Network builders discover e-commerce

For some companies, the purchasing of networking equipment is a pretty big deal – and can even be painful. The thought of having to deal with an account manager who always seems to find something else they might need is almost excruciating.

But over the last couple of years, a new method of purchasing networking equipment has emerged, and for at least one vendor, has become a primary source for orders. Ordering networking equipment on-line is a choice that some administrators and companies are making, and enjoying. But for others, it is just simply not a consideration.

What is it about buying equipment on-line that makes it so beneficial? If there is one vendor to ask, it would be Cisco Systems Inc., according to Dan McLean, a Toronto-based research director with IDC Canada Ltd.

“Cisco really blazed the trail in terms of doing this sort of thing, and they were doing it very early on,” he explained. “Frankly, they were doing it before there was such a thing as e-commerce and e-business.”

In fact, the company began to take orders via the Internet in August 1996, according to Andrew Sage, manager of Canadian marketing for Cisco Systems Canada. Presently, a whopping 91 per cent of orders placed with Cisco are done over the Internet, which Sage said is equal to about US$60 million per day. And, as of last September, Cisco had 87,316 registered users on its e-commerce site.

Sage noted that giving customers the ability to do things on their own terms is fairly important, especially when it comes to support and configuration.

“We have a very high-touch sales model, which means that we have a lot of account managers on the street. It’s a big part of our sales and marketing investment,” he explained. “Because of the complexity of our products, we like to remain very close to our customers. And by putting (a) configurator on-line, what we did in some respects was took a step that was a little hard for us to take.”