European e-tailers have hit back at claims they lack the innovation of their US counterparts.
At last week's Dataquest Predicts conference, analyst Cathy Tornbolm said European ecommerce will continue to lag behind the US in ecommerce due to lack of innovation and insight on how to make the most of the Internet.
But the head of one European ecommerce start up says this view is outdated, pointing to his own online ticketing venture lastminute.com, as an example of new innovative European ecommerce sites.
"That was an easy and obvious statement and one that is out of date," said Brent Hoberman, managing director of lastminute.com. "Right now there are tonnes of innovative ideas."
Hoberman said there are now many examples of innovative companies, such as Dixons' free ISP Freeserve, sports retailer boo.com, upmarket auctions site icollector.com as well as his own lastminute.com - which has over 200,000 registered users.
The UK has been particularly innovative in offering free access services for attracting loyal customers. Freeserve has over 1.5 million users and its free subscription model has been copied by everyone from banks, to supermarkets, to tabloid newspapers, toy shops and football clubs.
A report released last week from the Yankee Group Europe said the rest of Europe is poised to follow the Freeserve model to launch cheap branded access services to create interactive relationships with their customers. (see Newswire 10 June)
Part of the reason for Europe's delay was that US companies weren't interested in Europe as a market, said Hoberman. However, there are now more companies are launching UK versions of successful US ventures such as ebay and Autobytel.
There are also now more examples of US money being used to fund UK ventures. Today online travel company ebookers.com raised $5 million in private US investment prior to a floatation later this year.
Hoberman is also confident that in some areas such as mobile phones and digital TV, Europe will leap ahead of the US. Several European companies are already delivering ecommerce services to mobile phones.
Smart card company Gemplus, for example, has teamed with Danish operator Mobilix to provide an information on demand service called "A La Carte Inside" where consumers get a news, sport, travel, recipes and cinema timetables delivered straight to their mobile phone.
Various mobile banking applications are already available in Germany and the Czech Republic where a Sim card in the phone sends instructions securely over mobile networks using the short messaging service (SMS). Money transfers, balance checks and information on share prices can all be done via the simple menu on the phone's display.
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Yeah, sorry about all that, simpers Zuckerberg
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