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Defining an eCommerce Operation – Demand Management

UPDATE 10/27/10 – I posted a mind map of my eCommerce Operation on mindmeister that replaces the original map at the bottom of this post. This includes the latest updates to my organizational thoughts on an eCommerce team.

It’s been a few months since I wrote about the building blocks of an eCommerce operation. Previously I wrote about the areas of solution ownership, content management, and product management. In this post I’ll list some of the key elements from the demand management area. I have three more areas on my master eCommerce operation plan, so you this is post 4 of 7 on this topic.

As with any type of product or service there is a need within the marketing area to create awareness. This fits into the area of demand management. It’s composed of activities that promote and create awareness about your product or service in such a way that it creates “demand”. An eCommerce site, especially one that represents a brand that is not well known, will need a good deal of work in the demand management area.

Search

Search demand is broken into two areas: natural and paid. These two types of search management are the source of many books, reviews, and blogs and really there is an entire industry around Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In the context of building an eCommerce operation what’s important to know is that at a minimum you should have a focus on natural search results. Natural search results are those shown in the center content area of search engine results. You don’t pay to be listed in these results, but how you structure your pages will determine your ranking in these results. Search is dominated by Google right now and with the growing popularity of mobile devices to augment the capabilities of computers, the Yellow Pages is quickly fading into a tool of the past. So if you’re not tuning your site for natural search results, you should sooner than later.

The paid search results are usually on the top or down the right side of the search results page. You’ll pay to be listed in these results based on keywords in the search query. This requires a bit of focused discipline in your eCommerce organization as well, because someone needs to manage the keywords you buy and monitor them for success or failure in attracting traffic.

eMail

eMail is a large component of the demand management strategy for eCommerce organizations today. You’ll want to have someone knowledgeable about all of the eMail regulations and guidelines such as opting-in/out, spam, and list management. Additionally, the copy or content in each email plays a role in how successful it is in achieving the desired action from the recipient.

Online Advertising

Another option for eCommerce demand management is online advertising. Techniques used in this space are sponsored banner ads and pop-ups that users see when they visit a site. Depending upon your audience and product, online advertising may be a good component to add to your overall advertising plan.

Print Media

eCommerce team members should not forget about traditional media. They can use print to create awareness through many vehicles such as newspaper, magazines, billboards, etc. In some cases you may want to print reorder directives on printed materials the customer receives.

Offers

Many eCommerce sites offer coupons or promotions to encourage sales. So your eCommerce team needs to organizationally matrix to those who create the promotions and offers as incentives. The offer that works in a brick and mortar storefront may not be the same one that works best for eCommerce. Test and then test again.

Social Media

eCommerce teams must now consider their involvement role in social media. Consumers have the ability to create online content today in the form of product/service reviews, status updates, blog postings, etc. The wrong approach is to ignore the conversation or pretend its not there. Instead, designate someone to be involved in the conversation. Use the opportunity to add value to your customers and prospects. Become and established voice in your industry.

Partnerships and Portals

The final area of demand management that I’ll discuss is through partnerships and portals. You may be in a situation where you can introduce your product to to new markets based on the established framework set by someone else. Two examples are the Amazon Associates program and integrations with Ariba. With Amazon Associates, you can merchandise product from another retailer and receive a commission based on it. This creates the possibility to expand your product offering because the partner site offers a broader scope of product. In the Ariba example, Ariba serves as a partner aggregator for spend management from subscribing companies. If you integrate with the aggregator in this type of arrangement then they can offer your products to their subscribers . This could open the doors for new buyers of product that already have established a relationship with the procurement enabler.

I added these elements of the eCommerce organization to my concept diagram. Select the diagram to expand it.

eCommerce Operation as discussed to-date, more areas pending

eCommerce Operation (areas 4 of 7)