set yourself apart from your competition. Look for the thing that they don’t do so well. Finding that one thing that makes a customer choose you over your competition will give you a focal point in your marketing efforts. For example, if your competition charges for shipping and you don’t, you need to make sure that EVERYONE that comes to your site knows this and knows that this is important.
Watch their development into new areas and new features. If they are a worthy competitor, they are watching you as well and may even be copying you. Watching the trends in your competition is absolutely necessary in order to stay ahead of them.
Analyzing The Big Internet Companies
The ones taking your customers elsewhere – Facebook, Google, AOL, Yahoo, Amazon, Lycos, Excite etc.
These companies are your competition as well, more so than you probably think. They send your customers to your competition. They set up stores for your competition, and they advertise your competition.
Also, take a look at what new features that these big internet companies will be introducing. Surf their entire site. Call them and ask. These businesses want to let the public know what they are planning to do. Find out if you can make your mark against these bigger companies by doing something better. Is your competitor using these sites to market themselves? Is there a model that these companies are using that you can adapt to be your own? Are your customers using these sites?
Analyzing & Researching Books
This source may not provide up to the minute trends, but it can provide you with important information on marketing and what businesses are doing on the internet. There are tons of new books out there. Go to amazon.com and read a review. Pick the best.
Author: Adam Strong
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