This is a whole book in itself. If people need a product, they will usually buy that product in the easiest, most cost-effective way possible. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean everyone. After all, there are people like Tim, who will drive an hour to a store 45 miles away because that store advertised a product for $10 less than the store two blocks from Tim's house. We will all admit that Tim is an exception.
How can you make buying your product easy on the customer? Well, if half the homes in America are on the Internet, put your product where they can find it. Put up a Web site. Give them secure access, allowing them to pay electronically. Put up a page of comparisons to your competition. Make sure you have pages dedicated to support, a page to show off all your latest products, and links to an ordering system that will let your customers buy your products when it is convenient for them. They don't have to wait for a salesperson to call. They don't have to call and be put on hold. They don't have to drive to their store. They enter the information and before they know it, the product is delivered.
This has been a relatively successful concept. Just ask Amazon.com, which in two years surpassed the annual revenues of Barnes and Noble.
If your company is going to make an e-business commitment, this is the time to know that.
Design Scenario: Access to the Keys of the Kingdom
You are back on the road again, off to see a new client. All you know about this client is the name of the company, "FYI Training Solutions."
When you arrive, you meet with the President and CEO of the company, Bobbi. She invites you into her office, and you begin to discuss her networking needs. This company is a startup and Bobbi is truly one of the world's best entrepreneurs. She has a vision; she just is not sure how to implement the vision. The vision is to provide online customizable training to customers via the World Wide Web. She wants to make some forms of training available 24x7 and some forms of training available on an appointment basis, where a certified trainer would be available to answer questions via chat sessions. The certified trainers will all be contractors or partners of her firm. The total number of her employees will be low, but she will need to protect her system and provide access only to those people she wants into the system. She ends her part of the meeting with the question, "How do I do this?"
You respond with some questions of your own. Just who is going to get access to the system? If you sell your product to a customer, how do you envision that customer getting access from the Web? How will contractors or trainers get access to areas where the chats will take place? Will this be hosted internally or externally? Will people be able to download or print course materials, or just access them from your private site?
Bobbi tells you that you have raised some very good questions and she is not sure of the answers. She says she will find out, and get back to you. It may even happen in other design cases later in this book!
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