E-Commerce - Perception versus Reality
Electronic commerce over the Internet is
predicted to grow at an ever-increasing rate over the next few years, with
on-line sales already heading for several billion. Yet, instant
gratification is still the current perception of e-commerce on the Internet
to the world at large. A profusion of web-sites announce, "Three steps to
build your website" - "Use our Shopping Cart Wizard and be selling on the
Internet in a few minutes" - "Free templates" - "Free Hosting" - "Complete
web-sites 'Only $199' - "Four million e-mail addresses only $24.95" -
"Search engine submissions to 2,000 search engines only $19.95". So, the
myth is perpetuated.
One would think the numerous Dot.com's that consumed millions of investment
dollars to no avail on the flawed premise that "build it and they will come"
would have blunted this perception but no. It persists. Supported by large
commercial entities selling their version of Dot.com heaven in volume. The
very latest in digital direct marketing. Display 'x' messages and 'y'
viewers will buy. Good old-fashioned marketing math for deep pockets and an
infrastructure plus investors that still support such an approach. And like
digital lemmings other web-sites with smaller pockets blindly follow.
Particularly in the building of e-commerce web sites, automation reigns.
Each competing player offering fewer and fewer steps to build and establish
an e-commerce presence using readily available templates. Be on-line and
selling within "Minutes or Hours" is the cry.
These automated efforts designed by programmers and technical gurus
cheerfully suspend business reality. Corporate identities become blurred,
merchandising fragmented, marketing messages distorted and expectations
enhanced. In effect the perfect recipe for corporate disaster.
The reality of e-commerce on the Internet is that it mimics business in the
real world. The Internet is a different sales medium with direct sales and
retail characteristics, yet it still requires strategic business planning,
budgeting, clearly defined expectations and a realistic return on
A reality-based question must be asked. Would you expect to open a retail
store overnight with little or no planning? Especially when the store came
in only eight colours, five window display types, potentially insufficient
shelf space and was located in a new sub-division, unknown, unfinished and
unmapped. Mmm!.. No!
So! Why suspend reality when choosing to conduct business on the Internet?
Perhaps many business managers not fully understanding the technicalities of
the Internet allow technical consultants with little business background to
Why should an e-commerce website not be carefully integrated into any
existing or future business with the same attention to detail that any other
business operation would require?
It is absolutely necessary that reality be enforced if companies wish to be
successful utilizing this new business medium. As more businesses understand
that the Internet is an extension of their marketing strategy and an
effective business solution to increase revenues, reduce certain costs and
increase bottom line profitability, current perceptions will more closely
Remember! The technical considerations of conducting business on the
Internet must support your business decisions not the reverse. Plan your
business and then build your Internet operation to support that plan, budget
and objective. Determine your consultant's business experience. Their
perception could distort your reality. -
John Shenton - March, 2002
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N.B.** The articles were first published in the Times
(Montreal, Canada) and written by
John Shenton as special contributor to the Times Technology Section.
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