Trust key to pharmacy website's success

Developing trust with customers is the secret of business-to-consumer online sales success, according to a pharmacy that's converting 5% of site visitors into buyers.

Developing trust with customers is the secret of business-to-consumer online sales success, according to a pharmacy that’s converting 5% of site visitors into buyers.

Pharmacy Direct, which built its site with Real Developments, receives more than 1000 unique sessions a week. Spokesman Greg MacPherson, himself a pharmacist, says creating a real-world image has been key.

“We’ve found that print ads, and the development of a real-world local profile, is much more important to us than online advertising, in terms of creating a reputation,” he says.

That reputation is vital in the online retailing of pharmaceutical goods, and MacPherson is quick to note that sites like his must meet specific regulatory criteria nationally and internationally.

“There’s a certain amount of information that we must collect with each credit-card sale to keep in line with the Pharmaceutical Society’s guidelines,” he says.

It’s this creation of a trustworthy image, grounded in local promotions that links the company very closely to New Zealand customers. This localised approach is vital, says MacPherson, since too many e-commerce operations overreach their target audience.

Pharmacy Direct is a finalist, along with fencepost.com, NZgirl and Straker Interactive for Milly's Kitchen, in the business-to-consumer division of the Computerworld Excellence Awards’ “excellence in e-business” category. The business-to-business section features three other finalists -- Foodstuffs Auckland, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and Woolnet -- and all seven are in the running for the “e-business of the year” prize.

Nzgirl can also claim a close understanding of its target market. “We’re not another dotcom,” laughs editor and managing director Jenene Crossan, “We just have an online magazine that’s part of our wider operations.”

The magazine-style NZgirl portal has original content written specifically for local readers.

NZgirl is spreading its wings widely, and while it may have been primarily service orientated in the past, says Crossan, it is increasingly becoming product-driven.

The company plans to build up its brand with the imminent launch of clothing and makeup lines, and a television show in production at Canwest’s TV3.

“We hope to reach a wider audience with these moves,” says Crossan. Nzgirl’s audience of 12 to 29-year-old young women like the social experience of real-world shopping, and online shopping wasn’t reaching them.

Perhaps the most innovative e-commerce operation in the business-to-consumer category is to be found in the site of cooking equipment retailer Milly’s Kitchen, developed by Straker Interactive.

The site features a two-stage credit-card authorisation procedure, says managing director Grant Straker, where the money from a customer’s card is kept in a holding account until orders are fully processed and shipped. That makes for a high degree of security, both for the customer and for Milly’s, and is unique in New Zealand.

“They already run a very high-end mail-order operation,” Straker says of the Ponsonby-based shop. “They wanted the website to work and feel the same way.”

Straker has also developed software enabling Milly’s staff to update and manage all site content themselves.

Fencepost.com's market couldn’t be further removed from the Ponsonby shoppers who patronise Milly’s.

Fencepost.com is firmly focused on the business of farming and reaches the agriculture sector through a sophisticated but unpretentious site that claims between 4000 and 8000 unique sessions a day. Among local agriculture sites, operations chief Alison Andrew says Fencepost is ranked number one by net monitor company Hitwise, and captures up to 50% of agriculture viewers.

“We’re providing business tools for farmers, and we try to reflect the ongoing growth that’s happening right across rural New Zealand,” says Andrew. The site provides comprehensive news and communication tools, and also allows farmers to trade goods and services online, via features like a “stock dating service”.

Rural New Zealand is also benefiting from one of the nominees in the business-to-business division, wool-trading system Woolnet.

Woolnet, which was developed with Advantage Group, has a staff of seven and has been online for 18 months. Uniquely, for a New Zealand e-commerce site, it allows direct debiting of purchasing funds from local accounts.

The wool trade has long been a lonely business, but Woolnet operations manager Paul Stanley-Boden says the site facilitates contact between wool producers and buyers.

“We’re getting feedback from farmers saying they’ve had direct contact with the end buyers of their products, which is something they’ve never had before.

“It provides them with real information about their market,” he says.

Foodstuffs Auckland’s I-BOS, (internet based ordering system) provides benefits of another sort. I-BOS is an in-house system reaping massive financial rewards, says divisional computer services and information systems manager Des Tindall.

The stock-ordering system, for Foodstuff Auckland’s distribution and retail outlets, including Pak N Save and New World, is an efficient way of placing any size order, Tindall says. As an online system, it’s free for suppliers to use, and Foodstuffs reports that all but two of its regular suppliers now do so to fill and track orders to a value of $8 million a week.

“The savings and advantages to us are huge and clear,” says Tindall. “And no one else in Australasia is doing anything like this.”

While the benefits of e-commerce are obvious for private organisations, a public sector one also makes it into the excellence in business-to-business e-commerce finals.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology’s Grants for Private Sector Research and Development (GPSRD) scheme provides an online means of distributing the government’s Technology New Zealand R&D hand-outs. The GPSRD website is essentially a “people-enhancer”, says website project and investment manager John Gibson.

Gibson says the online application process is operated by agents and dishes out funds on the basis of tests applied to the research of companies who apply.

“For small and large companies, we’re prepared to share the risk of this R&D with the private sector,” Gibson says.

The business-to-business e-commerce award is sponsored by Genie Systems.

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