Portals and personalised services will be the trend on the Internet for the next two years, but successful companies will be the ones throwing themselves wholeheartedly into ecommerce, claimed industry experts this week.
Speaking at analyst group IDC's Ecommerce Forum in Monte Carlo, Steve Savignano, senior vice president of electronic commerce for Netscape said, "companies should focus on delivering personalised services so that consumers feel the product has actually been created for them".
He said that this was going back to the old idea of craftmanship, which is possible on the Internet.
Initially Savignano said Netscape had envisaged there being only 10 or so portals, but no wit makes sense for companies to become portals and create a door into their business for both transactions and information.
"Every single trading community will become a portal," he forecast.
Reducing time to market will also become a major issue, he said. At the end of this year Ford will offer build to demand cars that will be delivered to consumers within two weeks. As more and more services are added to cars such as computerised mapping, travel guides and in-car gaming, Savignano said it will not be long before car companies are making more out of these services than the cars themselves.
He also noted that both customer loyalty and service and support will become increasingly important issues for online companies. The main reasons behind this being that in the Internet economy, "power has shifted to the buyer who has choice, freedom and control."
However, companies looking to do business online should experiment on a large scale or shelve the idea.
"Seeing the Web as a huge pool of cold water and only dipping in a toe
proves disastrous," said Pierre Hessler, chief executive of Gemini Consulting. "Experiment on a large scale to expand."
Savignano agreed: "Traditional companies can't stop new entrants, so they must invest heavily in a controlled way now. Don't just dip your toe in the water, if you don't invest your competitors will."
Systems for this new, integrated business would have to be radically different than traditional business, he said.
"Focus will be on ease of use, leveraging existing systems, leveraging bandwidth and designing solutions as network devices," he said.
Hessler called on European governments to promote competition in telecoms, provide business for a structure to self-regulate, push for venture capital and use the Internet for government operations systematically. That way Europe, "will not be slowed in the networked economy," he said.
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