Enterprise application integration (EAI) and enterprise portals may also play pivotal roles in e-business implementation projects. EAI can take the form of a product (middleware on steroids) or a service (e-business system integration) or a combination of both. Enterprise portals, Web sites acting as focal points for consolidating all varieties of enterprise system access, are likely to become a de facto standard across most industries. Rather than requiring system users to physically organize individual sets of access points (internal system menus, e-business partner connectivity, frequently accessed external URLs, etc.), the enterprise portal provides a logical and efficient navigational center. However, while the linking of disparate applications via a portal may give the appearance of system integration, actual cross-application integration is achievable through some sort of EAI.
Another factor affecting customer-facing application requirements is the new class of sales and marketing intermediaries, the e-commerce market makers. Largely deployed through marketplace portals on the Internet, these companies represent new business opportunities in that their core competence sits on an e-commerce foundation. Without robust systems and networks, they cannot enter the market. For others—manufacturers and wholesalers—they may represent a lessened need for customer-centric e-business systems since they may envision these market makers as outsourced sales and marketing departments. Such companies still have a need for e-business enablement since their ERP systems must communicate with the new marketplace portals electronically, but their systems requirements are more likely to be of a supply chain nature. Keep in mind that this does not have to be an either/or situation; a company can also opt to view these external marketplace portals as simply another sales channel.
Here are some of the more significant customer-facing application areas:
A solution that enables companies to sell their products and services over the Internet. To establish an Internet selling presence, the first step is setting up a virtual storefront and the company's product catalog on a Web site. Typical transactional features include quoting standard prices, showing product availability information, providing self-service order entry, authorizing credit, presenting invoices, processing payments, and providing order status information. Advanced features may include automated knowledge-based sales assistance, product substitution advice, up-sell and cross-sell prompting, shipping option alternatives, catalog personalization, digital promotions, product configuration for complex products, and support for buying groups. Ease of use is the single biggest factor in providing the customer with an enjoyable shopping experience—an essential for earning repeat business.
Customer Relationship Management—CRM
The objective of CRM is to create a more effective marketing relationship between the company and its customers. It is based on bi-directional communication facilitating proactive opportunity management, marketing strategy, and customer care. Customer-specified pref-erences and feedback exchanges are used in the deployment of sales programs and marketing campaigns. CRM solutions often include formal call center management modules. Establishing a more formal link between company and customer, CRM readily supports trading partner agreements such as vendor managed inventory and collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment programs.
e-Sales Force Automation (e-SFA)
As a logical successor to SPA, E-SFA provides the tools and processes to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of a company's direct sales force through Internet-enabled (also intranet and extranet) cross-functional communication and system integration. Typical features include calendar management, lead generation and tracking, sales prospect and customer contact management, sales effectiveness tracking, sales team coordination, and telemarketing program support.
Web-enabled customer service applications greatly increase a company's ability to respond to customer inquiries, complaints, and requests with higher efficiency and effectiveness than with traditional customer service departments that are 100 percent people-based. Customer interactions are integrated across multiple business functions and communication channels. Typical features include customer complaint handling, problem resolution tracking, corrective action reporting, self-service help desk inquiries (including an FAQ feature), and call center management. The more sophisticated systems provide the ability to define and monitor service-level agreements providing constructive relationship enhancing feedback. Many call center applications support a blending of multiple
communication modes (such as voice, fax, e-mail, and Web site transactions) through a single mechanism.
Customer Predictive Modeling
Through the use of highly detailed data gathering coupled with concepts such as business intelligence and knowledge management, customer predictive modeling allows marketers to analyze customer behavior and preferences with far greater speed and accuracy than ever before. Profiling and personalization capabilities capture and analyze buying patterns and automatically customize marketing content presentation by individual customer or market segment. Click stream analysis, a key component of such modeling, uses individual user site navigational movement to track and predict buyer characteristics for actions such as highly targeted promotional offerings and direct e-mail marketing campaigns. Far beyond basic demographic analysis, predictive modeling is one of the most powerful aspects of marketing automation.
Electronic approach to the creation, rollout, and monitoring of marketing campaigns. CRM and marketing automation applications, which include campaign management modules, alleviate much of the laborious effort required to establish marketing campaigns and track results. These systems provide the tools to administer all campaign activities from identification of the targeted audiences through the return on investment analysis. Advertising, event scheduling and tracking, literature distribution, follow-up administration, and the presentation of analysis reports and graphs are typical components. For maximum effectiveness, campaign management should be tightly integrated with SFA.
To Be Continued
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