- GAP Enterprises, a management
and marketing "solutioning"
firm, can be e-mailed at
georgem@@gapent.com. He is the moderator
Digest," an Internet
retail discussion forum located at
Internet and You
Part I on developing a
Web site for your store
invited to give a seminar on the Web and
retailing at the National Stationery Show in May.
The audience for this all-day event
(Independents Day, sponsored by George
Little Management and Gifts & Dec)
was primarily made up of independent retailers.
In the afternoon we broke up to form roundtable
discussions, this gave me a chance to interact
with those on the front line of cyber retailing
folks just like you. Our conclusions? The
World Wide Web is creating a big stir among
Of course, there
were a lot of questions. If the Web is a global
phenomenon, how does it apply to me at the local
level? Who shops on the Internet, and why? Is
anybody making money? Do my competitors have Web
sites? Is the Web going to put me out of
business? Is it difficult to establish an
Internet presence? How are people going to find
my Web site? And what about security?
They are all
legitimate questions, and there is an answer for
each. For starters, respected research firms have
estimated the Internet population to be between
62 and 165 million people worldwide. Who are
There are many
Net-based surveys that try to determine the
profile of Net surfers or shoppers. Every six
months, the Graphics, Visualization, &
Usability (GVU) Center at the Georgia Institute
of Technology in Atlanta does a thorough survey
of the Net population that has become an industry
standard. Their October 1998 survey reported that
the typical user is, on average, 37 years of age
(with most falling between the ages of 2125
and 5155). Of these users:
- 87.2 percent
- 47.6 percent
- 88.8 percent
have at least some college education.
- 87.0 percent
have been on Net for one year or more.
- 87.5 percent
have visited Web store sites.
- 84.6 percent
search the Net to buy at least once a
- 88.7 percent
have purchased on the Net in the last six
According to the
GVU survey, people shop on the Net for a variety
of reason. In order of importance:
- 21.0 percent
shop for convenience.
- 18.8 percent
shop to save time.
- 18.7 percent
seek vendor information.
- 16.0 percent
like the stress-free environment.
- 8.04 percent
look for product reviews.
- 4.06 percent
want other customer opinions.
- 4.02 percent
are looking for personalized information.
Will these people
never shop at your store? On the contrary:
According to a Find/SVP study, 51 percent of Net
searchers are looking for a local store in which
to purchase merchandise.
Three or four
years ago I would have said that anything under
$100 would sell on the World Wide Web. Today, my
answer is that anything will sell! Currently, the
most popular items are computer hardware and
software, travel and entertainment packages,
books, CDs, gifts, toys, flowers and greetings,
clothing (which is showing the biggest increase),
groceries, and pharmacy products.
popular opinion, many companies are making money
on the Web some youve heard of, like
Dell Computers (some $14 million a day in sales).
Net businesses in the stationery and gift
industries include Blue Mountain Arts and Office
Depot (which reported $67 million in Internet and
catalog sales for 1998). The oldest commercial
site hot sauce retailer HotHotHot, which
was started because its owners felt that it was
too expensive to open a brick and mortar store
is still going strong.
a book by Jaclyn Easton, lists 23 companies that
have had success on the Net. One of them, Coastal
Tool & Supply in Connecticut, now earns
$10,000 a day on the Web, has done away with its
catalog business, and is opening a
30,000-square-foot store right across the street
from its biggest competitor: Home Depot.
retailers, Amydoodles and Art a Deux (a.k.a. My
Sentiments Greeting Cards), only do business on
the Net. Both are doing well and claim their
businesses have grown in new directions.
Now that you have
background knowledge of Web retailing as a whole,
its time to look at how your store can
become a part of this worldwide revolution. A
good place to start is with your competitors. Are
they on the Net? Not sure? By clicking on www.networksolutions.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois,
you can find out if they have registered a domain
name. If they have, you can be sure it will only
be a matter of time before they "open a
The most important
aspect of establishing a Net presence is setting
a budget. Too many retailers try to start a cyber
business on a shoestring, only to find that that
approach doesnt work. After all, you
wouldnt open a brick and mortar store
without fixtures, or without funds for
advertising. Opening a store on the Web is no
The amount you
commit to your budget will depend on what it is
you want to accomplish. The costs of establishing
a site include both one-time and ongoing charges.
The initial one-time charge is for the
registration of your name (URL) and the right to
use that URL. This costs $70 for the first two
years, payable to InterNIC Registration.
for the physical location of your site run at
least $50 per month. Site development can cost as
little as $1,500. Finally, you will have ongoing
site maintenance charges that are usually a
percentage of the original development costs
$50 and up per month.
In your first
year, plan to spend a minimum of between $2,500
and $5,000 (for a small site with few options).
More options, such as a shopping cart, secured
server, and more interaction can boost the cost
to between $5,000 and $25,000. A medium-sized
site with even more products, services, and
options will cost you $20,000 to $50,000.
months column, well look at what your
site should contain, how long of a commitment you
should make to maintaining it, how you should
promote it, and how you can avoid visitor
- Art a Deux:
- Blue Mountain
- Coastal Tool
& Supply: www.coastaltool.com/ind/
- GVU survey:
- Office Depot: