The seven Cs of Web success

Why are some businesses so much more active on the Web than others? More practically, what can you learn from those business that have moved quickly into cyberspace and those that haven't? How can you apply their lessons to your organisation?

To answer those questions, let's prepare two lists. The first consists of businesses that have rapidly taken hold on the Web:

-- Books

-- Stocks

-- PCs

-- Automobiles

-- Travel

Now let's make a second list of businesses least affected by the Web. I suggest:

-- Food

-- Consumer durables

-- Clothing

-- Local services

-- Insurance

What can we make of those groups? In November, I noted that the most obvious difference is that the Web has caught on first in businesses that can immediately provide real consumer savings. That seems clear enough. But do the lists have anything else in common?

Yes. In addition to significant cost savings, the markets that have most quickly migrated to the Web tend to share six other major attributes, all of which, conveniently, also begin with the letter C.

-- Choice. The greater the degree of product variety and consumer choice, the more advantages an infinite virtual space has over a limited physical one. Think

-- Customisation. The more demand there is to configure a product to an individual's specific needs, the greater the value of the Web's mass customisation capability. Think cars, PCs and travel.

-- Consistency. The greater the predictability and consistency of product quality, the more comfortable consumers are buying a product sight unseen. Think books, CDs and stock shares.

-- Convenience. The more value there is in around-the-clock service and relative customer anonymity, the greater the Web's advantages over traditional store operations. Think stock trading and pressure-free car and travel pricing.

-- Change. The more frequently existing products change or new products become available, the greater the value of getting the latest information immediately. Think stocks, travel and PCs.

-- Community. The greater the desire of individuals to share and exchange information, the more useful the Web's ability to support community-generated content. Think books, cars and PCs.

Now take a minute and think about the second list - food, consumer durables, clothing, local services and insurance - in terms of those seven dimensions. Although some items do well in some categories, they all tend to fail in others. How much customisation can there be with groceries or change in insurance or community-building around refrigerators?

To assess the likely impact of the Web on any given industry or business, run it through this simple 7C examination. How effectively can your business take advantage of the Web's lower Costs, greater Choice, simpler Customisation, inherent Consistency, potential Convenience, real-time Change and dynamic Community building? How do those ratings compare with the ratings of today's leaders?

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