WHY-TO-BUY-HERE STRATEGY #3: THE COMMUNITY HUB.
Unlike personalization Custom tailoring information to the individual. On the Web, personalization means returning a page that has been customized for the user, taking into consideration that person's habits and preferences. , which treats customers as unique individuals, "community"-oriented Web strategies build loyalty by emphasizing shared concerns. Community hubs sometimes generate phenomenal traffic and customer enthusiasm, largely by word of mouth--but they can turn into economic deserts if target customers don't feel like hanging out with one other. (As W.C. Fields once said, "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.")
CambridgeSoft's six-year old Web store (www.chemstore.com) now offers a remarkably rich set of services for a worldwide Internet community of chemists. These services include a hand-compiled index of data sources and suppliers for over 100,000 chemicals ("the Yahoo! of chemistry"), an online trade journal and news service, a membership club, a marketplace for buyers and sellers of bulk chemicals, and several individual Web boutique stores that sell scientific software, books, lab equipment, and chemical supplies. Directly or through links to catalogs, CambridgeSoft's ChemStore offers 500,000 different products, the company claims.
One important reason that the community hub model works well for CambridgeSoft, says marketing manager Vanessa Tomasic, is that it serves a highly-fragmented market--the pharmaceutical, biotech bi·o·tech
short for biotechnology
Noun 1. , and chemical industries. "Business to business e-commerce is especially attractive in these industries because of the large number of products and suppliers, the diverse needs of researchers, and the inefficiencies of traditional paper-bound systems," she notes.
CambridgeSoft, 100 CambridgePark Dr., Cambridge, Mass. 02140; 617/588- 9100.
In more diffuse market segments, the product itself may become a focal point focal point
See focus. for a community Web site. Jasc Software's Paint Shop Pro began as a shareware Software on the "honor system." The concept is that users try a product, and if they like it, they voluntarily pay a set registration fee or make a donation to the program's creator. There are tens of thousands of shareware programs; some fantastic, some awful. program in 1991, and over the years a loyal community of users has grown up around the product. The Jasc store (www.jasc.com) highlights "people within this community who provide tutorials, art, plug-ins, and more," says Jasc's Lisa Piper. "We love this community and wish to firmly establish their worth to Jasc as a company."
In turn, the conspicuous enthusiasm of Paint Shop Pro users helps attract even more potential customers to the site. Jasc currently distributes more than 10,000 trailware copies a day, and downloads of beta versions A pre-shipping release of hardware or software that has gone through alpha test. A beta version of software is supposed to be very close to the final product, but, in practice, it is more a way of getting users to test the software in the first place under real conditions. sometimes hit 15-20,000 copies a day. During peak periods, Jasc is flooded with e-mail about its products, Piper says; during a recent three-week beta period, it took at least three people to answer e-mails and read newsgroup newsgroup
Internet forum for discussion of specific subjects. Newsgroups are organized into subjects (e.g., automobiles); each typically has several subgroups (e.g., classic cars, Formula One racing cars). postings. But that's a necessary investment to sustain community enthusiasm, she says. "Many of these beta users write that they feel Ohonored' to help us develop our product."
Jasc Software Jasc Software, Inc. was an Eden Prairie, Minnesota based company founded by Robert Voit, the creator of Paint Shop Pro, a popular graphics editing program. Jasc Software also created other popular software titles, including:
A city of eastern Minnesota, a residential suburb of Minneapolis. Population: 57,300. , Minn. 55344; 612/930-9800.