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Idea Applications

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: March 8, 2011, from the March 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 4 of 6

By providing instant access to information and pricing, and the ability to order products no matter the time of day or physical location, customers find that online business models, with their self-service capabilities, make their jobs easier and facilitate the buying process much quicker than ever before.

This empowers customers to be more self-serving, finding information at the exact time of the day they need it. Having 24-hour/7 day-a-week access to order placement, order tracking, order histories and product information online is particularly important when the supplier is on the other side of the world. And in geographies across the globe where the traditional work week is not Monday-Friday, it opens doors for doing business when our customers need and want to do business. There is no need to call a customer service representative to place an order, the customer completes the transaction when it's convenient for them.

An added advantage, e-commerce services provide equal opportunity for businesses of all sizes. By being able to promote product features and pricing online, small firms can compete with much larger companies. In some cases, online services can be more cost-effective, allowing them to offer highly competitive prices.

One important reason for the rapid adoption of e-commerce in both developed and developing markets is changing demographics. Young people have grown up with computers in their hands, texting on their mobile devices, buying everything from books to clothes to electronics online, and sharing information on their favorite social media sites. Now, many of them are in the business world, looking for the same efficiencies and immediate access to information.

Dow Corning recognized this trend a decade ago when it launched its web-enabled Xiameter brand, which sells standard silicone products at market-based prices. The business model was based on extensive research, customer segmentation and the recognition that transformation needs to be proactive, not reactive based on market pressures. In 2009, Dow Corning expanded the model and increased the number of products available through the brand from a few hundred to more than 2,100, added a new order entry platform with enhanced self-service functionality, volume quantity options, and the option for customers to buy from distributors for the first time.