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Book review: Communities of Commerce

What does it take to succeed at e-commerce? Authors Stacey Bressler and Charles Grantham show you how to tap into the power of online communities in "Communities of Commerce."



By Stacey E. Bressler and Charles E. Grantham, Sr.McGraw-Hill, June 2000324 pp.; hardcoverISBN: 0071361154Price: $24.95 at Fatbrain.com
If the Internet’s greatest contribution has been its ability to bring groups of people together, how can companies utilize that benefit for their businesses?

In Communities of Commerce: Building Internet Business Communities to Accelerate Growth, Minimize Risk, and Increase Customer Loyalty, authors Stacey E. Bressler and Charles E. Grantham, Sr. argue that the creation of communities is the context for electronic commerce and that the Internet plays to the strength of this new medium.

The book’s greatest value is its in-depth discussion of what it takes to build an online community, which provides a foundation for creating a personal online strategy. Bressler and Grantham’s ideas are solid and sensible, and any CIO who plans on seriously competing in the world of e-commerce is going to find some interesting reading here.

Communities at work
The authors look at a number of different models of communities, examine real-life examples of those that work well and those that don’t, and provide detailed case studies of companies that have utilized community concepts.

The authors’ premise isn’t perfect: A few of the examples seem weak or misplaced, stretching the idea a bit too far to truly lend support to the idea that building a community is necessary for success.

For example, the authors cite Amazon.com more than once. Although the site has features that could suggest a “community mindset,” such as offering recommendations based on the purchases of other customers with similar tastes, one might question how many customers feel these features actually serve their need to belong to a group, as opposed to merely being useful aids.

But that’s a minor quibble with an otherwise excellent, thought-provoking book. Overall, Bressler and Grantham make a convincing argument about the importance of building online communities. The book thoroughly examines the subject, detailing the needs that communities serve and how the Internet works to fulfill them.

Successful communities
Bressler and Grantham include a wide range of examples in an attempt to show how flexible the concept of “community” is. One of the more interesting case studies is about The Drummond Group, a consulting firm that has built a strong community by recruiting “best of class” independent consultants and finding clients who can provide challenging work.

The book also discusses the Linux community, which is centered around the ongoing development of Linux, the open-source operating system. Southern California Communities of Commerce SM Initiative, a project designed to stimulate the growth of e-commerce among a group of small and midsize companies in Southern California, is also mentioned.

Readers will also find checklists that allow you to evaluate aspects of your own businesses. For example, the Drivers Checklist, found in Chapter 2, can help you determine whether your current circumstances indicate the need to develop an online community:

Give yourself 0 points for each “No” answer, 1 point for “To Some Degree,” and 2 points for “Yes.” If your total score was 8 or above, you should seriously examine what would be required to plan for and implement an Internet business community strategy.

Certainly, we think that TechRepublic is an example of a community that works. What should organizations and businesses do to create community through their Web sites? Start a discussion below.

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