Kiwis stay shy of e-commerce

A majority of New Zealand companies contacted in the latest Computerworld 1000 Survey say they are not engaged in e-commerce now and have no intention of doing so in the near future. However, their comments do indicate that the future of e-commerce does look bright. That's the finding of the latest Computerworld 1000 Survey in which we polled 30 businesses from among New Zealand's leading 1000 companies. When asked if they were using the Web to buy or sell products, six respondents said yes, 23 said no.

A majority of New Zealand companies contacted in the latest Computerworld 1000 Survey say they are not engaged in e-commerce now and have no intention of doing so in the near future. However, their comments do indicate that the future of e-commerce does look bright.

That’s the finding of the latest Computerworld 1000 Survey in which we polled 30 businesses from among New Zealand’s leading 1000 companies. When asked if they were using the Web to buy or sell products, six respondents said yes, 23 said no.

Porirua-based Exicom Technologies is a telecommunications company that builds communication systems specially designed for rural areas. It exports the majority of its products and sees e-commerce as a natural step in its marketing drive.

“All our business is done by phone or fax,” says new technologies director John Futter. “It’s only logical we would look to the Internet.”

Exicom already has a Web site and has received a lot of positive customer feedback about it. Futter hopes to add an order form in the next few months, although he shies away from full-blown electronic banking.

“Until it’s proved secure it’s just too risky for us.”

Exicom uses the Net when shopping for items not readily available in New Zealand and Futter believes there will be more interest in that side of e-commerce in the future.

Ken Bain is a Christchurch-based accountant with Steel Brothers. He feels the future of e-commerce is being overstated, at least in the short term.

“Maurice Williamson’s been saying what a big industry it’s going to become and how much it will benefit the economy. I think that’s a bit pie in the sky.” Bain feels that many people see the turn of the century as “the future” when in fact, it’s only three years away.

“It’s a very short time-frame we’re in and there’s an awful lot of change got to take place. I don’t think it’s going to happen that fast.”

We asked respondents if they were planning to launch an e-commerce product in the near future. 24 said no, three said yes and three didn’t know.

Honda New Zealand’s Gary Hampton is adopting a “wait and see” attitude. “Obviously, people aren’t ready to buy cars over the Net just yet,” says Hampton. “We have other products, like spare parts or promotional products, that are more suited to that sort of environment.” Hampton does see a future in e-commerce for companies like Honda.

“We can see potential for us to make our used-car stock and catalogues of parts available, but we’re not being pushed into anything.”

Honda has set up a WAN with its dealerships which could be the springboard to greater things in the future.

“We hope to use the Net in conjunction with our WAN to create an intranet to distribute parts and catalogues and the like from our parent company in Japan.” Rather than distributing bulky service manuals that have to be constantly updated, Honda hopes to provide a computerised version that can be automatically updated when need be.

“We’re looking to give people the ability to book their car in for a service over the Net or arranging for a test drive, that sort of thing,” says Hampton.

Although the figures for current e-commerce usage are grim, only six respondents are using the Web to buy or sell products, the figures for future usage are more evenly spread. When asked “Do you expect to buy or sell products electronically in the near future?”, eight respondents said yes, 12 said no, and 10 either didn’t know or thought it a possibility. E-commerce may not earn billions of dollars by the year 2000, but it seems it would be foolish to ignore it as a marketing force altogether.

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