From the October 2000 issue of Startups

With so many brick-and-mortar companies migrating to online with established brands-and with 67 percent of online sales being dominated by the 50 largest online retailers-how can you ensure your pure-play or multichannel e-tail site will be successful?

Elaine Rubin, president of the Woodbury, New York, e-commerce consulting firm ekrubin Inc., and chairperson of Shop.org, a Silver Spring, Maryland, trade association that focuses on electronic direct-to-consumer marketing technologies and trends and Internet retailing offers this advice: "Any company that's creating an online strategy and business needs to first understand their audience, who they are trying to reach online and what they can do for their customer online that could not be done offline. Internet retailers have the ability to offer unique products and services that can and do make a difference in customers' lives. The key for retailers is to focus on delivering a compelling experience for the online customer."

So if you want to understand your customers better, check out these eight lessons for online retailing, based on findings from The State of Online Retailing 2.0, a joint study conducted by Shop.org and The Boston Consulting Group:

  • Trust and security issues are the leading inhibitors of online shopping.
  • Consumers cement their online loyalty after three consecutive visits to a site; afterward, they are hesitant to switch online brands without a compelling reason.
  • Affiliate programs can be used to understand customers' online behavior, and portal relationships attract high volumes of traffic and potential customers.
  • It's important to provide a high level of attention and service throughout the purchasing cycle.
  • The informed online consumer often buys more-and more expensive-products.
  • Use a multichannel approach; consumers use online and offline resources to research and purchase products as well as service all their existing products.
  • Replicate the in-store sales experience; provide consumers with more interactive, exciting, personal communications.
  • Build a recognized brand name to create a relationship of trust and make an investment in advertising and marketing to help online shoppers recognize your brand name.