Forget what the Internet can do for your business sales, ecommerce will stimulate a number of more important sub trends, according to Andrew Bartels, vice president and senior research analyst at Giga Information Group.
The Internet will be of greater value to companies for reducing production costs, improving operating efficiency, making marketing more effective and cheaper, and enabling value added customer service, Bartels said here at Giga's Business Online conference today.
With latest research predicting revenue from business to business ecommerce at $253 billion by 2002, in the future this will be dwarfed by other use of Internet, according to Bartels.
"The actual sales over the Internet is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of economic value," he said.
Bartels said there needs to be a change in the way companies think about the Internet, that is not technology driven, but look at it as a new vehicle for improving business.
"Instead of starting with the Internet and thinking about how a business can use it, you must start with the business and use the Internet to improve how it works," said Bartels.
"The Internet must be used to redesign business processes, from acquiring new customers; taking orders, billing and getting paid; building products; delivering products; serving customers and retaining and building customer relationships," he said.
Bartels expects a rapid growth in use of the Internet for ordering and billing but says this will be held back for another three or four years until more suppliers and customers get online.
"There is a lot of potential not yet realised but companies such as Intel, Cisco and Dell are getting the closest to automating the ordering process," he said.
Another trend is more products being delivered electronically such as music and books, and products that can't be digitised that the supplier will track the delivery of over the Web. FedEx has even turned the job of tracing a parcel's whereabouts into a task customers can enjoy.
The Internet will also give manufacturers direct access to their customers, says Bartels: "Companies have overlooked the Internet as a vehicle for getting feedback from customers. With dealers and retailers in the supply chain, the manufacturers often don't know who their customer is."
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