External audits consider the business and economic environment in which the company operates. These include the economic, political, fiscal, legal, social, cultural and technological factors usually referred to by the SLEPT acronym and reviewed in Chapter 3. Of these various factors, it is worth noting how three of them are particularly relevant to the Internet and should be monitored regularly since the way in which they vary will directly affect the viability of the Internet channel. The three most significant factors, described in more depth in Chapter 3, are:
1 Legal constraints. What are the legal limitations to online promotion and trade such as privacy, disability discrimination (see Chapter 7 section on accessibility) and distance-selling regulations?
2 Ethical constraints. What are the ethical implications in areas such as privacy which have not yet been legislated for?
3 Technological constraints. What is the current availability of technology to access the Internet and to deliver services and what are the emerging opportunities which need to be planned for?
The external audit should also consider the state of the market in terms of customers and competitors. Pertinent factors for the Internet include demand analysis, competitor analysis, intermediary analysis and channel structure. These are described only briefly here since they were discusssed in more depth in Chapter 2.
Demand analysis for e-commerce
Assessment of the demand for e-commerce services amongst existing and potential customer segments using the ratio Access : Choose : Buy online.
A thumbnail summary of the characteristics, needs, motivations and environment of typical web site users.
Alternative tasks or outcomes required by a visitor to a web site. Typically accomplished in a series of stages of different tasks involving different information needs or experiences.
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