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Oct, 01 2008

Using e-commerce to heighten service

Franchise company leaders have always recognised that they have two customer bases: consumers and franchisees. So, while they are beefing up e-commerce sites to help consumers shop or find information online, franchises are also sharpening their focus on

Advantages of a Website
Today, most franchise companies have websites. The push to establish websites over the past few years has been primarily tied to recruiting prospective franchisees. `Franchisee solicitation sites` reduce postage and printing costs by eliminating the need to send voluminous marketing materials to franchisee prospects. Franchise companies now direct prospects to corporate websites, where they can view detailed information such as investment requirements and training programmes.
A franchisor`s website may provide prospective franchisees with information on investment requirements, training programmes, company history and insights into target market segments. It also provides consumer tips, news about product promotions and an interactive area where customers can schedule appointments online with the franchise nearest to them.

Personalising franchisee websites
Many franchisees are developing websites, separate from their parent company, to recruit and service customers in their area more effectively. However, they must be careful not to create sites that do not reflect the professional image established by their franchisor.
In many cases, advertising approval procedures outlined in franchise contracts have not caught up with technology and they do not address websites or other internet-based advertising and marketing applications.
Personalised websites do not always mean an extra investment for franchisees, either. Franchisors have recognised the need for a web presence for franchisees, and decided that it would make more sense to add the franchisee pages to the corporate home page rather than making franchisees set up their own site.

Establishing Intranets
Intranets are ideally suited for franchise systems. Essentially, they are secure websites, available only to authorised users that allow franchisors to reduce costs and streamline administrative processes. Basic intranets consist of private e-mail networks that let franchisees send messages to corporate headquarters or other franchisees.
More complex intranets contain discussion forums or bulletin boards where franchisees can share ideas, comments and questions. Still, others allow franchise systems to transmit sensitive information such as financial reports, new product information, marketing campaigns and product distribution plans around the world in seconds at a fraction of the cost of mail, phone, fax, a wide-area network or personal travel.

E-Commerce not just for consumers
In addition to targeting e-commerce at customers, many franchise companies have initiated online wholesale purchasing programmes that let franchisees order equipment, inventory and supplies directly from vendors or the franchisor at greatly reduced prices.
Since its inception, franchising business strategy has enabled many companies to become household names because market penetration can generally be achieved more quickly through franchised growth than corporate growth alone. Today, that rapid expansion is enhanced by applying technology to everyday business tactics through a website, an intranet or an online purchasing system, which offer franchisors a cost-effective way to meet the franchisee`s and, ultimately the consumer`s needs quickly and efficiently.
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