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Internet Schminternet – The Top 7 Reasons Why the Internet Won’t Help Your Business
For all the buzzwords about social media and social networking, I want to go back to an article I wrote circa 1999 about the imminent “impact” of Internet activity and its importance to future business. It focuses on all the talk about the Internet being the savior of businesses. In fact, isn’t there another way to reach consumers as effectively as the Internet, even now? Maybe even better than the internet. Radio, television, newspapers…all were declared obsolete (even dead), yet they continued. Well, they moved on anyway. I mean, I was clearly ahead of my time when I wrote this ten years ago. Then, like now, I thought I was right…
Read on as I share the top 7 (many) reasons why the internet, despite its proponents, is unlikely to deliver on its promise for businesses and corporations. Aside from the disturbing fact that computers are horribly slow (and with no real improvements on the horizon), the internet is overwhelmed by time-wasting activities like chats and forums. What rational businessman would want a place in it? Well, without further ado, I’m going to let my top seven reasons speak for themselves:
1. Inaccessible. How will customers find you?
The truth is, while there has been a slight increase in the number of people buying PCs, not many own them. When they do get them, there’s not much to do. Ugly ads everywhere, from a small group of rouge businesses who think they can profit from it. But in the end, no one wants to “click” on an ad when they don’t even know about the business or believe that the business is real. After all, have you ever clicked on an obscure commercial or “link” while surfing the web?
At least when you walk into a store, you can trust salespeople in flesh and blood. You know they are committed to getting the job done right. There are no trust issues like on the Internet, where you might be talking to a salesperson (probably not) or a two-year-old accidentally taps a keyboard (more likely).
2. No speed.
Even if a user (now they call them a surfer) wants to click on you, it needs a short lifespan. Similar to trying to download music in 1 hour. Or currently takes longer, how do you expect surfers to find you through this clumsy mechanism? The best way to do this is to wait for people to pass you by in a prime location.
Non-proximity based marketing is pointless. First, the Internet requires surfers to find you through search. Second, it requires surfers to know what they’re looking for. Last I checked, I thought that was our job – to convince buyers they needed our product by getting them into our store. Then we let the experience take over, showcasing the choice and breadth of our offerings. All for a low labor cost of $24 per person. Not bad, if I do say so myself. How can the web try to replicate that experience of choice and low overhead? At the rate it’s crawling now…good luck.
Even if the internet accidentally sped up to faster speeds, I don’t think surfers are smart enough to type the exact words they need to find exactly what they want. Consumers just don’t work that way. They need help and personal help. Again – two things the internet doesn’t.
3. Not targeted.
Have you ever done direct mail? This requires a lot of work. We had to segment mailings into many specific demographics and change the wording slightly to directly target consumers. We then measure results by starting to get visitors into the store or start getting calls after a few weeks. Not only is this dedicated endeavor hard work, but few people know how to do it well enough to make a big splash.
To make it work for the Internet, you’d have to be able to do the exact same thing… except you’d probably need to personalize, target and measure faster than Direct Mail to make it worthwhile. I just don’t see a world where I can talk to a personal surfer and gauge the reaction quickly. Then what do you do with this information? Instantly reply with a targeted message so the surfer feels like you’re talking directly about their experience? keep dreaming…
4. There is no way to make money.
This is a big problem for me personally. The Internet is not a lemonade stand. In the store, you can control pricing and change items within days. We can go from Easter deals to Mother’s Day in one weekend. The agility of POP allows us to make big money selling what consumers really want…
On the internet, it takes weeks to code and reprogram a webpage to make changes. Even so, it doesn’t look too good, because the pictures online are just awful. I just don’t see how you can make money online unless you see better graphics and more flexibility to change things.
5. No privacy.
You’ve heard of it, right? privacy. Clients desire privacy above all else. Assuming there are even enough customers (forgive me, surfers) online in large numbers. How will you ensure their business transactions are safe and secure? Online security is like rolling the dice. Unless there is a significant improvement in security – like… well, I don’t know, since I’m not a security guru myself. However, I am sure the internet is not safe.
In the store, at least you are safe. No one will try to steal your information. Well, unless one of the clerks decides to copy your credit card slips or get your address…and spy. But this is rare. Staff are very trusted and rarely do that kind of thing.
6. People love to touch things.
Now we come to one of the biggest objections to the commercial use of the Internet. It is impossible for people to bypass the opportunity to touch the product they want to buy. That’s why newspapers, books and CDs are always at the top of consumers’ minds.
People love to touch and feel the book they are about to read. I certainly can’t fathom a world where this basic instinct is overcome and people start buying music online instead of cassettes or CDs or books through some kind of online store! If it did happen, I might change my mind. But that’s like saying that one day people will ditch libraries for research and search for material online instead.
7. Wasting time online.
Chat, chat, chat. That’s it, isn’t it? I hate to sound so negative, but the internet is like one big glorified telephone. All people do is talk to each other when they could have done better by picking up the phone. And, as phones get better, one of the two will suffer. They can’t all exist, right?
Anyway, I’m talking about the Internet Schminternet. I have many legitimate ways to reach my clients. I can mail them. I can call them. But mostly I enjoy them most when they walk up to my prime location on a very large, busy street and welcome them with a warm smile. There is no substitute for the kindness I have shown in person.
The Internet is a cold, impersonal machine that will never attract large numbers of surfers or provide a real way to make money. If you think it’s possible, I’d say break a leg. As for me, I’ll just sort out my CD store because when I open my doors, well…that’s why business happens.
back to reality
Well, by now you may have noticed that when I was suggested to write this article ten years ago, I was a bit hypocritical and glib. The truth is I wrote this morning… no, I don’t have a CD store either. I wrote this article to prove a very obvious point to those who understand it. At the same time, it can be a bit confusing for those who don’t know. You may not believe it, but some businesses don’t participate in the Internet. If they did, the shameful entry that they did so hardly takes into account the power of Internet-based consumers. Poor design, no purchase functionality, lack of brand consistency. They are essentially using old rules to find a new way, a better way.
The truth is, it’s time to pull together and understand that without the Internet, your business will eventually die. If you’ve embraced the internet, keep improving it, because even if you don’t, your competitors will. If your business doesn’t have a reasonable Internet presence, get one now. To do otherwise is to leave money on the table, virtual or real.
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