Seeing Internet Commerce in new Millenium
By Rao Salim
Nov 15 - 21, 1999
If you are an entrepreneur or planning to be one, there is a good
chance that you are going to examine the possibility of doing business on the Internet.
Since the development of the World Wide Web, commercial enterprises have been coming onto
the Net in droves.
The purpose of this article is to give you an overview of Internet
commerce so you can decide if it is time to consider putting your company on the Net. Keep
in mind that the World Wide Web, which is the only place on the Internet where commerce
takes place, has only been in existence sine 1993. Before the Web, there were no graphics,
sound or moving pictures on the Net. It was used mostly by researchers and technical
In the few years it has been in existence, the Web has become a force
to reckon with in the business community. The largest growing commercial segment is small
to medium-sized companies. At the present time, one in four Websites are retailers, and
that proportion is rising. Lately, many new sites are being created by manufacturers,
wholesalers and distributors.
For the past two years, 30% of the commercial sites have indicated that
they are already "profitable", and another one in four anticipate profitability
in the next year.
Net commerce is having a big impact on the nature of some businesses.
For example, 20% of all book sales now take place online. The real estate and travel
industries have gone through dramatic changes as more and more customers do their shopping
and buying online.
Business on the net
To help you evaluate whether or not your business would profit by an
Internet presence, we will examine the various activities that you can integrate into your
current business operations.
Sell Products and Services:
The graphical nature of the Internet
makes it a natural for displaying products and descriptions of services in a dynamic,
interactive format. Full-color brochures can be created and displayed without the high
cost of printing. As product lines develop, additions and changes can be made to a Website
without having to reproduce printed materials.
Forms can be displayed with which customers can place orders directly
online. Security issues have been addressed and buyers can be assured that their credit
card information is safe. For those who are still leery, simple alternatives can be
implemented that make ordering easy and convenient.
Build an Image: Many companies and professional practitioners
find that having a Website helps establish their image. For a relatively low investment,
you can make your product or service known to vast numbers of people. Even if you only
have a local business or clientele, your image can be enhanced by a Web presence.
Save Money and Time:
Many businesses go online because of the
great savings made possible by communicating with customers and prospects via e-mail. If
you send faxes or mail documents on a regular basis, you can realize considerable savings
by using e-mail instead. When you connect to the Internet through an Internet Service
Provider (ISP), for Rs. 1500/= a month you can use the Internet for hundreds of hours and
send all the e-mail you want without extra cost to you.
If you have ever paid for a bulk mailing, you will appreciate the fact
that you can send out tens of thousands of pieces of e-mail without printing costs and
without paying for postage. It is not unusual for businesses to quickly build lists of
e-mail addresses of users who can be turned into paying customers.
Businesses that have to send documents can avoid the mails by attaching
computer files to e-mail. The documents are sent almost instantaneously and can be printed
out at the recipient's convenience.
Give Effective Customer Service:
Customers and clients want to
know that they can reach you and have their questions answered and complaints handled
without having to spend valuable time on the phone. Anyone who has had to deal with
complicated voice-mail systems will appreciate the immediacy of using online forms and
You can also avoid lengthy customer service calls by answering
frequently asked questions online. Any information that you need to get to your customers
can easily be displayed at a Website.
Offer Value Added Services:
Through the Net, businesses can
provide extended customer service and value-added benefits to current and potential
customers. For example, financial institutions provide up-to-the-minute interest rates or
databases that allow site visitors to calculate loan or mortgage payments. Professionals
such as lawyers and medical practitioners offer helpful information and advice. Many
businesses provide ways for customers to ask questions or give feedback twenty-four hours
a day. Via a friendly Website, companies can "touch" people and appear to be
available. Businesses that provide services such as these are realizing added sales via
Newsletters that are sent via e-mail and/or published on the Net are a
popular method of provided value added service to clients and customers. Interesting
articles as well as sales and company information can be included in newsletters.
By creating innovative links to other information sources on the Net,
your customers will maintain a relationship with you as they keep coming back to your
Find Suppliers: The vast resources of the Internet make it
possible for you to find vendors and service personnel to fill your business needs. You no
longer have to go to the library to use this valuable resource.
Along with individual sites, many industries are now creating Web
locations where you can search a database of vendors in a particular field. In one
location, you can easily evaluate a great deal of information without having to make
endless phone calls.
Stay Informed: There is a mind-boggling amount of information
available on the Internet. You can use it for up-to-the-minute news, government
regulations, legal questions, sales and marketing ideas and much more. There are thousands
of electronic magazines, called e-zines, on a variety of subjects that are available along
with daily newspapers from around the world.
Once you familiarize yourself with the resources that interest you, it
is simple to set up a series of "bookmarks" which allow you to quickly return to
sites that you visit often.
Expand Your Horizons:
The Internet is a giant network that
functions beyond borders or politics. It is not unusual, in the course of a day, to
communicate with people from many different countries.
Once you are using the Net, your thinking will become more global. No
matter what field you are in, you are no longer limited to potential customers in your
local area. This means it is possible to develop unique products, such as books, tapes
etc. that can be sold to a worldwide audience.
How Quickly Can You Make Money on the Net?
Any business venture takes time to grow and mature. People have to
become aware that the business exists, then they have to learn to trust it before they
will become repeat customers. Business on the Net is no different. Once you have a site,
it takes time and effort to build up a loyal customer base.Your results will be directly
related to the amount of effort you expend.
Studies show that "profitability rises dramatically with
experience online, and Websites with 2 years experience are twice as likely to be
profitable as the newest arrivals.
Many commercial enterprises use their sites for building image and
public relations. For these sites, profits may come indirectly from the Internet presence.
As Web traffic increases and less expensive computers and other devices
bring the Internet to a growing audience, business in all sectors will increase.
Never before have people all over the world been able to connect so
easily to each other in order to share information, ideas and support. Through newsgroups,
mailing lists and by sending e-mail to people who run sites that interest you, you can
quickly and easily build up a network of contacts. Time and distance no longer have to
keep you from interacting with people anywhere on the planet.
The Net is a growing interactive community filled with business people
who are anxious to increase their sphere of influence. Because of this they are ready to
reach out and connect to other business people like you.