While the old Internet economy of the last four years saw most companies simply establishing a presence on the Web, the new Net economy of the next five years will be about scale and establishing an image as a serious player. While there are currently about 150 million Internet users compared to 20 million in 1995, this figure will increase to half a billion by 2003, according to Frank Gens, IDC?s senior vice president of Internet research at the market research company?s IDC Directions 99 conference in San Francisco this week. And this will result major changes in the Internet economy because the profile of the average Net user will change as they stop simply surfing and 50 per cent of them start buying online. Gens estimates that by 2003, the ecommerce market will be worth $900 billion, with customers spending about $2 million per minute. ?The only thing growing faster than users and ecommerce is the number of companies rushing to get a piece of the new online economy. You can liken it to being in the first period of a hockey game - there are still two more periods to go and how much money is exchanged will drive it. But just .coming your business is not going to cut it as a strategy over the next five years,? he said. He continued that more than a third of US households were expected to come online by 2003, which would change what the Internet economy looked like and move it more into the mainstream, but the impact of the US would diminish proportionately over the next five years. While 50 per cent of all Net users were based in the US in 1998, by 2003 this will have dropped to a third, with Europe having an equally strong presence. Vendors will also have to understand the differences in the way the sexes shop as for the first time last year more than half of all US Internet customers were female. But Gens added: ?It?s extremely important to build your image as an Internet player. It?s all about image and the need to efficiently communicate to the market. If the market doesn?t think you?re a Net player, then you aren?t, but it?s remarkable how many companies have underfocussed here and underplayed it like it?s a niche market. It?s not a niche market. It is the market.?
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