WEB sites and multimedia kiosks fail to make money for companies which don't have a clear purpose for them, says multimedia expert Julia Schofield.
Britain-based Dr Schofield was in Wellington last week to talk to potential New Zealand clients.
Despite working in a graphically intensive technology field, Dr Schofield is blind.
Her company, Julia Schofield Consultants, has offices in Britain and Australia, and designs and builds interactive multimedia systems. It works mainly for organisations in the retail and health sectors and for government, in partnership with Japan-based technology company Fujitsu.
"Organisations must ask themselves what they are trying to achieve with a multimedia system, and consider whether a different way of doing business would be better. Will a multimedia system improve their stock situation? Or their customer relations? And are those improvements part of the organisations' strategies?"
She says that organisations must have an online strategy rather than just a feeling that they should be on the Web.
"They have to say `This is my strategy, and these are my goals'. What they have to do is define a success criterion and focus on achieving it. It is not enough for a retail company's customers to enjoy the technology. They must buy something. You have to manipulate the customer to do what you want."
Dr Schofield gives the example of a multimedia kiosk system her company designed in Britain for car maker Daewoo, which set the goal of capturing 1 per cent of British car sales within 18 months using the kiosks but without establishing a dealer network.
The company achieved this target in five months, she says.
Dr Schofield says most multimedia projects cost at least $50,000 and could cost as much as $1 million, but are quick to produce.
"We usually finish an entire project within three months. The strategy we use is to take our idea and implement it in stages as quickly as possible.
"Often we build a first phase quickly, and while we build the second phase we ensure that the first phase is working according to plan".
She says the company can monitor exactly which pages of a multimedia system customers visit and which options they choose, and then fine-tune the whole system.
In a country with a population the size of Britain, the software which her company designs is a small cost compared to the cost of setting up the hardware for 400 or so kiosks around the country.
She says in a country like New Zealand, where the number of kiosks would be much smaller, the cost of the software will be far more significant.
Her company has experimented with "generic applications" such as the outline of a wine guide, which companies in smaller countries such as New Zealand could localise and use at a much lower cost.
Julia Schofield Consultants employs 26 people and made total sales last year of about GBP 1.5 million (NZ$4.05 million).