It has come way too late for most dot-coms, but according to the UK’s National Office of Statistics, Internet shopping has finally taken off. It now accounts for 6% of all retail sales, and is growing 19 times faster than traditional retailing.
It is a telling, even dramatic, statistic. Despite the many well-publicised problems of Internet business – the lack of broadband connections, the failed e-tailers, the security, hacking and fraud issues, the poorly designed and unresponsive web sites and the repeated difficulties in the areas of customer service and logistics – despite all this, consumers are increasingly choosing to use the Internet as one of their preferred buying channels.
If this trend continues, as it almost certainly will, within a few years a high percentage – perhaps one-quarter, perhaps half, perhaps higher – of all buying and selling will be conducted electronically or remotely.
Many of the articles in this issue, as in recent issues of Information Age, demonstrate how ebusiness is no longer an early adopter technology, nor is it something that most businesses are investigating or aspiring to. It is happening now.
Companies are no longer grappling with issues such as multi-channel customer interaction – they are doing it; they are no longer just installing e-procurement, but analysing how they can make existing systems work better; and, as the article on records management shows, they are also struggling to deal with the inevitable problems of massive data overload.
It is often said that when revolutionary changes occur, the short-term impact is over-estimated and the long-term impact under-estimated. Perhaps, in the case of the extraordinarily hyped Internet, this was not quite true. But, given that many new, high-bandwidth, real-time and collaborative technologies (see the groupware article later in this issue) have yet to make their mark, clearly the sheer scale, complexity and expense of ebusiness is beginning to worry, and even overwhelm, some organisations.
This is one reason why the IT industry recession is coming to an end. There is an enormous appetite for technologies that make life and business more flexible and easier, and that, in turn, means that there is an enormous pent-up demand for yet more systems, and for better management services, to solve the problems that technology itself creates.