Thursday, March 23, 2006

How to Drive Away Customers - Features of a Wrongly Designed Website

We all understand value of positive and professional communication in e-commerce. There is no disagreement that communication channels should project a positive and professional image about your company. Your website being a major part of your communication channel, indeed your face to outside world - must project a positive image about your company.

Unfortunately, when it comes to website design many of us forget this simple fact. Instead of being sensitive to customers' concern and need for information, we fall for technology showmanship or other strange considerations. Sad part is - many of us do not even realize how awful or messy our websites actually look !

This week - let us discuss the features of a messy website or 'How to drive away customers and spread negative image about your company'

How to Drive Away Customers
  1. Force every visitor to register before they can enter your site. For a thorough and professional job - make them fill out a lengthy form, giving you a lot of detailed information that you will never use. Make every field compulsory.

  2. Start your home page with a huge graphic, preferably totally meaningless. However, visitors will never get to know until all of 1 Mb is fully downloaded. Never make it interlaced, do not specify HEIGHT and WIDTH tags, and by all means never use ALT tags.

  3. Be really creative on title - make it ambiguous and meaningless like "Home Page," or "Welcome to our Site!!!"

  4. Make the home page really cryptic to baffle any Columbus making it through the registration and lengthy graphic download. Avoid simple labels like "Contact Us," "About Us", "Our Catalog," "Services We Offer," "Frequently Asked Questions" etc. Get really imaginative in naming your sections (e.g. "Take Off !", "Buzz the Bean" etc.) "Cool Stuff" is an old standby that still doesn't work.

  5. Have a "vision", "mission", "goals" and "objectives" statements. Ensure that these statements reveal nothing about the actual services you offer.

How to Project Negative Image
  1. Use lots of continuous text without white spaces around. Sentences should be long and winding. The idea is to make it long and ambiguous to leave every visitor gasping for breath.

  2. Pay special attention at spelling and grammatical mistakes. Nothings spreads negative images as much as miss-spelt words and silly grammatical mistakes.

  3. Always use lots of exclamation points and, be sure to put commas, where they don't belong!!!!!!!!

  4. Page layout is one of the easiest things to do badly on a website. Always use plenty of horizontal rules and bulleted lists. Make columns either narrower than 1" or wider than 4".

  5. Never check your pages on different browsers, because what looks dreadful on Netscape might look unacceptably good on Internet Explorer.

  6. Remember, you have almost unlimited colours and fonts at your disposal. Use as many of them as you can. Let the world know what a creative guy you are.

  7. Always avoid navigational links - let visitors wander around your site aimlessly. Visitors must spend quite some time appreciating your talent before making anything about of the company.

  8. Do not care about broken links - visitors anyway will find what they are looking for.

  9. Never forget to use flowery Javascripts that slows down pages or display strange messages. Damn the content, you must display your programming prowess !

  10. Never use meta tags - search engines may then pick your site leading to more visitors at your site. If you must use meta tags, make sure they are thoroughly confusing and misleading so that search engines either do not touch you or index your site in wrong category.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Exporting to Overseas Retailers - Are You Ready ?

Exporting directly to small overseas retailers is a comparatively new phenomenon, brought about by Internet. Selling directly to small US or European retail outlets even 10 years back was an uphill task because of many hurdles like lack of information on buyers, expensive communication media, scant information on overseas consumer interest, difficulty in accepting small payments etc. Trade Fairs and Buying Agents were two major avenues for small and medium exporters.

Internet, acting like a disruptive force, brought about major changes in traditional supply chain of

Exporter > Buying Agent > Importer > Distributor > Stockiest > Retailer

Seamless, easy and inexpensive communication through continents brought exporter and retailer closer, removing many myths and wrong notions. The retailer suddenly discovered how much he/she stand to gain by importing directly because of huge price difference between merchandise of local stockiest and that of exporter's. The exporter found the middlemen disappearing and was too glad to deal directly with buyer.

The phenomenon has been aptly described by many such as Sigurd Helland in Import Your Own Products And Make Your Profit Margin Miles Wider, Online Or Off and Robert Nelson in Importing Made Easy

Today, traditional supply chain is still in use for major chunk of exportable merchandise - but direct transaction between exporters and overseas retailers is growing very fast. Smart exporters have already organized themselves for serving overseas retailers - but Are you ready ? We discuss here what it takes to be successful in this new area of opportunity.

Retailer Buys in Small Quantity

If you plan to address small retailers - forget container load quantities. The business of retail is such that - large purchase can block money and even jeopardize business. The retailer may variously coin order quantity as 'first order' or 'sample order' - but it is very unlikely that he/she will ever order large quantity of one model/product. So, if your business model does not permit small order - retailer is not really your forte. Others may find Minimum Order Quantity a valuable clause in their product catalog.

Orders are More Frequent

Retailer will come back with repeat orders more often than a large importer as he/she can neither afford to maintain large inventory nor can keep rack space empty. Export orders will come as often as consumers demand, such as during Christmas season.

Margins are Higher

Silver line for exporters - you may compensate smaller quantity with higher price. Compared to the price charged by local stockiest - the retailer is unlikely to feel sizeable pinch and may not object to slightly higher price provided you communicate smoothly.

Be Sensitive to Issue of Trust

Importing from overseas country may bring excellent profit, but it is certainly more risky than buying from local distributor or stockiest. The issue of trust will always play on the mind of retailer, specially during first transaction, and he/she is likely to keep the first order as low as possible. The exporter should be sensitive to this concern and negotiate accordingly.

Prefer Air Freight

Most small retailers are not equipped to handle logistics operators and are uncomfortable with long delivery period in sea freight. Air freight, though more expensive, suits retailer's requirements better. However, the retailer may not be aware with these issues, specially the first timers. As exporter, you should quote air freight as much as possible and educate the retailer if necessary.

How to Get Information on Retailers

There are many retailers' associations in USA and Europe. You may contact them for their list of members. Easier option is to contact The Great Indian Bazaar who has compiled a directory of over 2000 overseas retailers (small retail outlets, convenience stores, drop shippers, large retail chains etc).


Exporting to small overseas retailers does not require significant investment and shipment can easily be handled through couriers. As a result, small Indian exporters and those new to export field will find this opportunity very lucrative. Margin from single shipment may not be much - but a handful of active retailers can keep a small to medium exporter busy throughout the year.

E-Commerce - A New Dimension in International Business

Selling in international market is never simple. Diverse languages, geographical distance, cultural difference and lack of market knowledge pose formidable challenge to any manufacturer/exporter. This is more so when buyer and seller interact through as anonymous a medium as Internet. In addition to general knowledge of standard export-import procedure and conventional wisdom, a good understanding of what works and what does not in e-commerce is a key success-factor today.

At the same time - Internet has brought overseas business within reach of average person with no great financial backup. 10 years back - it was uphill task to set-up a successful overseas business because of lack of reliable information on buyers/sellers/agents etc. and high cost of communication. Today, Internet has made it easy to find quality information and communicate at negligible cost.

In summary - Internet offers excellent opportunity for those who are willing to learn fast and think progressively.

What makes you successful in International Business over Internet ? What works in cyberspace and what doesn't ? I shall regularly write in this blog about my experience of helping Indian manufacturers and exporters make best use of Internet opportunity since 1997

Please help me with your comments/suggestion/feedback/bricks/Bouquets ...

Wish you Very Best