Accounting, Advertising, Aerospace, Airline, Apparel, Automobile, Banks, Beverage, Brokerage, Chemicals, Computers, Construction(Materials), Construction(Services), Cosmetics, Data Services, Electronics, Food, Furniture, Healthcare, Hotel/Resorts, Insurance, Internet Services, Jewelry, Newspaper/Magazines, Mining/Exploration, Movie/TV, Music, Office Supplies, Oil and Gas, Paper Products, Pharmaceuticals, Publishing, Real Estate, Software, Sports, Telecommunication, Textile, Travel, Trucking/Shipping, Wine/Spirits.
The list of industries originated from one commonly used in the business literature. Modifications were made according to an initial survey of activities on the world wide Web. Categories were subdivided, regrouped, or renamed to reflect more accurately the current constituencies of commercial Web sites. For the selection of sites within an industry, queries were made using popular search engines such as Yahoo and AltaVista. From such a collection of listings, a stratified random sample of 25 sites based in the US and Canada was then generated. Essentially, care was taken to ensure that well-known businesses, which tend to have larger and more complex Web sites, were not disproportionately represented.
Results and Observations by Industry
Each site was explored in sufficient detail so that all its value-adding features were identified and classified using the above framework. The percentage of sites having features in each purpose-value category was recorded. In the following, we tabulate the results for each industry and give a brief account of both common and special features of its sites. Since we are dealing with a sample, and the details of Web sites can be changed rapidly, we choose not to refer to any specific sites or companies by name.
Every site advertises its services. Some have products such as books. Sensational promotion is in the form of free trials, demo software, and video clips. Timely provision is mainly employment opportunities and seminar schedules. Logistic provision includes tax tips and tax rule updates. Accounting jokes and quiz are examples of sensational provision. A few sites provide database searches. One offers on-line tax service.
Our sample includes traditional advertising agencies, and a new wave of on-line marketers, in particular a number of coupon distributors. While the agencies promote their services, usually with samples of their work, the coupon sites offer discount coupons for products of their clients. The visitor prints the coupons of choice to be redeemed in stores. Compared to conventional print media, this use of Web sites should be cost effective for the client companies. To the customers, the sensational value remains the same.
The companies range from large aircraft manufacturers to small space system contractors. While every site provides information about products and services, one can hardly expect customers to order rocket boosters through a Web page. This accounts for the sparsity of the processing column. However, the potential of business to business transaction is there, with two large sites providing procurement terms, EDI standards, and maintenance manuals for its partners. As sensational provision, several sites offer multi-media material on space exploration. Many of the smaller sites are hosted by a few internet hosts for the industry.
The sample includes major carriers, regional and discount fare airlines, executive and tour charters, and helicopter services. Special fares, database searches for flight schedule and fare quotes, contests for trips and bonus miles appear in the promotion column. News, travel tips, job openings, financial data for the larger companies, and games are provisional. Processing covers on-line reservations and enrollment in special programs. Since passenger space on scheduled flights is essentially a perishable commodity, the prospect of dynamic pricing and real-time auctioning is quite plausible. Indeed, a very limited version, in the form of a silent auction of specific flight packages, is being offered by one site in our sample. There is also one example of “surprise” bonuses to frequent customers.
A large variety of specialty products, including designer brands, bridal fashion, custom-tailored shirts, children's clothing, formal wear, shoes, and pantyhose, are represented. This is one industry enjoying great success in mail orders and TV home shopping. Its relatively low level in on-line processing may come as a surprise. However, this may be explained by the fact that there is still no significant overlap between the traditional TV audience and the new wave of Web-savvy consumers.
Included are manufacturers, dealer networks, and parts suppliers. The quantity and quality of both promotional and provisional information are high. These Web sites are portents of “cutting out the middleman.” Yet, virtual test-drives are still far from the real thing. On-line search and interactive bidding for used cars, as well as custom order of new ones are promising innovative uses of the Web. With sports sponsorship and a lifestyle orientation, these pages are foundations to build a cult following.
Home banking never quite caught on since it was introduced over two decades ago. If it will have a second chance, the Web may be it. There is ample evidence of efforts by banking institutions large and small to begin distributing services on-line. This is one industry where not all the players are taking the same approach, as it involves a total vision of customer service in the information age, and not just putting up Web pages. The opportunity to create value in provision and processing is substantial here.
This covers soft drinks, beer, and bottled water. While some sites offer jazzy graphics, the common theme is basically low-tech advertising and marketing gimmicks. Sensational value by way of contests, sweepstakes, free samples, discount coupons, introductory and trial offers, games (e.g., an on-line slot machine), and cartoon archive is the norm. For the larger companies, on-line processing may refer only to the ordering of souvenir or gift items, and registration for membership which is required for full access to the Web site.
The sample ranges from sites with one-page ads to those supporting full-fledged on-line trading of stocks and securities. In any case, the relatively scanty provisional value created at the Web sites is clear indication that it will take substantially more work to truly empower the investor in cyberspace. Processing can mean very diverse activities, from subscribing to investment guides, sending resumes on-line, opening an account, downloading software package for brokers, to actual trading. Sensational value is in the form of free trials, discounts, and software demos.
Ranging from multinationals to small suppliers, the Web sites in our sample project a definite “we are here too” profile. Apart from one distributor who accepts on-line ordering, there is no other entry in the processing column. Provision falls mainly into career opportunities, issues on environmental responsibility, and financial data for investors. Still, it is not totally cut and dried. There are two cases of jokes and humor for sensational appeal. This is another industry where business to business transactions over the Web have great potential.
Manufacturers of microprocessors, computer systems, and hardware peripherals make up this list. Knowing that the Web is their backyard, one would expect these sites to lead the way. Indeed, the density of features and complexity of the content are high. Searchable databases, user chat groups, and choice of languages do boost custom value. Yet, after all is said and done, the marketing pitches seem to be universal, whether the products are computers, cars, or colas. The commonality lies in the purpose of the medium, not the nature of the industry.
While low in processing features (only two sites offer on-line shopping), this industry produces remarkably sensible and useful Web sites. Provisional contents include construction ideas and tips, tutorial on materials, industry trends and resources, and community services. Sites for retail chains provide store locators by state or zip code. On-line catalogs are concise and illustrated with nice graphics, including color samples in some cases. Sensational appeal ranges from an “identify this object” game to a sweepstakes for a round-the-world trip for two.
Our sample includes architects, builders, contractors, inspectors, plumbing and roofing services. These are relatively small Web sites exhibiting portfolios of designs and projects. Pictorial essays documenting entire projects, complete with comments from the clients, are particularly effective. The two instances of custom value involve searchable databases, one of products, and the other for home repair and maintenance. Limited on-line processing includes free estimates available to a specific locale.
This high gloss industry is not quite high tech as yet. We found mainly transplanted advertising copy promoting products or business and career opportunities. Toll-free numbers predominate. One site requires order forms to be printed and then sent by mail. Another features special sale prices on a page that has not been updated for nine months. Provision includes skin care consulting, color analysis, and poetry. One beauty of sensational processing: the first on-line order each day is free.
Data processing, direct marketing, mass mailing, turnkey systems, EDI specialists, healthcare information management, seismic data, educational data, market research, credit card processing, and vehicle registration databases span a wide spectrum of products and services in this category. Most sites are small and concise. Many post job openings, and provide technical information. On-line submission of resume and service tracking are the few instances of processing.
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Consumer electronics, audio-video equipment, and home automation are covered. The sites sampled are almost exclusively manufacturers and national chain stores, which may explain the emphasis on product promotion with little or no transaction processing. Except for an occasional product database search, other promotional features (news on technology, products and features, special offers, store locators, contests, sweepstakes and giveaways) are conventional. The message here seems to be: browse our site but rush to the store.
The companies range from food manufacturing conglomerates, premium ice cream, chocolate, fast food, deli and caterer, to gourmet specialties. Although the majority are household names, most Web sites are surprisingly small (and uncluttered). In fact, two of the sites are mere listings in a hosting service. Yet perhaps because of the name recognition, they were both accorded an entire “category” status by a major search engine. The promotional approach is in most cases a transplant from the conventional advertising media of TV, newspaper, and magazines. Provisional value is primarily in the form of recipes for consumers, and financial data for investors. Processing includes on-line shopping and application for a franchise operation. One innovative instance of timely processing is a gift reminder service.
The sample covers manufacturers, distributors, as well as retailers. Its profile is one of heavy emphasis on promotion of stable product lines. Despite the on-line catalogs, many of the sites encourage the visitor to order the printed catalog by e-mail. Provisional information includes what to look for when buying furniture, and decorating tips. An example of sensational processing is free personalized inscriptions for on-line orders.
We found hospitals, HMOs, dental practice, suppliers, as well as a site on telemedicine in our sample. Half the sites have searchable databases, calendar of events, programs and seminars to promote their services. Provisional information is mainly generic in nature, including survey results, research findings, tutorials, and even financial reports for investors. What is noticeably absent is timely, custom, and logistic provision regarding quality of care and patient education. The Web could be an excellent conduit for this purpose.
Luxury hotels, motel chains, destination resorts, and casinos are represented. With the advertising budgets of some of the well-known companies, it is somewhat surprising to find these pages to be little more than modest travel brochures. Apart from travel tips and destination guides, provisional value is rather scanty. Even sensational value falls short of expectation, with only a few contests, and free drawings. On-line reservation and availability checking are emerging and may hold the key to future development.
Based on our sample, the insurance industry appears to be void of on-line processing on its Web sites. While on-line rate quotes are available on a few sites, such features are classified under logistic-promotion. Provisional value is mainly from financial data with two exceptions. One site provides information for prospective independent agents. Another offers health tips as well as a comprehensive database of doctors and hospitals searchable by zip code and health plan. Otherwise, it seems that this industry still conducts business as usual.
These are providers of on-line services (content), network access (on-ramps), and Web sites (design and maintenance). Major players as well as upstarts are represented. Site news and job postings make up the timely components. Services and fees are advertised without much ado. There is little provisional information apart from occasional survey results and tutorials on business and the Internet. All site providers have search functions to promote their clients. On-line sign-up and downloading of connection software constitute the bulk of actual processing.
Current Web sites in this category are mostly non-chain retailers offering original and custom designs in silver, gold, precious stones, metal, and diamonds. Watch makers and distributors are also represented. The majority are simple ad pages listing toll-free numbers for ordering. Promotional value include monthly features, limited time offers, graduation gifts, and listing of products with pictures. Provisional information is in the form of of explanation of gem grading systems, and how to avoid mistakes in jewelry purchases.
This category is populated predominantly by companies owning mining rights and operating explorations, although manufacturers of equipment, hardware and software also appeared in the sample. Many are listed with a commercial host site for the industry. Even for those with end products, the target audience here is clearly the investor. Financial reports are the norm. Timely value is from press releases. A few listed employment opportunities. One unusual feature is an on-line auction of gold nuggets and lodes. The absence of custom or sensational features is notable.
This category includes major movie studios, network television, cable channels, and video rental. These are very effective Web sites, promoting what is new by all the tricks of the entertainment trade. Previews, games, contests, sweepstakes, and trivia quizzes abound. Some theme channels provide topical libraries. One may speculate that WWW will divert the attention of movie and TV audiences. The industry seems confident that it can exploit the competition to its own advantage.
Our sample includes recording studios, distributors of CDs and tapes, musical instrument makers, musicians (classical and rock), and a music festival. Unlike movies and TV, which are promoted as media, music is promoted more nearly as merchandise in the form of CDs and tapes. Hence the higher incidence of logistic processing in the form of on-line shopping. Contests (including one song-writing competition), and sound clips make up the bulk of sensational attractions.
It is not surprising that the traditional print media became natural migrants to cyberspace. The new bandwidth and interactivity provide fertile middle ground between print and air waves. Note that the products and services in this industry are primarily in advertising. If the Web proves to be more effective and popular in broadcasting provisional content, tremendous growth can be expected. Within our evaluation framework, custom value will be the major indicator in tracking progress in this regard.
Manufacturers and suppliers of office furniture, time clocks, copiers, fax machines and bar code systems make up the sample. Typically, the smaller companies list their products and toll-free numbers; the larger ones provide searchable catalogs. Special offers and job listings are timely. Provisional content is low. Processing is limited to on-line customer service by one large manufacturer, and on-line ordering by two large suppliers. A few contests, and one downloadable time calculator add a touch of sensational value.
Oil and Gas:
For anyone pondering the commercial value of a Web site, the sample from this industry can serve as intriguing case studies. The major companies have sleek, professionally designed pages promoting their product and services, providing financial data, exhibiting cultural and sport sponsorship, Yet, one wonders if they actually expect to sell more gasoline or stocks this way. Much of the processing involves on-line ordering of “collectible” items, hardly a mainstay of the business. By contrast, the promotion of fleet card fueling systems, and home heating oil delivery plans by the less elaborate sites may actually be more effective.
Manufacturers of paper and related products, paper-making machinery, suppliers and distributors are represented. The sites demonstrate the richness of specialty and niche markets in this sector: from handmade paper to tree-free products. As provisional value, the large companies showcase their environmental consciousness with information on forest management, ecological codes, and customer training programs. One site takes the sensational approach to such provision in the form of a game that put the visitor in charge of the company.
The sites range from multinational manufacturers, specialized laboratories, suppliers and distributors, to pharmacies. New product announcements, research news, and job opportunities give timely value. Logistic provision is almost exclusively financial reports for investors. The larger sites have searchable features. Apart from on-line ordering for a few suppliers, there is little processing on the Web sites. Discounts, games, video clips are the occasional touches of sensational attraction.
Our sample covers many of the established publishers as well as some smaller and specialty presses. Timely value is from new releases, exhibition events and schedules, special features, award updates, and employment opportunities. Custom value is from searchable catalogs, a directory of bookstores in the US, and a database of lawyers in Canada. Contests, giveaways, demo software, a love quiz, a virtual field trip, a trivia treasure hunt, and free admission to a multi-media convention are the sensational attractions. On-line ordering is offered by several sites.
The list includes national franchises, regional and local companies. As timely value, some provide news on recent transactions, and public service announcements. Database searches of listings are available on larger sites. Matching buyer preferences to referrals can expedite processing. As nascent features, the potential for custom value is tremendous, although it is obvious that the databases in most cases are incomplete. This may affect credibility with serious users. Smaller sites post bio-sketches of agents, giving an personal feeling to building customer relations.
The sample covers developers and distributors. By nature of the industry, timely promotion of new products and upgrades is high priority. Timely provision is mostly job opportunities, making it easy to know who is hiring. The majority have searchable sites or product libraries. Logistic provision is in the form of financial reports or information on business partners. On-line ordering and downloading of upgrades is leading the way to on-line delivery of purchases. Most have free demos, or free trials. A few run contests, or give away freeware such as screen savers.
We sampled from lists of major league team sports, athletic clubs, player associations, training camps, and sport clinics. Sporting goods manufacturers and suppliers are not included. In this industry the line between promotion and provision is rather fine. Creating value to attract more participants or fans is certainly promotion, but is one actually selling the sport? In any case, once there is a following, even pictures of star athletes may be considered as sensational values on these sites.
Telecom giants, networking product suppliers, phone center outsourcers, answering services, and system installers are represented. As major players in the high growth arena of converging information technologies, these companies, especially the large ones, are busy showcasing their ware. Ironically, as each site becomes more elaborate, it is harder for the customers to differentiate and make well-informed choices.
Fabric manufacturers, designers, developers, specialty suppliers (felt, trail blankets, tents, nets, car mats), surplus exchange clearinghouses, and custom services are found in the sample. Most are small sites with no-frills ads for their products. The majority may be intended for business to business contacts, although there is little evidence of efforts in this regard. One site with a counter registered 545 visits in five months. The clearinghouse, which charges a membership fee, draws more traffic (over 23,000 visits in five months).
This covers the package tour and cruise businesses, as well as travel agencies. In general, there is more content and information than found in the related category of hotels and resorts. Especially for luxury cruises, a projected oversupply of capacity is expected to heat up competition. Attracting customers over the Web has obvious potential. Its success will depend on innovative features in timely and custom processing, including interactive consultation and on-line selection and confirmation of custom options.
Express couriers, transportation and freight services, specialty delivery (produce, flowers), and overseas container lines are represented. Overall, there is a tone of “Do you want us to talk, or do you want us to get going?” The package tracking feature pioneered by this industry is the prime example of logistic processing value. It shows the potential of letting customers tap into business data through the Web.
The sample includes vineyards and wineries, distributors and merchants, a wine society, and a “shopping agent.” The producers tend to be more informative, providing tasting notes, information about wine-making traditions and techniques, and complementary foods to serve with wine. The merchants focus more on logistic promotion, essentially using on-line catalogs. The shopping agent is innovative. It publishes best prices actually offered by retailers on selected wines. However, only paying members have passwords to reveal the identity of the retailers.