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Unlocking the secrets of successful sites

It’s no secret that some web sites work better than others. But the question is … what’s their secret? Julie-anne Sprague reports.

 

Company name: B Clear and Simple

URL: www.bclearandsimple.com.au

Web developer: Pretzel Logic

# Cost of site: Initial costs $30,000 and total costs over three years $100,000 (figures are external investment only)

* Number of unique visitor hits: 56,517 (March figures), monthly average 41, 921

Cost savings/generation: 10 per cent of direct sales are made via the web

 

WHEN B Clear and Simple launched its mobile phone business nearly four years ago it did so with no online presence, instead operating a call centre to handle inquiries and sales.

But according to B Clear and Simple national marketing manager Jeremy Cookson, the initial customer demand prompted the company to outsource a web site project to Pretzel Logic.

“Three and a half years ago we started from scratch and started the inbound call centre. The deals were so popular that we had too much demand at the call centre and we couldn’t answer all the calls,” Mr Cookson told WA Business News.

“This was in week one of the launch and we thought we would need to get something online and fast.”

The company decided that a web site could provide as much information, if not more, than the call centre operation, and was a mechanism to channel consumer demands to other means of communication.

Pretzel Logic completed the B Clear and Simple web site in six-weeks and, while there have been constant updates during the three and a half years since, its format is similar to the first web site produced by Pretzel Logic.

“We got traffic from day one. It generates 10 per cent of our direct sales. We would have easily have recouped the costs,” Mr Cookson said.

He said the company could continue its business without the use of the web site, but he felt the site had a big part to play in consumer buying, even if it did not translate to online purchases.

“Our research shows that 70 per cent of people don’t like to buy online or over the phone,” Mr Cookson said.

“But the site has a broader role in terms of people seeing the information and then choosing to buy either by going to a dealer or over the phone.

“A lot of people now research and decide what they want using the Internet.”

 

Company name: Biante Model Cars

URL: www.biante.com.au

Web developer: Internet Business Corporation

Cost of site: $30,000

Number of unique hits: 23,437

Cost savings/generation: Last financial year $1.2 million in sales was attributed to the web site

 

BIANTE Model Cars is a distributor of collectable model cars and its first foray of online activity was a fan club website for Formula One king pin Michael Schumacher. But that hobby activity was soon to be replaced by an e-commerce site designed to attract model car punters from across the globe to the company’s product range.

Biante Model Cars director Trevor Young believes the web site paid for itself in a relatively short period of time.

The site, on average, attracts between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 hits a month, and annual sales are over $1 million.

The company has been operating since 1991 and sold its model cars through its Perth-based retail outlet. It still has a retail outlet in town, on Hay Street, and has other stores selling the model cars. Since the launch of the web site in 1995, however, worldwide markets have opened up.

“We are on track to get six million hits this month. 24 per cent of our customers are from overseas and they would be online sales,” Mr Young said.

“The website accounts of 10 per cent of sales but it’s an important part of the business and it has a good profit margin. It has most definitely paid for itself.”

He said some of the elements that made the web site successful were its simplicity and value adding features, including online discussion forums, games and competitions.

“We have a presence on the web and offer a lot of stuff that most people don’t do,” Mr Young said.

“There are 5,500 different types of cars and they all have pictures. We now have four people in-house who work just on the web site, doing the updates and things.

“I figure if that’s three people earning about $30,000 that’s $90,000 spent and I get $1.2 million and 60 per cent of that is profit.”

Mr Young said an important element to the site was its simplicity.

“We have kept it simple. There are so many sites with the flashing banners and dancing girls but people in our market don’t have a 21-inch monitor and they don’t want to wait to download images. If they cannot view the Holden car in 40 seconds then they are gone,” he said.

“You need to get a competent person to design the site so that it works well.”

Mr Young believes people who have not woken up to the merits of online activity are missing a big slice of the business pie.

“The web site is the electric light bulb of the 21st century,” he said.

Company name: Argus Biomedical

URL: www.argusconnect.com

Web developer: Elk Consultants

Cost of site: $250,000

Number of unique hits: n/a

 

ELK Consultants’ e-business solution for local biomaterials and polymer research group Argus Biomedical earned it a Western Australian Information Technology and Telecommunications Award (WAITTA) earlier this year.

The judges of the WAITTA online category place an emphasis on the customer interface, ease of use, user acceptance, and innovation.

Given ArgusConnect’s simple design and lack of special software and hardware, coupled with its database capacity, it is little wonder the project attracted the attention of the WAITTA judges.

According to Elk Consultants managing director Richard Bone, the online business solution was designed to facilitate the supply of Argus Biomedical’s core product, the world’s first one-piece artificial cornea called AlphaCor, to surgeons across the globe.

“ArgusConnect is not a web site as such, it is a business-to-business solution,” Mr Bone said.

“Demand for Argus Biomedical’s AlphaCor is in the millions and there are surgeons across the globe who want to use them.

“There are over 100 surgeons in 20 countries using these implants.

“They needed a mechanism by which they can handle the requests for devices.”

Elk Consultants was employed to devise an online solution that would perform this core function but also collect patient data and track the process from the initial product request through post-surgery follow-up. It had to be easy to use, require no special hardware or software and be accessible 24 hours a day seven days a week.

The solution was a web site with a secure login that allows in-dividual surgeons to enter case details, request supply of the product, track product delivery and manage cases. From this information a clinical database is generated to monitor quality control.

“We built a solution that allows the surgeon to enter patient details and the pre-surgery conditions and Argus Biomedical decide whether the patient is suitable for the product,” Mr Bone said.

“If an AlphaCor is required, Argus Biomedical dispatches it to the surgeon.  The surgeon records the surgery details.”

ArgusConnect has a case management system and that sends messages to the surgeon with details of follow-up procedures and when they should occur.

“It can also do a clinical analysis. Normally with biotech you have to rely on selected surgeons to fill out information and send it back to you, but this system makes it advantageous for the surgeon to enter case details,” Mr Bone said.

“They can see a comprehensive case history, print out reports, and it becomes a functional tool for the surgeon as well as Argus Biomedical.”

JAYCAR Electronics is a Sydney-based electronics company with stores across Australia and New Zealand. Jaycar Electronics want-ed a new-look site and contacted Perth-based Vivid Interactive and Design to tailor a manageable web site.

According to Jaycar Electronics web site administrator Murray Roberts, the significant increase of online orders was a direct result of the new site.

“The web site has gained a 28 per cent increase in the number of monthly orders and an increase of 47 per cent of sales dollars compared to the previous design,” Mr Roberts said.

“I believe the increase can be attributed to the clean and professional design, high performance and the efficient shopping cart feature.”

The Jaycar Electronics web site contains more than 5,500 product lines and the administration of those can be done in-house, he said.

The web site includes a content management system, secure payment system, a members’ login and member content system, and an online chat forum.

Company name: City of Gosnells

URL: www.gosnells.wa.gov.au www.belmont.wa.gov.au www.gosnells.wa.gov.au

Web developer: Alphawest

Cost of site: $30,000 each (approx)

Cost savings: Reduction in staff time and direct costs

THREE local government authorities have joined forces to reduce the costs of a web site content management system.

Launched in October last year, the individual web sites use the same content management system, which allows non-technical staff to update the web site.

According to City of Gosnells manager of information services Pam Campbell, this element has proved beneficial.

“We all were looking to move to a new web site. We wanted a new fresh site but that had a content management system behind it,” Ms Campbell said.

“We wanted the web site to remain fresh and the only way to do that was to continually update it with information, but we didn’t want to hire additional staff to be able to do that.”

Had the City of Gosnells opted to ‘go it alone’, it most certainly would have paid more for the web site development.

“Because we were open minded and could work together we man-aged to pool our resources and we lowered the development costs,” Ms Campbell said.

“We got a significant saving on the site manager product which is the content management tool.”

She said the new site was more interactive and easier to update, which offered obvious cost sav-ings.

“We advertise tenders and job vacancies. We have received 2,500 hits for a recent job vacancy,” Ms Campbell said.

“The HR team thinks it’s a real boon because people can go online and access the information and print it. They don’t need to send it out anymore. 

“So it has reduced costs both in staff time and direct costs like mailing.

“It provides a lot of information online and, while people can still come into the office or call us, they can also log on at night or when it suits them to find out information.”

Alphawest won an Asia Pacific WA IT & T Award for this project.

 

* ‘Unique hits’ are the number of hits a homepage registers. It differs from ‘hits’, which record the number of times each page contained within the web site has been visited. If the web site is a large site with hundreds of pages it can register a significant number of overall hits but may only have a low unique hit rate.

# The cost of web site production is an approximate cost of the web site development.

 

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