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Electronic commerce offers much promise to U.S. firms interested in using the Internet as another vehicle for exporting. However, the marketing executive should be familiar with the steps necessary to make the firm's web site e-export capable. Many U.S. companies have a web site that fulfills one or more marketing functions tailored to their business specialties. These sites feature one or more of the following characteristics (Note: all of the sites given as examples below have been internationalized or have localized mirror sites to facilitate cross-border e-commerce):
People who shop online are most familiar with this type of website. A transactional site may be an electronic storefront for a brick-and-mortar retailer or a catalog business, (e.g., Lands’ End), or a manufacturer showroom for those wishing to sell directly to the public (e.g., Dell Computer). Transactional sites conduct full “end-to-end” transactions via the website, allowing customers to search for, order, and pay for products online as well as allowing them to contact the company for after-sales service. The most sophisticated sites create efficiencies by integrating the transaction process with back-office systems such as accounting, inventory, sales and others (e.g., Amazon).
This site generates sales by promoting corporate awareness rather than facilitating online transactions. Its function is similar to a brochure, providing information about the product or service and contact information on how to proceed with a purchase. Because this site is often static and doesn’t require the software systems necessary for online transactions, it is less expensive to design and maintain than the transactional site. An information delivery site is ideal for companies that market products and services that cannot be provided online or goods that cannot be sold online (e.g. Ford, Caterpillar).
A modified version of this site permits the buyer to shop online for the best price from competing vendors providing the identical product, e.g., authorized dealers of Honda America. Information on options available for a particular model allows the buyer to “visualize” the configuration and obtain an estimated price for the vehicle.
These sites are market-makers: they bring buyers and sellers together to facilitate transactions. Participation in a brokerage often provides an efficient way of finding a customer without the expense of building a proprietary transactional website. Types of brokerages include auctions (e.g. eBay), sites for local artisans (http://www.wftomarket.com/), and matching services (www.buyusa.gov).