Is e-commerce for real and is it right for small business?
Everyone knows that it's necessary to use e-commerce to web-ify your company. But what are the considerations that you have to have in mind to do that? And once you've done it, will your business be able to grow its e-commerce activities, and will they help you make your business better, and more profitable?
Today's e-commerce tip is excerpted from
The growing acceptance and success of electronic commerce is not only undeniable, but the fact that it will soon become a standard operating procedure for many businesses is irrefutable. Estimates for the future of online commerce range from the ultra-conservative to the wildly optimistic, but most forecasters predict hundreds of billions of dollars in Web commerce by the year 2001.
According to a report by IDC Research, the amount of commerce conducted over the Web will skyrocket from $2.6 billion in 1996 to $220 billion in 2001. The percentage of users who will buy goods and services on the Net will also climb from 25% to 39% during the same time period, claims IDC. In another report by Activemedia, "The 1997 Real Numbers Behind 'Net Profits," "...overall movement to online commerce may well swell 'Net-generated revenues to $1 trillion by the year 2001." They go on to say that "Small to medium-sized companies building strong personal relationships continue to nibble away at the shares formerly maintained by large corporation marketing advantages."
As to the question of online commerce being right for small businesses, the answer lies in the interpretation of "commerce." Too often we narrowly refer to e-commerce as online transaction processing. Period! A customer orders a widget, provides the merchant with a credit card number, funds are transferred, and the widget is shipped to the recipient. If you operate a business such as an office supply firm that stocks commonly used items, then you are accustomed to such dealings. Therefore, the logical progression to expanding your business online will be an easy transition. Many of the early adopters of Internet technology were those kinds of businesses.
Unfortunately, many small businesses cannot squeeze their type of business model into an order, pay, and ship scenario. Their widgets may require customization (build to suit, cut to fit, and so on) or require some type of interaction between the client and the business owner. E-commerce is right for these businesses, too; however, their online store will require customization to meet their specific needs.
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This was first published in September 2000