Is the Time for e-Business Now?

August 8, 2000

Casey Hughes

Founding Partner

Kmunity

Info@kmunity.net

http://www.kmunity.net

Small businesses are not putting the web to work. In spite of 70 percent having internet access only 20 percent of those transact business (over the web). That’s only 14 percent of all small businesses! Why?

When surveyed (1), small business owners consistently state the following reasons for they’re holding back:

  • lack of time
  • lack of perceived value from web initiatives
  • too costly
  • too complicated

Historically this has been true. You used to have to know how to create web pages using a web page editor program like FrontPage or NetObjects. Sounded easy enough. Even your word processor could "save as" your documents into html file formats (the document file format of the web). And plenty of internet service providers (ISP's) emerged ready to host your web files (collectively referred to as your website) for free; as a value to your internet connections you paid for. But although it met the low cost criteria, simplicity was lacking. So were the new customers for those that DID enter this early fray.

Then in 1999, the application service provider (ASP) entered the market. ASP's offer you a more integrated and seamless (read as easy) way to both create and host your website. All for free. And for those truly wishing to extend their business to the web, these ASP's also offer a convenient way to create a catalog of products or services, complete shopping cart (a way for your customer to "order" them) and commerce functions (a manner to pay for them). This began the trend towards eCommerce for small business.

The U.S. application service provider (ASP) market will grow from $1.1B in 1999 to more than $13B in 2004, according to a recent study by research firm Philips and Associates (http://www.philipsgroup.com ) E-commerce will be the leading application, representing 52 percent of ASP revenues. Never has the time been more ready for small business to take advantage of what the ASP market now offers.

Numerous options exist for you to expand your business while maintaining convenience and low cost. At last the time for real e-Business has arrived. Among those offering small businesses the tools, technologies and support features to build and manage an effective e-business are:

http://www.bigstep.com

http://www.bcentral.com

http://www.stores.yahoo.com

http://www.econgo.com

http://www.ohgolly.com

http://www.myezweb.com

http://www.bizland.com

http://www.homestead.com

http://www.freemerchant.com

Each offers fairly consistent features for free to include:

  • Simple templates from which to create your website; advanced features are also available for those more technical capable.
  • The ability to add/change images and content within the various pages of your site
  • Instant site navigation elements generated as your pages are created
  • Search engine submission of your website (actually, your URL), affording customers to find your site
  • Statistics and Reporting to track your sites effectiveness helping you to improve your business through experience.
  • Newsletters and Email Lists to communicate with your customers effectively

Premium Services offered for a small fee include:

  • Registering and Hosting your own domain name (www.yourname.com); usually for $70 for 2 years
  • E-commerce features enabling credit card processing from your site (usually $30 per month for a finite number of products offered within your "store"); keep in mind credit card orders are also subject to a small transaction fee (usually between 2-3 percent) plus a small handling fee (around $.20 per order).
  • Email accounts that match your domain name (usually part of a monthly fee for ecommerce functionality)
  • Marketing Services to promote traffic to your site like banner ads, email lists and promotional offers (pricing varies widely based on program).

The future is appearing brighter than ever for the small business owner. Given these asp services, competing with larger more resourced organizations is possible. But it still requires commitment and work. Soon we can expect the ASP to again morph to what some now refer to as eBSP or e-Business Application Service Providers. The eBSP will take the model reviewed here a step further by bringing tools and technologies for integrating your offline business functionality to the online. Your e-commerce activities will merge into your physical accounting and bookkeeping functions. Orders will integrate with your supply chains. Inventory will be represented in your e-Business site as "real time" and update itself with your supply chain. We'll probably even see the emergence of a Business Process Agent; a business consultant capable of helping you integrate the eBSP Services into your business processes and practices. They will become the new customer service agent of the eBSP Market merging your online with your traditional business practices of today..

Although the tools have evolved significantly for the small business owner to extend their business onto the web, the free offers out there can be a bit misleading. Yes you can get a free "website" but it in no way guarantees you even a single new customer. To achieve that (and move into true business) requires a strong commitment to not only create your site, but enable it with catalog, shopping cart, catalog, marketing and order management features that will prove over time to grow as a percent of your overall current business. If you're ready to make the commitment, you will find the time is right to reap the rewards.

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Casey Hughes

29257 Heathercliff Road

Malibu, CA 90265

casey@kmunity.net

310-457-2146

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