The main goal of the influencer is to drive sales, but the final transaction does not necessarily end with an online sale. Promotions, test marketing, product information and tools such as loan calculators and quoting engines, are all part of the influencer's activities. The influencer also seeks to raise consumer awareness of the company or product. However, the end transaction is not necessarily on the Web, nor does it have to be with the company.
Consumer goods companies, for example, have sites that influence consumers to go to a reseller to pick up their products, avoiding channel conflicts, and pharmaceutical companies have marketing material online to coax consumers into asking their doctors for the product. For the influencer, online campaign management, email marketing, brand management, product marketing collateral and lead management are most important for influencing and increasing awareness to ultimately drive a sale. Influencer website examples include Toyota, P&G and Maytag.com.
The main goal of the facilitator is to extend the relationship online, creating a multichannel environment. The facilitator might allow consumers to transact online, but that is only one tool in its arsenal for extending the relationship. The facilitator seeks to understand where the Web fits best in the overall relationship or buying process, and to optimize online functionality, ensuring compatibility and integration with the applications that are used in other channels. For example, an airline company uses a multi-channel relationship in which the Web facilitates the booking of flights, displaying frequent-flier mileage and publishing Web flight updates while its call center assists cancellations, seating arrangements and so on, and the airplane delivers the product, the actual flight. For the facilitator, customer analytics, online dialogue and multichannel integration are the most important technologies. Facilitator website examples include Bank of America, American Airlines and Fidelity.com.
The seller creates an environment for transactions, driving business online. The seller, unlike the facilitator, doesn't mind what you buy, as long as you buy it from the seller, and preferably online. It is transaction-oriented, and usually includes high-volume products and multibrands. Like the influencer, it uses marketing to drive a sale, often relying on push marketing and promotions to get customers to buy online. E-commerce includes order management, catalogues, interactive selling tools, Web analytics, email marketing/email response management, and customer self-service, which are all important technologies in the seller's environment. Seller website examples include Amazon, Overstock and Newegg.com.
First, companies should determine which type of website they should be gravitating toward and whether it matches the company's overall value proposition. Second, they should identify which type of website they already have, and reconcile this with the type of website they want for future development. Finally, they need to audit current and future website technologies against the type of website and goal toward which they're gravitating. This will immensely help B2C companies with defining and selecting the technology and the business processes used to support it.