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Tim Peter


July 20, 2007

What businesses need to know to improve online sales…

July 20, 2007 | By | No Comments

Seth Godin’s got an interesting notion today on how publishing could benefit from the web. It’s an interesting point of view and brings into focus some of the things that the web is good at. Here are 5 other businesses where consumers have benefited from the web:

  1. Travel – The killer app of e-commerce. More travel is sold online than any other product
  2. Financial services – When was the last time you called your broker?
  3. Personal ads – I’d include not only Craigslist in this, but also eBay. Obviously, newspapers are really feeling the heat from this.
  4. Music – OK, this isn’t necessarily benefiting the record industry. But consumers have access to greater diversity of artists through iTunes, Rhapsody,, MySpace and the like than they ever did a decade ago. To say nothing of CD’s from Amazon.
  5. News – Like music, not necessarily the television networks or newspapers gain. While the traditional members of the value chain face challenges, consumers have access to more news – and more opinions about that news – than ever before.

And here’s why:

  1. Reduced distribution costs – Note that each of these businesses generally requires little in the way of a physical product. Chris Anderson explains this brilliantly in "The Long Tail". But don’t assume that your product couldn’t also take advantage, regardless of how difficult it is to distribute today. Seth’s post shows one way. What are others?
  2. Access to information previously held only by "experts" – This is the whole crowdsourcing phenomenon. Whether it’s reviews of travel destinations, seller rankings on eBay, recommendations of great bands on Amazon or Facebook, the web opens information up to consumers. Google has built its whole business on putting some order around that information. Have you made it equally easy for your customers?

I’m sure there are others. Feel free to add yours to the comments. There’s one that doesn’t belong, though:

  1. Low prices

Whether it’s cars on eBay, high-end workstations from Dell, opening high net worth accounts on financial services sites, or what-have-you, your product doesn’t have to sell cheaply to sell on the web. And, yes, I consider lead generation part of a sale. But don’t assume that’s all you can do. Make it easy (or easier, anyway) for consumers to access information and eliminate needless costs and you can grow your business online. In fact, I’ll issue a challenge for myself. I’ll buy one reader who comes up with the toughest business to sell online the book of his or her choice on Amazon (up to $50). Post your ideas in the comments or via private email by the Wednesday, July 27th, 2007 and I’ll post my perspective on how that business could improve the following week. How simple is that?


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