Stage 3 Maintain dialogue using online communication

To build the relationship between company and customer there are three main Internet-based methods of physically making the communication. These are:

1 Send e-mail to customer.

2 Display specific information on web site when the customer logs in. This is referred to as 'personalisation'.

3 Use push technology to deliver information to the individual.

Dialogue will also be supplemented by other tools such as mailshots, phone calls or personal visits, depending on the context. For example, after a customer registers on the RS Components web site, the company sends out a letter to the customer with promotional offers and a credit-card-sized reminder of the user name and password to use to log in to the site.

As well as these physical methods of maintaining contact with customers, many other marketing devices can be used to encourage users to return to a site (see also Chapter 8). These include:

• loyalty schemes - customers will return to the site to see how many loyalty points they have collected, or convert them into offers. An airline such as American Airlines, with its Advantage Club, is a good example of this;

• news about a particular industry (for a business-to-business site);

• new product information and price promotions;

• industry-specific information to help the customer do his or her job;

• personal reminders - the US company 1-800-Flowers has reminder programmes that automatically remind customers of important occasions and dates;

• customer support - Cisco's customers log on to the site over one million times a month to receive technical assistance, check orders or download software. The online service is so well received that nearly 70 per cent of all customer enquiries are handled online.

While adding value for their customers by means of these various mechanisms, companies will be looking to use the opportunity to make sales to customers by, for example, cross- or up-selling.

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