.. l environment. People expect to get a real person when they send mail. This can work to your advantage as a small start-up company, or when you are a large corporation. No matter what business you are involved in, an online-help feature is an extraordinary advantage to have.
A potential source of trouble is customer concerns with privacy and security. Anything sent over the Internet is sent through several different computers before it reaches its destination. The concern regarding Internet security and privacy is that unscrupulous hackers can capture credit card or checking account data as it is transferred or break into computers that hold the same information. Security on the Internet is much like security for your home. There is a point when the effort outweighs the advantages.
As with your home you usually stop adding security features when you feel safe. Making a customer feel safe is what is important in doing business on the Internet. Even though no one can guarantee 100% security of transferring financial information over the Internet, e-commerce is still safer than using credit cards at an actual store or restaurant, or paying for something with the use of a 1-800 number (unknown author, 1999). In addition, every time you throw away a credit card receipt you could make yourself powerless to fraud. But how do we, as consumers, know this for sure? What precautions do e-commerce websites take to avoid such problems? The answer is simple: encryption. Ever since the 2.0 versions of Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, transactions can be encrypted using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), an Internet protocol that creates a secure connection to the server, protecting the information as it travels over the Internet.
SSL uses public key encryption, one of the strongest encryption methods around. A way to tell that a Web site is secured by SSL is when the URL begins with https instead of http. Browser makers and credit card companies are also promoting an additional security standard called Secure Electronic Transactions (SET). SET encodes the credit card numbers that sit on vendors’ servers so that only banks and credit card companies can read the numbers. Obviously no e-commerce system can guarantee 100-percent protection for your credit card, but you are less likely to get your pocket picked online than in a real store (Weiss, 1999). E-commerce is based on the assumption that the participants will pay for what they buy.
There has been a noted reluctance among Internet users to actually pay, particularly for the digital goods and services. As a result, much of the current business on the Internet is funded using business models other than user-pays, primarily advertising and sponsorship. If a company is selling something, then they need to find a way to accept payment that is not only convenient for them, but most importantly, convenient for the customers. Setting up a simple web site can be very inexpensive, but if you are unsure of how to go about creating one, a simple web site thus may not be so simple. Moreover if you do not know what you are doing, your site will definitely not be effective. A functional web site with online ordering requires expertise in four different areas.
If a business owner does not have HTML, CGI scripting, ODBC, and special programs for online clearing options experience, they may want to consider outsourcing. Outsourcing is the use of a third party service company to provide the missing pieces to complete the total functionality of the business. This is a cost-effective way to allow a site to get up and running much faster and concentrate on the product or service rather than getting overwhelmed with the technical challenges (DeCourey, 1999). Finally, a possible disadvantage to e-commerce is not having a strong organizational commitment. A functional web site that is going to be successful will soon need additional resources in technology and skills. E-commerce is evolving at a very rapid rate and the business owner must be willing to evolve with it.
Newer and more advanced technology will cost more, but should be supplemented by additional revenues. Furthermore, the company must be willing to change the entire business or start a new one when they can see the need for change. Yahoo started as a commercial operation in 1995, with a simple, if enormous, list of Web sites to help people navigate the Web. But like the Web itself, Yahoo is changing fast. The once amazing ability to search the entire World Wide Web became outdated in a Net instant, so Yahoo, at the tender age of two years, began reinventing itself as a place to trade stocks, make travel reservations, and conduct commerce (Hof, 1998).
Rest assured the future of e-commerce is intact and ever changing. Like electricity, antibiotics, or the car, the Internet is a revolutionary technology (France, 1999). It is quite evident that e-commerce is only gaining speed. As one article stated, the growth of e-commerce would not diminish, it will become such a pervasive influence on how a company works that all functions within an organization will have a stake in their e-commerce strategy (Wareham, 2000). With Internet traffic doubling every 100 days the digital economy is alive and growing. The huge growths of virtual communities are causing shifts in economic power from large corporations to smaller businesses.
Virtual communities erode the marketing and sales advantages of large companies. A small company with a better product and better customer service can use these communities to challenge larger competitors – something it probably could not do in the real world (CommerceNet, 1999). With many of the technological advances in the banking, on-line trading and retail industries, e-commerce will soon become the foundation of our life just as radio, telephone and television have in the past. Technology has a place in everyone’s day-to-day activities and soon e-commerce will be a major factor in the decisions we have to make. Remember, e-commerce is more complex than just buying that special someone’s birthday present. E-commerce, along with the Internet, is an outlet for business. It is a way for the new man to compete with the proven giants in the industry.
An example of this would be the launch of Wal-Marts new web site intended to compete with industry monster Amazon.com. Their new business venture allows Wal-Mart to go outside its usual corporate sphere for Web-savvy talent geared for dot.com commerce, such as engineers, programmers and marketers. It also provides them with the necessary Web-wampum “V” such as options, warrants and shares that are essential to attracting top talent (Veverka, 2000). Simply put, the Internet and the use of e-commerce provides many opportunities for even the smallest of businesses to compete with large corporations, in essence leveling the playing field. With the steady growth of the Internet, and the fact that every year more and more families are plugging in and surfing the web, can a company survive without the use of the Internet and e-commerce? Probably, but not for long.
The Internet and e-commerce are here to stay, so businesses can either change with the times, or get left behind. The choice is theirs to make. Technology.