A global educational resource for e-business and Internet marketing strategies
e-Business North American Tour
The Foundation Phase
e-Business World Tours
|This e-Business North American tour covers examples of e-business
and Internet marketing in action, specifically in the Health and
For the purposes of this analysis the Health and Health Care industry has been defined to include the following:
1. The e-Business Roadmap
In this report you will be introduced to the e-Business Roadmap that is the basis for the research in this industry. The e-Business Roadmap is a comprehensive framework that can be used to create your strategic Internet plan. It is made up of 35 distinct stages within 5 phases. This report will focus on the applicable sales and marketing aspects of this framework in the Health and Health Care industry. Here is an overview of the e-Business Roadmap:
Phase 1: The Foundation Phase
1. The Assessment Stage
The Assessment Stage involves the determination of the following:
Determining whether or not you have a good fit for e-commerce can help you determine the overall objectives of your site. If there is not a good fit for e-commerce, you can focus on other objectives such as building your online brand, moving people through the sales cycle, driving traffic to your real world stores or dealerships, or simply providing customer support.
Vendors of Health and Health Care may want to consider these potential Web strategy objectives:
The following characteristics of Health and Health Care products make them a good potential fit for online e-commerce:
Creating a successful e-business involves some or all of the following strategies:
The Strategy Stage involves the following:
The key to building a powerful and profitable e-business is creating a strategy which builds barriers to entry to other companies and/or creates features or functions that establish a sustainable competitive advantage. This is not easy to do in an open accessible environment like the Internet, but ways to achieve these objectives will be discussed.
In the Health and Health Care industry, companies could consider these possible approaches:
The Organization Stage involves building an organization with the skills needed to create and execute your e-business plan. Your skill requirements will vary greatly depending on whether you decide to focus your efforts on e-commerce, supply chain automation, e-branding, Internet customer support, etc.
The Organization Stage requires that your firm assesses the resources required to undertake your e-business strategy, compare available and required resources, and take action to address resource deficiencies. Often shortfalls can also be addressed by outsourcing your requirements to other firms.
The Organization Stage also involves the creation or evolution of existing organizational structures to enable the execution of the e-business strategy. Often companies will begin by creating an informal task force with individuals from various parts of the organization in order to create the e-business plan.
Other companies create a totally separate division with full responsibility and full funding to execute their plan. Others create an entirely separate company with responsibility for executing the e-business plan. And finally, others will outsource their entire e-business operations to a company that specializes in this area, while they focus on their core competencies which may have nothing to do with e-business.
The optimal organizational structure is determined by a number of factors including the amount of funding available, the level of e-business sophistication of the company and the industry, and the availability of e-business skills in the company.
4. The Infrastructure Stage
The Infrastructure Stage involves the creation of the technology infrastructure for your e-business. This includes your computers, networking equipment and software. Rather than building this entire infrastructure internally, some companies will outsource this requirement to companies such as web hosting firms and Application Service Providers (ASPs).
Web hosting firms will store all of your web content, potentially eliminating the need for you to have any of your own web servers. ASPs will allow you to use their servers and their web applications. Web hosting firms and ASPs both charge an ongoing fee based on factors such as the amount of disk storage required, the number of transactions being processed, the value of the transactions being processed, the need for credit card processing requirements, etc. This eliminates the need for a large up front investment since the fees are payable on a monthly basis.
For companies that sell Health and Health Care, IBM offers ASP Healthcare Services, specializing in building an e-business infrastructure and applications that are specific to this industry.
This includes applications such as:
The Reach Stage involves a strategic decision about the scope of your e-business initiatives. What reach will drive the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) for your company?
According to the Meta Group, 80% of the companies they surveyed generated a positive return on their intranet application investments, with ROIs as high as 68%. And according to IDC, many companies are generating up to 100% ROI on their extranet investments. On the Internet however, there seems to be many examples of companies that have experienced major losses.
Having said that, this report covers many examples of what companies are doing on the Internet since that is what is publicly accessible for review. Do not let that sway your decision though to focus on the area that will generate the biggest return for your company. The same stages that will be discussed for your Internet strategy can also be applied to your intranet or extranet strategies.
Here are some potential extranet applications that could be implemented in the Health and Health Care industry:
6. The e-Branding Stage
The e-Branding Stage involves the creation of your online e-brand and personality. To assist in this area, Tom Vassos has created the e-Brand Strategy Pyramid which is a framework for building an e-brand.
Corporate Wordmarks and Corporate Logos
The core element of a company's overall brand strategy is their corporate wordmark. The corporate wordmark refers to the graphic treatment that is given to the company's name. This involves the use of a particular font, background colour and other defining characteristics.
Another component of the company's brand is their corporate logo or
mark, which is the graphical element to their corporate identity. The logo/mark
often appears with the corporate wordmark. For example, notice the colorful
butterfly (i.e., the logo/mark) that appears with the MSN logo (i.e., the
Here are some examples of corporate wordmarks and corporate logos in the Health and Health Care industry:
Internet Brands (Domain Names)
The most important component of an e-brand is the Internet brand. This is the domain name that includes the top level domain portion of the name (i.e., the ".com" part). For example, UofEbusiness.com is an Internet brand. Notice that the Internet brand excludes the www. portion of the web address. Also notice the capitalization of certain letters in the name to make it more readable. The Internet brand will appear in all text based environments such as e-mail messages, newspaper articles, etc.
Here are some examples of Internet Brands in the Health and Health Care industry:
The Internet wordmark refers to the graphic treatment that is given
to the domain name (once again, also including the .com portion of the
name but excluding the www. portion of the name). This involves the use
of a particular font, background colour and other defining characteristics.
Here is an example of an Internet wordmark:
The webmark refers to a graphical element that often appears with the
Internet wordmark. This could be the same as the corporate logo/mark mentioned
above or it could be something different. For example, notice the webmark
(i.e., the person and brass ring graphic image) that appears with the BrassRing.com
This is a good example of a webmark because the image of the webmark is a graphical representation of the actual domain name. This is a good approach to improve the memorability of the domain name and to potentially improve top-of-mind awareness and recall.
Here are some specific examples of webmarks in the Health and Health Care industry:
AOL keywords are words that AOL users can type in to directly access a particular web site. By purchasing AOL keywords, companies can simplify access to their web site for all AOL users.
Search Engine Keywords
Search engine keywords can be purchased from several search engines
such as Yahoo!, Google and Altavista. When purchasing keywords from
Yahoo!, your banner ad only appears to users typing in this specific keyword.
When purchasing search engine keywords from Google, and Altavista; the
result is that your company will get a top placement on the search results
as a "sponsored link". For example, when searching for the word
"Health" at Yahoo!, the following advertisement appears:
This could mean that no one has purchased the keyword "Health" at Yahoo! However, the same search at both Yahoo! and Altavista turns up the following companies with a "sponsored link":
Therefore this means that these three companies have purchased the keyword "Health" giving them exposure every time someone searches for this word. Since they are selling Health and Health Care, this makes sound business sense since it is a direct match with their target market.
A tagline is an important component of your e-brand strategy. A tagline is a 4 to 12 word phrase that should contain the following information:
There are very few companies in the Health and Health Care industry that have a tagline. This is a mistake. But here are a few examples of taglines (along with the associated domain name) that were found in the Health and Health Care industry:
A Slogan is a catchy phrase that companies use to build their brand and their corporate image. It is typically about 2 to 5 words in length. For example, Volkswagen's slogan is "Drivers Wanted." Nike's slogan is "Just do it!" Mazda's recent slogan is "Zoom zoom." These slogans do not describe the company or suggest a value proposition. They are simply phrases that these companies have selected as a key component to their advertising and branding strategy.
Here are some examples of slogans in the Health and Health Care industry along
with the associated company that uses that slogan:
The e-Brand Personality refers to the personality that the company is trying to convey. Are they trying to convey an image of being conservative, hip and cool, wild, fun, technical, ethical, caring, etc.? Companies should make this decision consciously, rather than simply allowing a webmaster to make this decision.
Here are some examples of personalities being conveyed by companies in the Health and Health Care industry. Note that in this industry the personality being conveyed is almost exclusively one of professionalism and credibility. Thus, all the examples listed below convey these personality characteristics.
It should be mentioned that the MayoClinic.com web site is separate from information about the real world Mayo Clinic which is found at MayoClinic.org. MayoClinic.com is a resource of medical information from a trusted source.Factitious Characters or Spokespersons
Some companies will create a fictitious character to represent their company. For example, Ernst & Young created a service called "Ask Ernie." Some companies hire a real spokesperson to represent their company. For example, Priceline uses William Shatner as their spokesperson. The values and personality of the real world spokesperson or the fictitious character will then naturally be associated with that company.
Another good example of a fictitious character can be found at monster.com.
This is an especially good fit because the fictitious character graphically
represents the domain name itself. This should help to improve domain name
memorability, strengthening monster.com's
One example of the use of a fictitious character at a Health and Health Care web site was found. This was at a web site called Kids Health. This is an excellent web site containing information about the health of children with areas dedicated to parents, kids and teens. The fictitious character used here is in a section about Sun Safety:
"Brand alliances" refers to an alliance with another company, organization or institution whereby you arrange to have your alliance partner's logo or brand visible on your web site. When a brand alliance is created with another company that has a stronger brand than yours, it can have a positive influence on your own brand image.
Brand alliances are especially valuable to small to medium sized companies that may not be very well known in their current country of operations or other parts of the world. Strong brand alliances could make the difference between someone trusting you enough to place an order on your site, or not. Consider brand alliances with large corporations, financial institutions, credit card companies, government institutions or e-commerce auditing services such as Trust-e.
In the Health and Health Care industry we found some evidence of brand alliances.
For example, at the Healthcare Information and
Management Systems Society web site, we found
this logo from Google:
Association of Campus Emergency Response Teams
web site, we found this logo from Charity.ca:
Web Site Look and Feel and Overall Experience
Another factor that has an impact on your e-brand is the overall experience at your web site. If visitors cannot easily find what they are looking for, they will be frustrated. If visitors cannot accomplish a specific task that they are trying to accomplish, they will be frustrated. Research has proven that a poor user experience can have a physical effect on people their blood pressure will actually rise!
For example, if a visitor sends an e-mail query to your web site and it takes several days for you to respond (or you never respond), this could have a negative impact on your e-brand image. This may not only result in the loss of a sale or the loss of a potential channel partner, but it could be significant enough that this user will tell many others about the poor experience at your site.
If a user is trying to conduct a commerce transaction and does not find out until the end of a lengthy process that you do not even ship to their country, this will have a negative impact on both your e-brand and your brand image. And the impact will not just be limited to this one customer. They are bound to tell many others.
The user experience at your web site actually provides a lot more potential for a negative impact on your e-brand than a positive one.
In the Health and Health Care industry, we found an example of a negative user experience that will likely have an impact on the e-brand. For example, the Hospital for Sick Children of Toronto, Canada web site was recently redesigned. The previous web site had a section that was specifically for "Kids Only". I had a frustrating experience at their new web site however, spending 15 minutes trying to find it. Only then did I realize that this section had been eliminated.
7.A. The Publishing Stage
The Publishing Stage involves the creation of web pages (primarily html pages) with everything from product information and catalogues to annual reports, job postings and corporate information. This is content that must be maintained manually, with no links to live content on databases that are constantly being updated.
This is typically the first stage that most companies implement at their web site. It is easy to do, it allows companies to quickly establish a Web presence, and it provides visibility for their company globally. However, simply publishing such content does not generate much of a return on investment for most companies.
There are of course, many examples of the Publishing Stage in the Health and Health Care industry. The type of content that is typically published in this industry includes corporate information, product/service information, job postings, etc. One example of such a web site is for West Park Healthcare Centre. West Park received an Hygeia Award for excellence in public relations on its web site.
7.B. The Cool Stage
The Cool Stage involves the use of leading edge multimedia capabilities to display or present audio clips, video clips, animation, scrolling content, etc. The problem with the Cool Stage is that companies will often spend time and resources on cool applications that do not necessarily drive business value to the company or the visitor.
As well, the more advanced the technology being used, the more limited the audience becomes. Many users will not have the bandwidth or the processing power to be able to easily view these multimedia applications, or, they will not have the software required to view them at all.
In fact, the purpose of highlighting some of these limitations is to get companies to realize that it may make more sense to avoid cool applications altogether, instead focusing on many of the other stages of the e-Business Roadmap that are easier to implement and have a more direct impact on helping companies to meet their e-business objectives.
Having said that, we did find some evidence of cool applications in the Health and Health Care industry. For example, at the Kids Health site there is a Macromedia Flash application to promote Sun Safety.