TECHKNOW: Lessons from Web Alley

TECHKNOW: Lessons from Web Alley - Window shoppers: Gone are the days when survival on the internet was down to big page impression and unique user figures. Now it is about how good you are at turning visitors to your site into spending customers. Better

by RICHARD ELLIS, chief executive of onefootball.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Window shoppers: Gone are the days when survival on the internet was down to big page impression and unique user figures. Now it is about how good you are at turning visitors to your site into spending customers. Better to have thousands of small, dedicated customers ready to buy goods or services than millions of visitors who keep their credit card in their wallet.

I recently talked to a huge and well-established bricks-and-mortar company that has an online business. Ostensibly, they were doing well: they had built impressive traffic to their site via a big marketing campaign. Yet - tens of millions of pounds later - they realised they were paying huge sums for eyeballs that blinked when it came to parting with cash. And the company had no data on what each customer was worth, which would have enabled them to judge the effectiveness of the marketing campaign. A review is under way.

Shelve it: A London stockbroker friend reads the rites for pure B2C sites with a story of our times. He and his colleagues had just arrived by taxi at the offices of an established internet client to put the finishing touches to its imminent IPO plans, when one of their mobile phones rang.

'Don't bother going up,' said the caller, 'we're no longer looking at B2Cs.' They made their excuses and left. Isn't life cruel?

Initial Confusion: B2C? So 1999. B2B? So April 2000. But what of P2P? No-one can agree on what this latest and hippest internet industry buzz-phrase actually stands for. Is it: a. Person-to-person, referring to web sites that link users to other people? b. Peer-to-peer, technology that allows PCs to talk to each other and share files?

c. Path-to-profitability, a term used by financiers terrified by the huge losses run up by some internet start-ups? d. Programmer-to-programmer, describing information sent from one techie to another?

e. The name of the self-styled hottest rock 'n' roll party band in America's mid-west? f. All the above?

Gold stars all round to all those who answered f. Yep, P2P means different things depending on who and where you are. So which definition will win out? The way the market is going it has to be c. Profitability is back in fashion and any venture that doesn't show a quick route to reaching it is definitely P2P - preparing to perish.

Step on it: The inventor of the clockwork radio, Trevor Baylis (see Decisions, p115), is now working on putting electrical generators into shoes. The idea is to convert the energy expended by walking so that one could charge a mobile phone while strolling in the park or listen to music without needing batteries. The Walkman was made for it.

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