June 1996

Root Page of Article: Building "Webcentricity", by Christopher Kresser

Build Community

The primary function and advantage of the Internet as a medium is its facilitation of communications. The explosion of email as a means of interpersonal communications is exemplified by a recently released report which states that last year the number of email messages sent surpassed the number of letters sent through traditional means (i.e. the Post Office) for the first time ever. Because the Internet is chiefly a communications medium, companies who wish to become successful in this marketspace must effectively utilize the potential of the Web to build relationships between themselves, consumers, and other businesses. The World Wide Web provides companies with the opportunities to establish valuable, long-term relationships with their consumers that were previously geographically or financially impossible. This is possible through the Web's unique interactivity which allows firms to offer their customers forums for feedback and support. Customers can research a product they are considering, browse through technical support information and frequently asked questions, email a customer service representative, receive online tech support, and network with other consumers who have similar tastes and preferences.

Dell Computer's Web site has received recognition as the leader in customer support in the computer industry. Their site, in addition to providing volumes of information about their customized computer systems, gives customers the added benefit of a support assistant and an order assistant. The support assistant directs the user to a file library which contains useful tech support documentation, a link to Microsoft Windows Technical Support, AutoTech online (frequently asked questions), and an online technical support mailbox which enables consumers to use an interactive online form to describe his/her problem in detail. The order assistant permits customers who have already placed an order to check the status of that order online, provides customer service to current Dell customers, and offers sales service to potential buyers. All of this occurs at a dramatically reduced cost to the firm at the convenience of customer, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Also important is providing a channel for businesses to communicate with each other, locate products and services, and build strategic partnerships. Industry.Net, which was recently acquired by former Lotus Development Corp. Jim Manzi for $3.52 billion, was created to capitalize on this opportunity. Industry.Net is not at all focused on the consumer marketplace; rather, the intention is to build a complete business system that is a solution for both buyers and sellers. Ultimately, this means taking the interaction between buyers and sellers across the network and seeing how that creates a new form of content that [Industry.Net] can, in turn, capture and make available to buyers and sellers (Manzi, 1996). Industry.Net's Online Marketplace represents a wide variety of industries from computing to agriculture. The Business Centers section provides a list of manufacturer's business centers. Marketplace Floors contains the latest technology announcements, product information, software demos, and more. The site also offers Regional Buying Guides, Trade Shows Online, Industry.Net Daily (a daily news supplement that can be delivered via fax or email), Regional Seminars, and Surplus Equipment. Developing an environment in which businesses can communicate seamlessly and cost-effectively will create a buyer-seller phenomenon offshore which will not only bring overseas products to the States, but very importantly also bring North American products to potential overseas marketplaces. (Manzi, Interactive Week) --

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