6.2 Selling on the web
The web is fast becoming a medium for selling everything from books to clothes, gardening tools to beauty products, investment advice to travel services. Web-based selling seems to be concentrated in three main categories of company:
existing catalogue sales companies which have put their catalogues online to allow customers to buy using the web;
existing companies whose products are largely information and which have used the web as a means of providing a personalised service or one with a very quick response;
companies which have started from scratch using the web as their only sales medium.
Of these companies, the most successful financially have been those in the second category. For example, Pergamon Press, which publishes many professional journals, has moved to making all its journals available electronically. Consequently, not only is its selling done over the web, so is its distribution! The company still charges a subscription fee which remains more or less equal to what it was before Pergamon began using the web. However, most subscribers (largely the medical and legal professions) have chosen to use the convenience of electronic delivery, and this has drastically reduced printing, warehousing and distribution costs for Pergamon.
One successful company in the first category is Lakeland. This is a British company which began by providing plastic bags for the farming industry, and now sells a wide variety of household items, food ‘treats’, and seasonal items for Christmas and summer. The company ran an established mail order business before venturing onto the web, and it also has a chain of shops in major UK towns. Thus the venture onto the web was, for Lakeland, an extension into a new selling medium. The company already had expertise in presenting their products from their mail order catalogue business. It also had an established infrastructure of suppliers, warehouses and links to delivery companies.
In the last category of companies, one of the success stories of the web has been the online bookseller, Amazon, which has expanded into all kinds of consumer goods such as smaller electronics, videos and DVDs. It also acts as an agent for sales of second-hand goods. So if a book is out of print, you may be able to buy it second-hand through the Amazon website.