European firms are following their US counterparts in starting to embrace the ecommerce challenge, but the majority are worried that their staff lack the necessary skills to exploit online trading.
A survey undertaken by Andersen Consulting of 350 heads of European companies indicated that 64 per cent believed ecommerce could provide them with a competitive advantage. But 85 per cent also felt impeded by the lack of skills within their organisations.
Andersen also polled 60 US company bosses, and 90 per cent of them saw similar challenges.
A further 83 per cent of European and 85 per cent of US executives admitted that their organisations did not have the necessary culture to make the move to ecommerce easily.
But unlike the majority of their US equivalents, European executives saw ecommerce as an isolated issue within their organisation, while 45 per cent did not believe that online trading would help solve key business challenges. As a result, only 50 per cent of European managers were committed to ecommerce as opposed to 67 per cent in the US.
Despite this, 44 per cent of European companies said they had developed concrete plans to implement an ecommerce stategy - a 13 per cent increase on those surveyed in 1998.
Rosemary O'Mahony, Andersen’s technology managing partner for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: "There have been some very positive and encouraging changes in European ecommerce since our study last year."
She continued: "At that time, while we identified pockets of excellence in Europe such as mobile telephony and interactive digital TV, there was still a prevailing 'wait and see' attitude. Today, we see several examples of world class European companies making ecommerce an integral part of their business strategy."
She highlighted the efforts of oil company, Totalfina, which is giving its refinery customers direct access to service and delivery systems over the Internet, and Italy's Lloyd 1885 insurance company, which has used the network to penetrate new markets and now generates 22 per cent of its total sales over the Web.
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