Why am I on the Web?

There are many different ways to categorize sites: personal or business, commercial or non-commercial, transaction- or information-based, etc.

For the purposes of this course, the most important distinction is financial: are you on the Web to make money, or simply to inform, educate, have fun...

A commercial site, designed to generate money, will need to be treated differently from a non-commercial site, whether the latter is a personal home page or a documentary-type site from a non-profit organization.

Commercial Sites

A commercial site's whole reason for existence is to make money. The road to the goal can take many twists and turns, from selling products to selling access to information services and tools, or even simply selling advertising space on the site. Many commercial sites use a combination of many different techniques to try and boost their bottom line.

If you run a commercial site, be wary of the lure of the Web. It is all to easy to get swept up in the fun and excitement of developing a web site, and of "meeting" thousands of potential customers through that site, and lose focus on the goal. The goal is to MAKE MONEY. It may be that one step towards that goal is to make your site fun, and to entertain your visitors. But unless you subsist purely on selling advertising, a focus purely on "fun" will not get you very far. If your visitors are having too much fun to realise they are supposed to be spending money on your site, your balance sheet is going to look a little thin.

At the same time, if you go for the hard sell with the very first paragraph of your Welcome Page, you are likely to lose many customers too. You need to strike a balance between informing, educating or entertaining your customers and selling to them. The exact balance will vary from site to site, depending on the industry you're in and your online goals. Generally, it's a good idea to provide some way for your visitors to start shopping instantly from your top page, should they wish to do so. For instance, satisfied repeat customers don't need an infomercial, just access to your shopping cart.

There are several main ways that commercial sites can boost their revenue:-

  • Increase the number of visitors to your site
  • Increase the percentage of visitors who buy something from your site
  • Increase the average size of each purchase
  • Seek additional revenue streams through partnerships or complementary marketing

Later in the course, we will be looking at ways to reach these four goals.

Tip: There's another way to make money -- save it! Does your site provide visitors with easy access to a FAQ that covers many of the questions you receive through email or via your 800 number? Have you automated the ordering process, or do visitors have to print out the relevant pages and then fax or phone the details to you for manual processing. In the right circumstances, cutting costs can be worth more than generating new sales. UPS has discovered the benefits of giving customers access to tracking information about their deliveries, and saves tens of millions of dollars a year on customer support costs.

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