You're on the Net, but Are People Watching?

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Direct response television provides a classic two-way street. Businesses generally build a brand, while consumers learn specific and valuable product information. Of course, an effective DRTV campaign encourages people to call for additional information or order a catalog of products and accessories.


That's half of the equation of a successful business operation. The Internet provides the golden opportunity to complete the other half. Yet many businesses that have realized the merits of launching a DRTV effort have not discovered the true interactive potential of new technology. Direct response television can also reach millions of focused targeted users on the Internet.


Imagine a broadcast-quality infomercial in which viewers can ask the host specific questions, maneuver through elements of the rundown that interest them the most, review demonstrations they find impressive, view a full catalog of pictures and prices, buy a product on the spot and find that product at their doorstep the very next day. Successful companies don't have to imagine any of this because the technology already exists. The real key lies in understanding the possibilities of multimedia and e-commerce.


Businesses that find merit in DRTV should also have a clear understanding of how and why they should sell their products online. So a strategy relating to DRTV and the Internet should always begin with a discussion of the relevance and importance of integrating an e-commerce solution.


E-commerce also is a classic two-way street in that it must offer something for businesses going and customers coming. Typically, an e-commerce candidate today is a business making or handling commodity-type products or services, although this could evolve to include engineered products and customized services in the not-too-distant future. But today's technology, and the methodology of e-commerce at the present, is particularly conducive to commodity products that can be used "as-made" by a large, broad-scale buying universe increasingly using the global Internet.


Commodity products being sold across the Internet now and increasingly in the future include business-to-consumer and business-to-business products - books, small appliances, computer hardware and software, audiovisual equipment, prescription drugs, food, pumps, motors, drives, valves, bushings, bearings, lubrication, conveyor parts, chemicals, screens, saws, instrumentation, etc. Interest is especially high in the BTB arena at this time, and there will certainly be increased BTB activity in both the short and long terms. Most traditional broadcast DRTV campaigns focus on the business-to-consumer sector. The Internet also opens the door for BTB DRTV campaigns, which can provide an even richer playing field.


By converting or migrating its business and marketing activities into e-commerce, a company can dramatically reduce operating costs somewhere down the line, in the form of reduced direct sales activities and associated marketing costs. As e-business picks up for such a company, the opportunity exists to proportionally reduce door-to-door sales efforts, catalog printing and distribution, advertising, telemarketing, etc., and the tremendous costs associated with these activities. A business also has the opportunity to proportionally increase DRTV activities.


Companies seriously considering a DRTV/e-commerce combination must have this as a primary goal, woven deeply into any and all strategic plans for the future. Otherwise, there is no clear incentive to pursue it, at least on a scale that will lead ultimately to success. A company serious about e-commerce must want to cut costs and be willing to break away from traditional approaches to the marketplace in order to do so.


The desire to do this must be real and strong. Companies "playing around," out of curiosity or perhaps because they feel it's just something they should be doing, are the ones most likely to get sidetracked and set back because of confusion, frustration and lack of response to their Web sites.


A company wanting to cut costs through e-commerce must be willing and anxious to pass these savings directly onto the Internet customer. Otherwise, there is no incentive for the customer to use the site. This is the two-way street of e-commerce-the other side of the equation. Both sides must gain in order for the system to work.


Companies doing business on the Internet must see a dramatic simplification of the merchandising process that results in significant reductions in overhead. The customer must enjoy some of these benefits in return-reduced costs, convenience, increased availability, on-time delivery and inventory reductions.


When a company can directly reduce its marketing costs and convert this into savings for the consumer or business customer, a classical win-win situation is established. Almost certainly e-business will eventually have a devastating impact on traditional business resources, and companies that have moved first with the right plan will be literally light-years ahead of the flounderers.


Almost any company involved in commodity retail and business-to-business operations is a candidate for DRTV and e-business today. Typically, the infrastructure is already in place-catalogs with computerized indexing, warehousing and a functional shipping department.


In many cases, switching to e-commerce can be as simple as putting existing catalogs online along with electronic shopping carts and access to a secure server - if for a minute we can put aside site design development and overall strategy (which can be a dangerous thing to do). But for the entire solution to work, a company must have a well-planned, serious strategy.


Companies often use DRTV to implement a bold and well-planned marketing strategy. Companies should seriously consider converting or at least complementing that kind of marketing strategy with a broader business strategy that uses the true power of new technology and Internet communications.


There is a significant distinction between a DRTV campaign with and without an effective Internet solution. Traditional direct response television sets the hook for millions of potential customers. DRTV on the Internet (or a complementary site online) can potentially and immediately reel in millions of fish.
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