Websites and eBusiness Models: A Comparison of Three Organizations
The features and functions of a website are a reflection of the purpose of that website. In turn, this is a function of the business model. This will now be shown by comparing the websites of three companies: eBay, Lands' End, and Ecolab. For each website, the target audience will be described, the website will be described, and the features of the website will be linked to the business model.
The eBay website is an online bidding site, where the general public can bid to purchase items from sellers. These sellers can either be other members of the general public or can also be retailers. The eBay website has two target audiences. Firstly, there are the consumers bidding on items to purchase them. Secondly, there are the sellers, with eBay needing to attract sellers so that consumers can find items to purchase. Importantly, eBay's income is derived directly via the sellers and indirectly via the buyers. The direct incomes is achieved due to the fees that sellers pay for each sale. In addition, the fees are a percentage of the sale price. This means that the more bidders there are, the higher the price of the item, and the greater the revenue is for each sale. The end result is that the target audience for eBay is both buyers and sellers.
The eBay website is designed to suit both buyers and sellers. For buyers, it provides items to bid on placed in categories. It also allows searching to find specific items. It also allows sellers the opportunity to list items to sell. Sellers can also start an eBay Store for a fee of $15.95 per month. This provides sellers with a storefront for their items. The eBay website also provides tools that allow sellers to manage their product listings, keep track of sales, and run an effective eBay business.
The features and the functions of the site are also designed to suit both buyers and sellers. This includes that the top of every page has tabbed menus that include "Buy," "Sell," and "My eBay." This makes the site features immediately accessible whether a person is a buyer or a seller. The "My eBay" features takes consumers to a page showing a summary of their interactions with eBay. This page includes items the consumer it watching, items that are being bid on, items not won, items being sold, and items that have been sold. This page also lists the status of items bought and items sold. Consumers can also set up favorite searches. The most important point about the "My eBay" feature is that it combines a person's buying and selling activities.
The mission of eBay is stated as being "to provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything" (eBay, The Company). The features of eBay are linked to this business model. The "My eBay" feature helps the general public become sellers by turning buyers into sellers. The marketing efforts also support the business model. As noted by Melissa Campanelli (2005), eBay operates one of the most successful affiliate programs on the Internet where individuals receive earnings for members they refer to purchase goods or to sell goods. This is a dual affiliate program where affiliates can earn by referring either buyers or sellers. Advertising also occurs via Google's Adwords program, where people searching for items are directed to eBay. Other advertisements by eBay suggest that people turn unwanted items into cash. This strategy encourages the general public to become sellers, which contributes to eBay's mission of creating a global marketplace where everyone is a buyer and everyone is a seller.
Lands' End is a direct merchant, which means that they work with manufacturers directly and sell to consumers. Lands' End has a similar target audience to EBay, including that it needs to attract both buyers and sellers. The significant difference with Lands' End is that its sellers are manufacturing companies, whereas a significant portion of eBay's sellers are the general public.
The differences in Lands' End's target audience is reflected in their website. It was noted that eBay needs to attract the general public as sellers, whereas Lands' End only needs to attract the general public as buyers since manufacturers are the sellers. For this reason, Lands' End's website is designed to suit buyers. The website is mainly an online catalog for shoppers, describing the products available and allowing people to purchase items via a shopping cart. The online catalog is divided into categories including women, men, girls, boys, home, and luggage. Within these categories, products are further divided into types. The website also offers a special section for overstocked items. The home page also includes advertisements for timely products. In may, this includes advertisements and special sections for father's day items and swimwear.
The website also includes features and functions used to reach the target audience. This can be seen with the Father's Day items, where the site asks as an advice center as well as a store. This allows consumers to browse products based on the type of father, the required budget, or to get recommendations via the favorites listings. A similar feature is seen with the swimwear catalog where the website helps consumers to find the swimwear that is best for them. This can be completed by choosing the "anxiety zone" such as "enhance small bust" or "minimize full bust" (Lands' End, Swim Finder). The swimwear section also offers a style sorter, where consumers can select the size, style, print, bra style, and leg height. Consumers can also find swimwear based on body shape or can browse. These features all involve a shopping experience where the consumer is provided with interactive advice and assistance, as well as products to purchase. Shopping assistance is also provided via an "instant outfit" option where the website combines individual items to create outfits. Consumers can then choose to purchase all items in an outfit, or to purchase selected items. Other functions that the Lands' End website provides include gift cards, order tracking, customer service, and a free e-mail newsletter. The newsletter is used to inform consumers of new products and special offers. The website also allows consumers to order a print catalog for free. The standard print catalog is available, as well as a women's, men's, and a kid's catalog. Another feature provided is "My Virtual Model." This feature creates a 3-D model based on the customer's measurements. As the website explains, "once a virtual model is created the customer can use it to 'try on' items and outfits, to see how they will look on his or her body" (Lands' End, About Lands' End).
The business model of Lands' End affects the way they market themselves to buyers. The website contains information about the company and some information related to buyers, but is not designed mainly for this purpose. Lands' End describes their relationships with supplies as "valuable partnerships" (Lands' End, The Lands' End/Supplier Connection). Lands' End also describe the process where their buyers seek out suppliers and conduct a quality assurance visit to the manufacturer, with an alliance then developed if the supplier is approved. This part of the business model where sellers are treated as partners explains why the website is not designed for sellers, since the arrangements are not done via the Internet but via face-to-face interactions. Lands' End focus on sellers also supports their business model as a direct merchant. The Lands' End website is designed as a buyer's catalog, which supports their direct sales strategy. The website also provides additional interactive features to make direct selling more effective. It is also relevant to note that the additional features on the website such as "My Virtual Model" and the swim finder help alleviate many of the problems that exist with catalog shopping.
Ecolab describes itself as "the leading global developer and marketer of premium cleaning, sanitizing, pest elimination, maintenance and repair products and services for the world's hospitality, institutional and industrial markets" (Ecolab, Company Profile). Ecolab differ from both eBay and Lands' End because they serve a business market, rather than a consumer market. The target for the website is both the business customers and also the shareholders.
The Ecolab website offers information about their service. Business customers can choose their area such as "agribusiness" or "foodservice." They are then taken to a page listing all the products and services offered. Business customers can read about the products and services on offer and can also choose to request more information. Business clients can also choose a type of product they are interested in via a dropdown menu. For stockholders, the website includes the current value of the stock, annual reports, and other investor information.
The features and functions of the website are designed to assist business customers in finding the information they need. This includes the ability to view products and services via the type of market or via the name or…