Dell Continues to Push Online Sales in Europe

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BRACKNELL, UK - Dell now does 40 percent of its European, Middle East and African business online and expects that percentage to go up in the future, said Gordon Ballantyne, director of Dellonline's European, Middle East and African business.

Dell's operations in Europe are different from those in the US with as much as 90 percent of it in business-to-business sales and only 10 percent going to consumers. European sales grew 8 percent last year, putting Dell in third place behind Compaq and Fujitsu/Siemens.

In Germany, Dell ranks fifth but plans to build volume to vault into third place in Europe's most lucrative - and most fragmented - market. "Nobody has a dominant position there but the consolidations taking place there now can only benefit Dell in the long run.

"We've been on the Web in Europe for three years and started in the UK seven years ago, and we have just entered some markets such as Israel and Italy this year so nobody could expect us to move to No. 1 overnight."

But Ballantyne noted that in some parts of the UK Dell was No. 1. "We have a geographical diversity from the market penetration aspect and that is a function of the time we have been in the UK."

Dell does little prospecting for new customers in Europe "because we have a very large installed base and there is no need to attract new customers. Instead, we enhance relationships as we introduce new technology," he said.

"We have no lack of interest so we don't need to do an amazing amount of marketing to attract people. If you take the revenues of the 20 top e-commerce sites you get what Dell does in a similar time frame."

The Web is being used across the company's customer base, which ranges from large global relationships to medium and small companies, with different business models developed for each segment.

For medium-sized firms with 500 to 1,000 employees, the company relies on a combination of face-to-face selling and call centers. For the rest, meaning smaller firms, Dell uses the Web.

"But the Internet has relevance in all of these customer segments because we are trying to make it easier and cheaper for our customers to do business with us. They want quick access and activity on the Web and not worry about phone or face to face dealings," Ballantyne said.

"It is important to recognize that we have very compelling and differentiated services with our customers so when we use the Web we can take away the transactional time salesmen used to spend so that they have more quality time.

"Remember that the average time sales people spend selling is only 20 percent of their total time. If you change the dynamics of how to interact with customers, you create a quantum leap in productivity and effectiveness.

Feedback from the market has been encouraging, Ballantyne said. Late last month Dell won a top award from PC Magazine in Germany which declared it the number one online store among 81 contenders.

"We need to provide a compelling online experience to our customers as they navigate our site in terms of content, support and assistance," he said. That includes sites in four languages - English, French, German and Spanish.

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