Conservative business practices, a lack of financial commitment and distraction by euro related issues are major inhibitors to the growth of the European ecommerce market, according to Forrester Research.
But the UK banking community is lagging behind its European neighbours in the adoption of ecommerce technology, and according to Joe Sawyer, a Forrester analyst, "is at the back of the pack - it's pitiful".
Following a wide ranging review of current European activity, Sawyer said that although there were issues specific to Europe that could not be ignored: "There are a lot of country specific myths around that have become part of perceived wisdom."
While cultural barriers were an example of this, he explained: "There are conflicting things going on. Cultural change is really an excuse for delay - there are plenty of fine examples where socalled cultural barriers have been overcome."
In Spain, for example, the banking community had overcome its problems to aggressively develop ecommerce products based on its advanced communications infrastructure to provide transaction processing based services.
But Sawyer said he was also concerned by country specific business practices, a generally conservative approach to new technology and a lack of financing commitment to ecommerce.
"If you believe in the dynamic enterprise where suppliers and customers are connected across national boundaries, then you have to work out ways of harmonising business practices so things don't fall apart. That's difficult in Europe," he said.
He was also afraid that a relatively weak European currency and high levels of unemployment were distracting businesses from making aggressive investment in ecommerce technology.
"They have legitimate economic concerns, but if business could see technology as providing a way to behave globally, I believe it would help them overcome some of these issues," he explained.
On a more optimistic note, however, Sawyer said that vendors were starting to understand that Europeans may not be the technical laggards they were widely thought to be.
"Europeans are sick of Americans coming over and yelling at them about how backwards they are. It isn't true," he attested, adding that in Europe, there were a number of important data delivery mechanisms that collectively made up a strong infrastructure.
"I believe we just didn't see the importance of multiple delivery mechanisms like GSM and digital TV. Europe is wired and well positioned to take advantage of new technologies in a number of application areas like supply chain," he said.
But despite the multitude of practical difficulties facing Europe, companies should be prepared to take risks, he urged.
"Look at Freeserve. It destroyed the AOL/Compuserve business model, creating a billion pound plus business. Noone else will be able to do that now, but others like the French, Finnish and Spanish banks are worth watching out for," he said.
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