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How Do Businesses Use The Internet

To Advertise

Advertising on the World Wide Web is quite different to traditional media. It is interactive, providing an informative and educational experience for the visitor. When people visit your pages, they usually access the site via a link that explains the nature of the content they can expect to find, so they won't be dissappointed.

Advertisement pages are held "out of line", linked to from other pages in which only the linkage appears. So the advertisement can become a brochure, a technical spec, a list of suppliers and agents without taking up space on the page that contains the link. Some go even further and provide extra material to generate goodwill and subsequent visits.

To Communicate

To maximise your return from the Internet, you need to understand its benefits, and how you can harness these so that you may incorporate them within your Internet business strategy. Electronic mail is an example. It can be used as a direct analogy with ordinary mail - except that there is a strong bias against electronic junk mail. But there are also automated mailing lists that people can subscribe to. You could establish your own, to support your "virtual community" of clients, customers or suppliers. You can use a World Wide Web site to generate interest and create awareness of both your Company and Products. You can use newsgroups to find the people you need, and discreetly, to show that you exist.

To Entertain

Browsing and surfing can be leisure pursuits. The frivolous side of the Internet makes it into an advertising medium, to generate sales and to establish and help reinforce a brand name. So there is scope for games and cartoons, for video clips and eye-candy, for competitions, lotteries and treasure hunts. Creative individuals and groups need a chance to show off their skills, to find publishers, employers and sponsors.

To Inform

Why provide information? Academics can establish themselves, their departments and institutes as centres of excellence - and then sell consultancy services, products, technology. The same applies to individuals, sole traders and SMEs, for whom getting publicity and contacts can be a major difficulty. For large well established companies, an altruistic site that provides useful information can be seen as PR.

To Publish

The major newspapers have all commited themselves to publishing on a daily basis on the Web. Not only are they developing and expanding their sites they are also attracting digital advertising from major industrial manufacturers and suppliers of goods and services.

For small magazines, there are definite gains. The medium is different - they can operate far more cost effectively, and reduce waste of unsold back copies. Distribution becomes far quicker. Alteration of the pages is both fast and easy. Errors and ommissions can be found and can be corrected even after the pages have gone live on the Web.

To Recruit

Numerous recruitment agencies are beginning to employ the Web as a source for not only potential candidates but also for corporate employers to register vacancies. Their current careers service covers Finance, Sales and Marketing, Computers, and Technical.

To Research

A prime reason for connecting to the Internet is that it offers rich resources for research. Research is not just for academics. It can be used to find financial results, technologies, solutions, suppliers and experts. It can suggest new product areas, new markets. It can produce new business alliances and partnerships.

You can also use pages to conduct surveys and market research. The material you publish defines the readers you get. If you ask them some questions (but without scaring them off), you can record that data that might be expensive and difficult to collect by conventional means.

To Sell

As transactions become more accepted, companies will use the Internet to sell their products directly. Anything that is sold by mail order could equally be sold on the Internet. Electronic money transfers should in the end reduce transaction costs, and this will make it possible to charge small amounts for electronic deliverable goods. New services can be created that use Internet technologies to deliver goods through new outlets with greater convenience.

To Support

The prime example of support given over the web is offered by Netscape. Their browser appears with no help files - this makes it smaller, more quickly delivered. Instead the "help" menu points back to home base. So the people at Netscape have always had their latest help files on show. They also operate a variety of discussion groups on their pages, to air problems and share the solutions. They invite you to try out their upgrades. They collect new vendors and partners.

To Train

The Internet provides a new medium for interactive training and long distance learning. For organisations that are georaphically spread out, or have many subsidary or associate companies, nationally or internationally, the Internet offers a cost effective concept for education without wasting resources in terms of time and money.