The level of integration within each of these competitors is readily apparent in their approach to developing e-commerce applications.
Proposal for Web Presence
The following is a proposal for a Web presence which will give PZE Puzzles competitive parity with each of the competitors profiled in this analysis in the short-term and provides the necessary foundation for surpassing these competitors in the long-term. Inherent in this proposal is the need for create a tight integration at the process and system level with catalog management, content management, order capture, order management and pricing systems, in addition to interprocess communication and collaboration across sales, service, and production departments as well. As a result of the high need for interprocess communication and collaboration, an Internet-based platform such as Microsoft SharePoint is highly recommended. By integrating all applications within the SharePoint platform PZE Puzzles will be able to rapidly scale across their many channels and also exceed Accolade Publishing's leadership in distributed order management processes.
It is recommended that PZE Puzzles purchase a Dell PowerEdge T605 Tower Server in its minimum configuration at a price of £650. This server is based on the AMD Opteron processers and has the ability to be scaled up from single 2-core to 4-core functionality. Also included in this server are open management applications for managing the entire network of applications and also give PZE Puzzles the flexibility of managing their servers from remote locations.
Server software needs to include Microsoft Windows XP Server at a cost of £1,200 and SharePoint Server, for £400, specifically for supporting the collaborative workflows critical for the success of this e-commerce strategy.
Given the critical need for a T1 line, it is advisable for PZE Puzzles to budget an estimated £950 per month for this service. The inbound speeds of a T1 line are critical for supporting the depth and navigational aspects of the e-commerce website on the Dell PowerEdge T605 Tower Server. A Cisco router Model 8201 will be used for multiplexing the inbound T1 line to the Dell PowerEdge T605 Tower Server and on to wireless access points to support WiFi access throughout the company as well.
The use of Microsoft SQL Server is highly recommended in this configuration as it has the necessary support from an XML and Active Service Pages (ASP) programming standpoint to support a more dynamic development environment, which will allow for greater levels of customization to the website later on.
Microsoft SQL Server for a single license, according to the Microsoft UK website, is £1,100.
In the initial stages of this project there will not be enough work to be done to have a dedicated staff member manage it full-time. It is recommended that a member of the it staff be assigned to the project of keeping the e-commerce applications running efficiently until there is the need to have someone dedicated full-time.
There is also the need for custom application development and the internal development of integration points throughout the company was well. The following is an estimate of the application development and professional services necessary to create these applications and integrate them into the existing internal systems and processes within PZE Puzzles.
Marketing and Promotion Strategy for Proposed PZE Puzzles Website
It is critical for PZE Puzzles to aggressively pursue promotional strategies online, concentrating on building excitement and enthusiasm for their new website and its products online. It is recommended that a thorough Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program be put into place to maximize the company's rankings within Google organic search results, and also create a series of AdWords-based advertisements to drive traffic to the site through paid search. These strategies can be completed using keywords analysis and keywords placement in the new site. Second, the company is strongly advised to consider all aspects of social media, specifically social networking applications. These applications are based on Web 2.0-based applications which are discussed in Appendix I: Web 2.0 Applications. The use of Friendfeed, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace for example could aid significantly in driving up the use of the website for ordering. As part of this social networking strategy the company must also concentrate on creating blogs and consumer-generated content to further drive up visits to their website as well. Third, the company must create a unified and coordinated Link Exchange strategy by prioritizing which specific partners to share links with first, and second, setting up analytics applications to track these links over time. This is critical from the standpoint of evaluating how link sharing is contributing to overall traffic growth. Fourth, the coordinating of content and links with Web portals focused on games and puzzles including Suduko are essential for the company to gain visibility within the industry. Concentrating on these web portals will give the company greater visibility over the long-term in their specific demographic segments as well. Fifth, the use of banner servers and the partnering with banner advertising providers is also a strategy that must be anchored in measurements of performance over time. The critical need is for banner servers to deliver a sustainable ROI and also be measured to be effective in addressing specific demographic and psychographic markets online. Finally, the actual launch of the site must be multi-channel in focus, concentrating first on e-mail blasts, and then followed with trial programs and subscriptions to each key market segment. There also is the need to provide advance information to the PR firms and outlets throughout all market areas in addition to creating opportunities for the CEO of PZE Puzzles to speak about the direction of this e-commerce effort in the context of the broader industry. There must also be a series of strategies set up for ensuring multi-channel-based selling is effectively accomplished as well. By taking this concerted approach to completing the launch, PZE Puzzles will have a successful product introduction.
Appendix I: Web 2.0 Applications
Online diary or journal entry on the Internet, which primarily supports text, photo (photoblog), video (vlog), and audio (podcast) formats
Google, AOL, and Yahoo offer free blogging platforms
Web service that gathers related content from more than one source
IBM's mashup applications enable project managers to match team resources with a map to identify the geographical locations of the resources
Peer-to-Peer Networking technique for effectively sharing music, audio, and text files
Napster and Gnutella are popular peer-to-peer networks
Real Simple Syndication (RSS)
Feed-based technology that, with the aid of an RSS reader, enables users to subscribe to newly released content such as text, Web pages, sound files, photos, and video
RSS feed may contain the full content, for example a podcast, or simply a link to the content
Encompasses all online tools (blogs, podcasts, Wikis, social networks, vlogs) and Web sites enabling people to share content, such as text, audio, picture s, and videos
Popular social media sites include YouTube (video) and Flickr (photos)
Web sites that permit users to create online networks and communicate with friends and colleagues
Social networking sites include MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, and Friends Reunited, and business networking sites include LinkedIn and Ryze
Allows users to bookmark or rate online content to share their recommendations with other online users
Typically used by publishers of media sites attempting to benefit from users' recommendations
Popularized by sites such as Digg and del.icio.us, which enable users to publish, categorize, and share their bookmarks
Enables users to create and edit the content of a Web site, leveraging the expertise of online users
Consumer Wikis enable users to comment on content, in addition to editing content
Wikipedia, a community Wiki encyclopedia, includes approximately 1.3 million English-language articles
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