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Using Web 2.0 in your business

The Internet is increasingly becoming a tool for consumers to inform their purchasing decisions by reading the opinions of others. Consumers listen to the experiences of others and choose where to shop accordingly. Your customers can become your biggest source of referral business through "word of mouth" marketing. A well managed web-marketing strategy will incorporate Web 2.0 elements in order to leverage this powerful referral network. But what exactly is Web 2.0 and how can a business use it?

eCommerce marketing

Although there is some room for interpretation of what "Web 2.0" actually is, most people will agree that it is defined by the ability of a website to provide users with the ability to interact with each other. This is often referred to as social networking and is very much at the core of most definitions of what a Web 2.0 website is all about. Upgrading a website from a static online brochure to a fully functional community forum that enables visitors to communicate directly with each other (and your sales, technical, and marketing teams) is a strategic route that an online business should look into.

The Internet makes price comparison very easy. A traditional brick and mortar shop needs only to compare with local businesses - nobody is going to fly across the Atlantic ocean to find a cheaper loaf of bread! An Internet business faces global competition, and search engines make it very easy for consumers to find other businesses with competitive pricing. This means that Internet technology presents a business with a new series of challenges.

However Web 2.0 also presents compelling business tools. It has never been easier for the average person to share their opinion. Internet users have a great deal of decision making power when it comes to choosing what content is portrayed to them. A traditional television station broadcasts a set bouquet of programs and individual viewers have very little say in what is shown. Nor is it easy for them to get in touch with the program manager of the television station and provide feedback. The Internet allows direct communication through blogs, social networking posts, emails, and online commenting that allows users to tell a business exactly what information they want to see.

The power of a consumer testimonial or product review is not to be underestimated. Consumers listen to other consumers with more trust and attention than they listen to corporate marketing presentations. A business can leverage the power of Web 2.0 by giving their consumers a voice.

eCommerce website feedback

Many businesses are reluctant to open up discussion forums for fear that consumers will leave negative reviews of their products or services. This is a very short-sighted viewpoint. If a company does not listen to the opinion of its customers then how can it improve its service and remain competitive? Furthermore if other consumers see a negative review that is dealt with responsibly, quickly, and fairly by the company then they are likely to place more trust in the company. Consider: Consumer A complains on the discussion forums that the widget shipped to her was black and not yellow as she had ordered. A company representative reads the forum post, and posts a reply apologizing for the mistake and offering to ship a brand new black widget. Consumer B sees that the company reacts to customer complaints. How do you think this will influence the opinion of the second Consumer?

Do you think the first Consumer will become a repeat customer, knowing that she had a chance to voice her opinion and that it was heard?