With the astonishing growth of the Internet, many companies are finding new and exciting ways to expand upon their business opportunities. There are very few successful companies that do not use computers in their everyday business activities, which also means there are few companies that do not use e-commerce. To emphasise the point that the effect of the Internet is so widespread in todays business communities, one online article stated that more than 100000 companies have Internet addresses, and 20000 companies have home pages on the Internet as of February 1999. DataQuest, 1999).
These numbers have more than tripled since 1995, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. But what exactly is e-commerce? To most casual Internet surfers, e-commerce means online shopping V workaholics pointing their web browser to Amazon. com to order an emergency present because they forgot someones birthday again. (Weiss, 1999) As we will soon find out, this is far from the case. Simply put, e-commerce is the exchange of business information between two or more organizations. An example of this would be buying and selling products or services over the Internet.
E-commerce became very popular soon after it proved to be an efficient means to conduct long distance transactions. The purpose of this report is to discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of e-commerce, as well as examining its potential for the future of business. Electronic commerce, or e-commerce has developed very rapidly in the last few years and has left some people wondering what it is all about. “Most people think e-commerce is just about buying and selling things over the Internet. ” (Wareham, 2000) E-commerce is a broad term describing the electronic exchange of business data between two or more organizations’ computers.
Some examples might be the electronic filing of your income tax return, on-line services like Prodigy, and on-line billing for services or products received. E-commerce also includes buying and selling any item over the Internet, electronic fund transfer, smart cards, and all other methods of conducting business over digital networks. The primary technological goal of e-commerce is to integrate businesses, government agencies, and contractors into a single community with the ability to communicate with one another across any computer platform. (Edwards, 1998)
Electronic commerce was built on a foundation that was started more than 125 years ago with Western Union’s money transfer as an example of telegraph technology. In the early 1900s the advent of credit cards as a payment system revolutionised the process of automated commerce functions. In the mid 1980s the introduction of the ATM card was the latest improvement to electronic commerce. The Internet was conceived in 1969 when the Department of Defence began funding the research of computer networking. The Internet, as a means for commerce, did not become reality until the 1990s.
Before this time, it was mainly a tool for the army, and a research device for some American universities. Its popularity grew when it proved to become a fast and efficient means to conduct long distance transactions, as well as an effective way to distribute information. Economic Impact Clearly, E-commerce will change the face of business forever. Companies that are thousands of miles away can complete business transactions in a matter of seconds as well as exchange information. As one online article explained: Dell Computers sells more than $14 million worth of computer equipment a day from its web-site.
By taking their customer service department to the web Federal Express began saving $10,000 a day. The Internet provides businesses with the opportunity to sell their products to millions of people, 24 hours a day. (Baxton, 1999) Figure #1 shows the amount of revenues generated by the on the Internet dating back to 1996 as well as estimating possible revenues through the year 2002. With 1998, revenue equalling almost 74 billion dollars and experts predicting that it will climb to as much as 1,234 billion dollars by the year 2002, anyone can see that e-commerce is the wave of the future.
The number one advantage that e-commerce possesses is speed. The Internet and World Wide Web gives businesses opportunities to exchange messages or complete transactions almost instantaneously. Even with the slowest connections, doing business electronically is much faster than traditional modes. With increased speeds of communication, the delivery time is expedited and that makes the whole transaction from start to finish more efficient.
Also, you can find practically any product available for sale on the Internet, as one author put it from books and compact disks (from www. mazon. com) to French bread (available from www. sourdoughbread. com), (Buskin, 1998) Even more significant is the fact that information appearing on the Internet can be changed extremely rapidly. This gives business owners the ability to inform customers of any changes to the service that you are offering. This also allows for you to update marketing and promotional materials as often and as frequently as you would like. The second advantage of the electronic commerce is the opportunity it offers to save on costs.
By using the Internet, marketing, distribution, personnel, phone, postage and printing costs, among many others, can be reduced. You can start doing business in cyberspace for as little as $100. Most businesses will spend more than this but compared to the cost of opening a physical store, the savings are tremendous. These funds can then be diverted to marketing and advertising of your product or service. Cyberspace knows no national boundaries. That means you can do business all over the world as easily as you can in your own neighbourhood.
Since the Internet connects everyone in cyberspace, information is transmitted at the speed of sound or the speed of light, depending on your connection. Either way, distance becomes meaningless, which makes you able to link to anyone on the globe and anyone on the globe can link to you. The ability to provide links makes doing business on the Internet attractive to customers in any part of the world. Using the web to provide customer support is an excellent vehicle to help build the reliability and effectiveness of your product or service.
The ability to provide on-line answers to problems through email or an provide an archive section of frequently asked questions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, builds customer confidence and retention. In fact, a whole series of IBM E-commerce commercials were based on this one single point. The Internet tends to be a more personal environment. People expect to get a real person when they send mail. This can work to your advantage as a small start-up company, or when you are a large corporation. No matter what business you are involved in, an online-help feature is an extraordinary advantage to have.