IT Strategy for New Internet Business

Executive Summary

This paper will formulate a business report based on a review of Brawny Luggage Inc. The web portal will provide benchmarking facts required to develop an online website for a new business. Brawny Luggage Inc. began as a single luggage store in Atlanta with the aim of providing the best professional and vocational luggage to customers at affordable rates. Areas of focus in the report will include; the company’s core business, its critical success factors, and the benefits of online merchandising.

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The information presented by the report will be used to develop an e-commerce website for Brawny Luggage Inc. The report will therefore customize an online business model and strategies for adoption by Brawny. The online platform will enable the company to reach out to customers all over the world and on a 24-hour basis. It will also provide the company with a competitive advantage in the distribution of the products.

Strategic Planning

Launching an online selling platform requires a number of strategies to succeed. The first is to identify a name that is aligned to the company’s business venture; the next step involves developing a sales catalog and then launching the website. Once the website is launched, the biggest task then is to create awareness of the existence of the website and what it offers. There are a number of already existing as well as emerging mechanisms an online seller can utilize to reach out to potential customers. Creating a feed to RSS is one way through which a company can create awareness to customers. The RSS feed as pointed out by Holden (2007, p.12) allows customers to “automatically view comments posted by bloggers and other publishers without opening the publisher’s website.” There is a need to constantly update the content so that it can be easily retrieved by the RSS feeder.

The company needs to devise ways of keeping itself connected to customers. The voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) is growing as a popular telephoning tool for businesses. VOIP offers a cheap means of calling especially for international calls. Skype and Vonage are some of the most popular VOIP service providers. To make a call using any of these services, one would only require a computer, internet connection, and the Skype or Vonage software. Subscription fees charged by other voice-over-internet providers like speakeasy are relatively cheaper compared to what one would spend using the landline or the mobile phone. VOIP has a few shortcomings which are internet-related. The performance of the phone depends on how effective the internet is, in case the internet fails either due to bad weather or overload in the network, the phone signal will also be interrupted (Scott, 2007, p.24). All in all, it is an effective and cheaper way of keeping in touch with the customers.

Blogging is another strategy that can be used to market an online enterprise. Holden (2007, p. 14) describes blogging as an online diary that is filled in on a daily basis with comments that are relevant to particular topics. There are a number of ways to generate revenue from blogs. Blogads and Google AdSense can be used to put ads on a blog (Scott, 2007, p.23). On some websites, blogs are used for requesting donations. Payments for such donations are paid through electronic payment systems such as Pay Pal.

Partnerships with established companies enable especially service providers enable starting companies to ride on the experience and name of big companies.

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Service providers charge relatively high but provide dedicated support to their clients. Service providers such as channel advisors and info pie help companies in creating and running e-commerce platforms (Meyerson and Scarborough, 2008, p. 2). The service providers assist their partners in creating publicity and conducting the transactions.

Online payment continues to pose threats of people losing money through calculated scum. One has to be very careful in choosing a payment method that customers use on the website. The most common and secure methods include pay pal, MasterCard, and Google checkout. The payment method chosen should be authentic and a well-recognized one that customers feel free to use (Kernek, 2005, p.18). Google’s business world is another important marketing strategy for online businesses. Google trends indicate the number of searches that have been made to the site on an annual basis. The trends information is important in determining what to sell on the internet.

Market Analysis

Brawny luggage Inc. is involved in the sale of both professional and vocational luggage. The company distributes its products through a number of outlets in various parts of Atlanta and through its main center. The company aims to take a lead in this business line by providing its customers a quality and flexible shopping experience (Combe, 2006, p. 347. Like Amazon, the company goes for the best human capital expertise to enable it to develop strategic growth plans. Brawny stocks a wide variety of luggage brands and has been successful in setting a reliable distribution channel within the region. The company management aims to take the business to the next level by utilizing the World Wide Web.

Customer Analysis

The internet network has virtually linked every part of the world and enabled efficient and effective sharing of information. Distance is no longer acting as a barrier to human interactions, social relations between people who are miles apart are now possible because of the internet. Electronic interchange of information has seen the realization of e-learning programs, e-commerce teleconferencing, and online business transactions.

The intense competition created by high-level industrialization has most firms devote more effort to devising mechanisms that enable them to reach out to the international market. This has been made possible by the internet which enables companies to make online transactions with customers worldwide. Online transactions are enabled by well-developed e-commerce websites that allow customers to make their orders and payments over the internet. The main advantage of online transactions is the reduction in the cost of business operation as well as the opportunity to conduct business round the clock. One such successful web portal is luggagefactory.com which will act as a model e-commerce website for this report.

Critical Success Factors

Since the emergency of the World Wide Web, there has been a lot of hype with many companies trying to shift their business operations to the internet. Some have succeeded in achieving the objectives and grown to model online business. On the other hand, many other companies have failed to hit targets by shifting to online business. The difference between the two states lies in three factors that are critical to the success of a website. The critical success factors for the success of a website as an online selling platform include; the message, promotion, and integration (Kernek, 2005, p. 8).

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It is important for the retailer to build and develop the trust of the customer. In an online business, the retailer is in control of buying process. There is no physical interaction between the buyer and the seller. The buyer is at the mercy of the seller after making his or her purchases online. The seller may decide to ship substandard items to the buyer or even not ship anything at all. Buyers are becoming wary of instances where unscrupulous online sellers con them (Barker and Angelopulo 2005, p. 324). An online seller can set up a successful venture by developing trust with the customer is key to the success of the business.

The message sends out to the website visitors must appeal to them to realize the need to buy. It has to be the right message about the product on sale and be comprehensive enough to give the customer full detail about the product. Reviews by previous customers are very important to new customers. Prior to buying an item online, customers always want to find out the experience of those who have used the product before (Campanelli, 2007, p.43). Other sources of information include the manufacturers’ specifications and photos of the product. Failure to indicate this message on the site denies the customer the full information required for them to make a buying decision (Kernek, 2005, p. 7). The message for Brawny Luggage should focus on various luggage brands, pricing the colors and sizes. The section for customer reviews should be included to allow new customers to evaluate the products and shopping experience from the reviews.

Core Competence

Besides selling luggage, Brawny Luggage Inc. will use the internet to diversify to other related products. The company prides itself on employing the best manpower. The company can ride on the best-performing manpower to achieve its growth targets. Implementation of the internet selling platform requires an informed staff that is able to respond to the customer’s demands accordingly. The internet platform will provide a means of collecting relevant sales information that can not be obtained when using the ordinary across-the-counter selling approach.

Having already established a name in the luggage distribution business, with functional distribution channels already established, the internet will boost the business to a higher level. The internet provides the seller an opportunity to track information from both the author, the publishers, and the final consumers through a feedback mechanism included on the website (Dransfield and Dooley, 2005, p111). Such information is very vital for developing marketing strategies for the products. Brawny luggage Inc. can also use the online platform to diversify its business line to include other products like clothing, shoes and create a strategic alliance with other companies.

Situational Analysis

Putting up an excellent online shop is not enough; the website must be promoted to create awareness. The promotion process aims at attracting the right visitors to the website. Website promotion involves advertising the website through various media channels so as to make it known to the right clients. This would include; advertising on TV, radio, and websites and the use of Google ads. Creating awareness of the presence of the website and the value the site adds to clients’ shopping experience helps in generating the right traffic to the site (Barker and Angelopulo, 2005, p. 327).

The third factor is integration; the term describes how the ease of navigation on the site. A well-integrated site provides navigation guidelines to visitors in a leading manner (Frommer, 2009, p.110). Such a site enables the customer to find what they want easily and gives them a nice shopping experience. Often customers don’t make a second visit to sites that are complicated for them to search for products.

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Current Situation – Opportunities and Threats

The current business situation for Brawny luggage Inc. seems highly promising. The company has already developed a distribution channel and the best-performing employee team. The company has also attained a name for the various brands under its custody. These are three strong opportunities that the company can ride on to attain higher sales targets in the market, especially with an internet sales platform.

Target Situation

The company targets to implement an online selling platform. There are several opportunities for the implementation of internet selling. The opportunities include; expanding its customer reach, using the website as a marketing platform, and increasing sales. Brawny luggage Inc. however will face challenges in the early stages of implementation. The company will need to train its employees in various operating procedures. The company will therefore incur the training and other related charges. Other threats include; online fraudsters who may use the platform for unfair business. There is also the aspect of trust between the company and the customers. Being a virtual transaction method, trust between the customer and the company is very important in order for the company to maintain customer loyalty.

Implementation Strategy

The implementation process will involve launching the website through a forum that will create publicity for the site, train the staff, and make further marketing campaigns to create awareness in the consumer domain.

The Intranet

Security of the customers’ details and other business transaction processes is the most important aspect of online business. The intranet is a private network that is developed to work within a business enterprise. This allows the organization to collaborate with other business organizations as well as the customers. The intranet will allow only authorized users to access sensitive information regarding online business transactions.

The internet

An online selling platform should be developed so that is appealing to the visitor right from the home page. The home page should be compressive enough to provide the customer with all details that he or she may require knowledge about the product. The website should comprise a section for buyers to give their reviews and inbuilt software for customer management. The customer management software records customers’ searches on the site and automatically indicates the titles that are in high demand. This information is stored in a data bank on the website and forms a network that links different buyers to the seller (Rich, 2006, p. 81). A new buyer to the website who is interested in a particular title is quickly guided to make a decision by reading other customer reviews. This type of relationship between the buyer and the seller does not exist in the traditional over-the-counter sales approach. This can be an excellent strategy for brawny Luggage Inc. as it will be able to leverage the huge information from the customers in making marketing decisions.

Challenges

The main competition for Brawny Luggage Inc. is skyways which already has an online selling platform (Kangas, 2003, p. 106). Other competing companies use ordinary over-the-counter sell strategy, the online strategy will enable Brawny Luggage Inc. to operate well above the competitors. Brawny luggage Inc. faces competition from Skyway Luggage located in Washington DC. Skyway has established a reliable online distribution channel. Its online platform is simple and easy for customers to navigate through.

Skyways have been in operation from 1910 to date; it is driven by innovation and has established an excellent distribution channel in and out of the USA (Combe, 2006, p.347). Backed with a leading manufacturing and distribution system, Skyway is bound to create stiff competition for Brawny Luggage Inc. Brawny Luggage Inc. can use the World Wide Web technology to create strategic alliances with competing companies and companies selling related products.

With online transacting; Brawny luggage Inc. will be able to offer its customers discounted rates compared to its competitors. The company will be more in a position to gather relevant information from customers and other members of its supply chain from their comments in the review section. It is possible to determine the company’s position in terms of customer satisfaction (Cline, 2004, p.23). It is also important for determining the buyers’ behavior. It is important for the company to know the buying behavior of its customers in order to address their needs accurately. Kangas (2003, p. 114) points out that amazon.com utilizes the online information bank to create personalized email campaigns.

The internet will also provide Brawny luggage Inc. an opportunity to provide its customers with detailed information about their products. The information includes; the photos of the product, the price, color, and size. This way the website acts as a marketing tool where the customers can get full information about the range of products on offer (Reuvid, 2004, p.12). The online shop will help brawny differentiate itself from the competitors using the ordinary offer counter selling approach. Continuous Innovation has been the force behind the success of leading companies (Botha, Bothma, and Geldenhuys, 2008, p. 285). It is paramount for Brawny to invest in research and development and keep on evolving with time. It will also be necessary for the company to expand its product line by venturing into the sale of related products such as; clothing shoes and books.

The company’s IT strategy is more focused on the customer. The website was developed such that it is easy for the customers to search for the products and also receive personalized information regarding their search criteria. Besides creating an excellent customer shopping experience on the web, the company also formed alliances with both competing companies and those supplying similar products. Kangas (2003, p. 107) points out target.com and virginmega.com as examples of web portals for companies powered by amazon.com.

Conclusion

Setting up an online selling platform is a tricky venture especially if not approached in a professional manner. Many companies have set up websites for online businesses but hardly succeeded due to a lack of professional knowledge to run the business online. There is, therefore, a need to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the business, take the model for comparison before developing an online business website. Consulting the professionals for advice on how to carry out the process can help the company to achieve its objectives.

References

Barker, R., and Angelopulo, C. G., 2005, Integrated Organizational Communication. Cape Town: Juta and Company Ltd

Botha, J., Bothma, C. and Geldenhuys, P., 2008, Managing E-Commerce in Business. Cape Town: Juta and Company Ltd.

Campanelli, M., 2007, Open an Online Business in 10 Days, New York: Entrepreneur Media Inc.

Cline, E., 2004, The Bargain Buyer’s Guide: The Consumer’s Bible to Big Savings Online & by Mail. Boulevard: Print Project.

Combe, C., 2006. Introduction to e-business: Management and Strategy. Burlington: Butterworth-Heinemann

Dransfield, R., and Dooley, D., 2005, BTEC National Business, Book 2, Burlington: Heinemann.

Frommer, A., 2009, Ask Arthur Frommer: And Travel Better, Cheaper, Smarter, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Holden, G., 2007, Starting an Online Business for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing Inc.

Kangas, K. 2003. Business Strategies for Information Technology Management. Hershey: IRM Press

Kernek, A., 2005, Put Your Business Online, San Diego: Pacifica Endeavors LLC

Meyerson, M. and Scarborough, E. M., 2008, Mastering Online Marketing, New York: Entrepreneur Media Inc.

Reuvid, J., 2004, The Secure Online Business Handbook: E-Commerce, IT Functionality and Business Continuity, London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Rich, R. J., 2006, The Unofficial Guide to Starting a Business Online, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc

Scott, M. D., 2007, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs pod casts Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly. New Jersey: john Wiley & sons Inc.

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