Firms cotton on to e-commerce: MED study

A survey commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Development suggests significant growth in New Zealand organisations' use of e-commerce over the past 21 months.

A survey commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Development suggests significant growth in New Zealand organisations’ use of e-commerce over the past 21 months.

Not only are there more organisations with websites, the survey found, but more are using them for interaction and transaction with users as well as simply to provide information. The results were presented by the University of Waikato management school e-commerce director, Shirley Leitch, at yesterday's first anniversary conference of the government's E-Commerce Action Team (Ecat) in Wellington.

In a previous MED survey in August 2000, only a third of businesses were recorded as having “their own domain name and/or website”. Now 56% have a website and “almost all” have a domain name. Businesses are increasing, though more modestly, the sophistication of their website use. According to the survey, 37% can now take orders on their sites, but only 11% can take payments online. There are no directly comparable figures in the 2000 survey, but it said “just over one in four” businesses at the time were “using the internet to sell goods and services”.

A third of organisations claim to be engaged in e-commerce with other firms and a similar proportion report that their e-commerce systems are linked to their internal business systems. In 2000 there was a disappointing performance in the latter respect, with only 11% claiming to have such links.

Awareness of e-commerce as an important avenue for exporting appears to have risen, but with a change of profile. Preliminary results show small companies (five fulltime equivalent staff or fewer) with an above-average rating in this respect, while in 2000 they lagged in recognition of this value, with only 33% recognising it as important compared to 40% of medium and 39% or large firms. Overall, 44% of “exporters” see e-commerce as important for export. The older report did not explicitly separate out those who trade overseas from non-exporters.

About 10% see no significant barriers to e-commerce. The remainder rank costs as most important, followed by a number of factors accorded roughly equal importance: lack of proven business benefits, concerns about loss of direct customer contact, security issues and worries about a lack of skilled staff. External issues such as the readiness of business partners and availability of external assistance are of slightly lesser concern, but are still seen as important.

In the 2000 survey, costs, lack of skilled staff, lack of proven benefit and security issues topped the poll with roughly equal figures.

The report was presented yesterday at a conference marking the first year of activity of the government-sponsored E-commerce Action Team (Ecat).

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