According to IT market researcher IDC, Australians will spend just under $US10 billion online in 2001. IDC forecasts this to grow to nearly $US80 billion by 2005.
Stories by Malcolm Hutchinson
Electronic marketplaces were once seen as clever and cheap ways for organisations to sell their wares and buy their supplies. What could be more appealing than conducting a huge chunk of your day-to-day business online?
Any company that’s getting its toes wet in the field of e-commerce knows it’s not a simple process. But Malcolm Hutchinson says it shouldn't be that costly.
The health sector is being transformed as national medical information is collected and shared among healthcare providers. Malcolm Hutchinson examines the knowledge revolution in health.
So you've decided the electronic frontier is the place for your company to be. You understand that communications technology is changing the business landscape, opening new territory to settlement, and you want to haul up and join the e-business wagon train. Malcolm Hutchinson suggests how you might go about it.
For 31 years, Wrght's Buywright owner and managing director Graeme Wright has been selling powered outdoor equipment to customers from his hardware store in Mairangi Bay on Auckland's North Shore. The company employs nine staff including part-timers.
In a forward-thinking move, Wright in 1997 set his staff to look into the opportunities a Web site could offer the business. At first, a simple information base was considered, but online sales and ordering capabilities were part of the plan.
General manager Derek Molloy says that far from seeing the Internet as a threat, Wright's views its site as complementary to the existing business. Saving money on storage costs is one visible benefit.
"Over an evolutionary period we predicted - and are starting to see - that [the Web site] would compliment our business because we can offer many more product lines that we normally would not have to stock," says Molloy.
Molloy, who has worked at Wright's for 12 years and has been managing director for the last four, says the most popular lines selling on the site are difficult products for customers to source, or specialist equipment. Since full year figures are not yet available (the site is less than 12 months old), Molloy is unsure of the percentage of sales coming through the site, but he says it is definitely driving business.
Auckland developer Acom's Jon Osler aided with the planning and building of the site, and Acom continues to do long-term maintenance. Molloy says weekly or monthly specials along with prices are input by one of Wright's staff, while Acom looks after more major seasonal changes twice a year.
As with most small New Zealand businesses, marketing of the site is part of marketing the store. The site address appears on printed material and broadcast advertising. The site is also marketed in email newsletters to customers and by communication with major suppliers.
Professional design and execution are the most important considerations in putting your shingle up online, according to Molloy.
"You must work out what you are trying to achieve by being on the Web, and design the site to accommodate this goal," he says. "Is it sales or information oriented or both? Is it solely for advertising or to compliment your existing services?"
Responding to online sales requests quickly and efficiently is also important. "There is no point having a Web site and email enquiries unless you respond quickly and accurately," says Molloy.
Molloy sees nothing radical in the development of online trading. He sees Web retail shifting the overall positioning of sales but not generally increasing sales overall.
"The people who are into it early and professionally will take some sales from others who are not or will not ever be on the web," says Molloy. "But this is only true to a finite limit, we believe."