The increased availability of tools to help firms create ecommerce Web sites has fuelled the growth of online sales.
According to latest figures from IDC, the worldwide market for Web commerce applications soared 154 per cent to reach $444 million in 1998 and is expected to increase by a further 280 per cent to be worth a whacking $1.7 billion this year.
Albert Tang, analyst with IDC?s ecommerce software research programme, said: "At the inception of ecommerce, sites had to rely on their own development teams just to build a simple shopping cart or add fraud prevention and export control features to their transaction engines. Now they can buy products to add these functions."
He singled out Europe as a region to watch as firms work on improving their competitiveness within the single market. More multinationals would also begin offering products and services online to global audiences, he added.
IDC believes that Netscape controls the largest share of the market, currently holding 9.5 per cent. Last year, the vendor, which is in the process of being acquired by America Online, started shipping tools to enable firms to incorporate items such as Web catalogues, procurement and invoice forms onto their sites.
"Netscape has done it better, faster and earlier than anybody else in the market and is likely to remain one of the leading vendors in the coming year," Tang concluded.
IDC splits the Web applications market into three segments - commerce sales and market applications, procurement and order processing tools, and service and support. It expects the procurement and order processing applications segment to achieve the highest growth accounting for $8.5 billion of a total $13.1 billion by 2003.
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