Article: 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’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 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 investment.

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 guide them.

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 match reality.

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