Electronic Commerce: Once an option, its now a necessity


Dr. George Kostopoulos

Electronic Commerce, or e-commerce as it is known, is the concept of utilizing the telecommunications infrastructure to transact business. For all practical purposes, e-commerce is Internet-based, where a business entity establishes a website, through which the public accesses the offered products, goods or services.

The growing computer and Internet literacy of the general public, on one hand, and the increase in business websites, on the other, make e-commerce a true alternative to traditional commerce, offering unprecedented access, speed and convenience.

Regardless of the nature of the commercial activity, a business entity is in, e-commerce is an excellent vehicle for developing visibility, regional, national or global. As for the extent of Internet presence a business may have, this can range from an informational website to a fully transactional one.

In the minimal version, the website serves as an electronic brochure or a products and services catalog, with an integrated option enabling the visitor to send the merchant an e-mail message or inquiry.

In an enhanced version, a business may have a fully transactional website with a shopping cart and payment acceptance process, as well as live communication with the merchant's side using text, sound or even video.

Thanks to e-commerce the consumers, now, can conduct comparative shopping and transact actual commerce (browse, buy, sell or bid) via the Internet.

The eventual integration of the television and the computer will bring the Internet into every home, thus broadening the e-commerce consumer base, moving the consumer masses from the real world into the virtual one.

According to statistics, last year's volume of e-commerce reached the three billion mark. This activity was not necessarily new trade, but mostly existing one that moved from the physical to the Internet mode.

This clearly implies that, with time, there will be less and less face to face business transactions, to the detriment of the business establishments that will not effectively harness the power of the Internet. Worth noting is that, according to projections, this year's volume of e-commerce will exceed the six billion dollar level.

The world smoothly transitioned from the agricultural era to the industrial era, and from the industrial one to the information one. But the transition from the so called brick&mortar world into the click&web one is being revolutionary. Every single day, the traditional trade is being challenged by numerous innovative advances in e-commerce. However, new e-commerce tools are being offered to business, making that transition easier.

The most important impact of e-commerce, though, will be the development of totally new products and services that will offer unprecedented conveniences in the home and at work.

In closing, for any business entity, e-commerce is not an option, but a necessity. And similarly, for any business person, e-commerce literacy is not an option, but an absolute necessity.

Laredo Morning Times July 24, 2000