Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Should you be online?

The trading card industry is fascinating. It’s one of the few industries left that is still resistant to the idea that change and new technology can make a business more efficient and effective. Granted, many advancements have made doing business more challenging, but I believe that’s because of how retailers and distributors are implementing these changes, not because the changes themselves are bad.

I have been asked more than once by people in the industry if they should be on the Internet. I have danced around the question in the past because of the negative implications of the question. However, if I were asked that today, I would answer yes. The key objective of any business is to reach its customers. If a big percentage of your customers are on the Internet, how can you justify not being there yourself? As a business, you have to make your decisions based on how you can make it easier for your customers to do business with you. Anything else is counterproductive.

Of course, the question of whether or not you should be on the Internet is driven by price. Early adopters in the trading card industry have made ripples because everything they do is driven by being the lowest cost option for customers. While this strategy can give a short-term bump to profits, over time it erodes both the product value (extremely important for everyone in the trading card industry) and the value your business provides to its customers.

By competing solely on price, you guarantee that your customer will look around before making a purchase. If they find a better deal elsewhere, they will buy elsewhere and you have lost a sale. However, if you look at the Internet and your overall business strategy as a way to build loyalty with your customers, you can go a long way toward ensuring that you keep the largest share of your customers’ trading card spending.

Everyone needs to take a hard look at their business and decide if they are doing everything they can to make their customers loyal to them. Are you talking to them on a regular basis? Are you tracking their preferences and what products they buy? Are you making sure it’s as easy as clicking a mouse to do business with you? All of these things are accomplished by an Internet presence. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated or fancy.

Just think about the companies you do business with. What do you like best? What do you not like? Take that information and apply it to your business. The trading card industry is definitely unique…running a customer-centric business is not.

I would challenge everyone in this industry to make their New Year’s resolution finding ways to make their businesses work harder for their customers instead of the other way around. The more you do for your customers, the more likely they are to resist spending their money elsewhere.

Terri Rehkop

1 comment:

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