Net sales and marketing –

The American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) recently concluded a benchmarking study comparing online sales and marketing processes at seven identified best practice companies ("partners") against a group of companies looking to improve their practices in this area ("sponsors"). The selected results below suggest that the average company relies too heavily on tracking hit and page-view data, when more specific and substantive measures of online behavior are available. Providing a personalized experience for online customers also differentiates the leaders from the laggards.

Methods used to understand online customersPartnersSponsors
Conduct online customer satisfaction surveys100%31%
Capture demographic information through online registration71%54%
Distribute customer surveys by e-mail71%23%
Regularly conduct market research62%86%
How online customer information is integrated into overall business operationsPartnersSponsors
Personalizing customer information online100%42%
Deploying new products/services online86%67%
Developing internet-specific products/services86%58%
Metrics used to track online customer behaviorPartnersSponsors
Page views/sessions71%69%
Unique visits71%23%
Pathing/links followed43%15%

Source: The American Productivity and Quality Center in Houston

Best Practices for IT

1. Build a standards-based, open architecture for net commerce. This practice provides two advantages. First, it lowers the cost of doing e-business. Second, it provides the greatest flexibility for future capacity growth. "Projecting site usage has become an arcane art," says Ron Webb, project leader for the APQC study. "To ensure proper architecture for the future, excess capacity and failover routines [procedures to follow when a server goes down] have to be built into the systems."

2. Think way ahead. Webb says many of the partner organizations forecast technology changes at least two years in advance. That's clearly difficult in a time of rapid technological change, but online leaders recognize that it's the only way to attempt to stay ahead of the curve.

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