Online Retail Selling: Barriers to Success


i.            Increasing consumers’ comfort levels: Online retailers need to improve convenience and value for customers and assist them in overcoming their concerns about security and trust.

ii.            Resolving technological limitations: The ability for online retailers to deliver unique experiences is linked to technology improvements. The internet is still constrained by lack of bandwidth and problems with reliability.

iii.            Rapidly scaling internal operations: Online retailers face the challenges of managing significant growth, internal organizational change and developing and scaling their customer service and fulfillment infrastructure—all while the technology is still evolving.

iv.            Engineering comprehensive convenience: Customers identify many convenience problems with today’s online environment. Among them are the need for customers to reenter personal data on different sites, the vide variation in customer service across sites and the lack of coordination between online and offline retail environments on the part of retailers using both channels.

v.            Resolving channel conflict: many offline retailers believe that there is a risk of cannibalizing sales through existing channels by going online. Many manufacturers fear alienating their existing distribution partners by providing an alternative channel for customers to purchase. These perceived channel conflicts are keeping some traditional retailers and manufacturers from joining the Internet.

vi.            Developing low-cost distribution: Distribution system can be expensive. Online fulfillment systems are still developing and there is a disconnect between what is required and what is currently offered by existing offline systems.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Cost Leadership


Business success built on cost leadership requires the business to be able to provide its product or service at a cost below what its competitors can achieve. And it must be a sustainable cost advantage. Through the skills and resources a business must be able to accomplish one or more activities in its value chain activities—procuring materials, processing them into products, marketing the products, and distributing the products or support activities—in a more cost-effective manner than that of its competitors or it must be able to reconfigure its value chain so as to achieve a cost advantage.

Strategists examining their business’ value chain for low-cost leadership advantages evaluate the sustainability of those advantages by benchmarking their business against key competitors and by considering the impact of any cost advantage on the forces in their business’ competitive environment. Low-cost activities that are sustainable and that provide one or more of these advantages relative to key industry forces should become the basis for the business’ competitive strategy.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Value Chain Analysis


The term value chain describes a way of looking at a business as a chain of activities that transform inputs into outputs that customers value. Customer value derives from three basic sources: activities that differentiate the product, activities that lower its cost, and activities that meet the customer’s need quickly. Value chain analysis (VAC) attempts to understand how a business creates customer value by examining the contributions of different activities within the business to that value.

VCA takes a process point of view: it divides (sometimes called disaggregates) the business into sets of activities that occur within the business, starting with the inputs a firm receives and finishing with the firm’s products (or services) and after-sales service to customers. VCA attempts to look at its costs across the series of activities the business performs to determine where low-cost advantages or cost disadvantages exist. It looks at the attributes of each of these different activities to determine in what ways each activity that occurs between purchasing inputs and after-sales service helps differentiate the company’s products and services. Proponents of VCA believe it allows managers to better identify their firm’s strengths and weaknesses by looking at the business as a process—a chain of activities—of what actually happens in the business rather than simply looking at it based on arbitrary organizational dividing lines or historical accounting protocol.

Judgment is required across individual firms and different industries because what may be seen as a support activity in one firm or industry may be a primary activity in another. Computer operations might typically be seen as infrastructure support, for example, but may be seen as a primary activity in airlines, newspapers, or banks.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Rationale for Innovation


Understanding the rationale for an innovation consists of determining just what the components (and the core concepts underlying them) that go into the product are, and how they are linked together to deliver the new low-cost or differentiated features to consumers. For a firm facing an innovation, understanding the rationale behind it may involve asking the question: can the new mousetrap be built using the new knowledge?

When the idea of building an electronic cash register first surfaced in 1960s, the question was: can a firm actually build a cash register using transistors instead of the gears, levers, ratchets, and motors that have been used all these years? How do transistors work, and how does linking them result in calculations? Would such a register actually get people through a supermarket line faster than existing ones? What will it take to build and deliver the new product to customers?  What kind of service do customers want?

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Lectures, Line of Sight

Assessing Competitors’ Areas of Strength


  1. Excellence in product design and/or performance (engineering ingenuity)
  2. Low-cost, high-efficiency operating skill in manufacturing and/or in distribution
  3. Leadership in product innovation
  4. Efficiency in customer service
  5. Personal relationships with customers
  6. Efficiency in transportation and logistics
  7. Efficiencies in sales promotion
  8. Merchandising efficiency—high turnover of inventories and/or of capital
  9. Skillful trading in volatile price movement commodities
  10. Ability to influence legislation
  11. Highly efficient, low-cost facilities
  12. Ownership or control of low-cost or service raw materials
  13. Control of intermediate distribution or processing units
  14. Massive availability of capital
  15. Widespread customer acceptance of company brand name (reputation)
  16. Product availability, convenience
  17. Customer loyalty
  18. Dominant market share position
  19. Effectiveness of advertising
  20. Quality salesforce

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Strategies for Weak Businesses


A firm in an also-ran or declining competitive position has four basic strategic options. If it can come up with the financial resources, it can launch an offensive turnaround strategy keyed either to low-cost or “new” differentiation themes, pouring enough money and talent into the effort to move up a notch or two in the industry rankings and become a respectable market contender within five years or so. It can employ a fortify-and defend strategy, using variations of its present strategy and fighting hard to keep sales, market share, profitability, and competitive position at current levels. It can opt for an immediate abandonment strategy and get out of the business, either by selling out to another firm or by closing down operations if a buyer cannot be found. Or it can employ a harvest strategy, keeping reinvestment to a bare-bones minimum and taking actions to maximize short-term cash flows in preparation for an orderly market exit. The gist of the first three options is self-explanatory. The fourth merits more discussion.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Usage Analysis and Customer Retention


Segmenting markets by consumption patterns can be quite insightful for understanding your customer mix. Differentiated marketing strategies are needed for the various user groups—first-time users, repeat customers, heavy users, and former users. By classifying customer accounts based on usage frequency and variety, companies can develop effective strategies to retain and upgrade customers. There are many highly informative, low-cost applications of usage analysis that should be considered by management.

By classifying customers into usage categories, management can design appropriate strategies for each market segment. The objective is to move customers up the ladder, where possible. The implication of usage analysis is that all customers are not equal; some (the heavy users) are clearly more important than other categories.

The Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule, is insightful in the context. In a typical business, approximately 80% of sales comes from about 20% of customers (also, note that generally about 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your goods or services). It is important to defend this core business, as heavy users are primary attraction targets to key competitors. These highly valued customers require frequent advertising, promotions, and sales calls and ongoing communication efforts.

By knowing who better customers are—through geographic, demographic, psychographic, and benefit research—we have a solid profile of “typical users.” This information is very helpful in playing subsequent customer attraction/conquest marketing efforts. Realize that the marketing information system, the database, plays a key role in customer analysis and decision making.

For unprofitable customers, the company often needs to find new ways to serve them more effectively. Technology such as ATM machines, ICT, can be used in this regard. Quarterly contact through a newsletter and direct mail or access options such as toll-free telephone numbers and websites maintain adequate communication with low-volume users. In some cases, it may even be desirable to sever the relationship with certain unprofitable customers.

A good understanding of our customers’ purchasing patterns helps us keep our customers and gain a larger share of their business. Share of customer (customer retention focus) has supplanted market share (customer attraction focus) as a relevant business performance dimension in many markets. Share of customer is adapted by industry and goes by such names as share of care (health care), share of stomach (fast food), and share of wallet (financial services). If a company can increase a customer’s share of business from 20 to 30 percent, this will have a dramatic impact on market share and profitability.

Recency, frequency, and monetary value (RFM) analysis is a helpful tool in evaluation customer usage and loyalty patterns. Recency refers to the last service encounter/transaction, frequency assesses how often these customer-company experiences occur, and monetary value probes the amount that is spent, invested, or committed by customers for the firm’s products and services.

A more effective strategy is to classify customers via usage analysis and design differentiated marketing approaches for each target market. In sum, usage analysis can greatly assist us in our customer retention activities. Think about how to “hold” heavy users and key accounts, upgrade light and medium users, build customer loyalty, understand buying motives to meet or exceed expectations, use appropriate selling strategies for each targeted usage group, win back “lost” customers, and learn why nonusers are not responding to your value proposition.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com