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This is an abridged chapter from which contains  Mitchell Levy's E-Commerce (Business) trends for 2001. The book is  available at all major stores on and off line. You can pick it up at - Chapter 13 - A View from the Real World
by Mitchell Levy

Any new business philosophy or set of principles should be tested in the  real world in order to validate what is real, what is feasible, what works  and what doesn't work. I surveyed people online and talked to several  executives who are deeply involved in e-commerce implementation about  what they have learned so far, and more importantly, what changes we  can expect in the next few years. This chapter focuses on what they said.  The online survey was sent to the readership of, my online  e-zine that explores the trends in e-commerce management on a monthly  basis. The executives quoted here were also interviewed for other chapters in this book. 

In the process of evaluating the responses, there were ten general topic areas  and trends that emerged. All quotes and predictions are grouped by these  ten categories, beginning with a look at the new economic environment, and  ending with ideas about evolving the company for growth.

NOTE: For brevity of this article, only the first three quotes in each section are used. Look to to see all the quotes in this chapter.

Ten Trends from the Real World:

  1. The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same
  2. The New Economic Environment
  3. A New Internet-enabled World
  4. Customers Rule
  5. Better, Faster and Maybe Cheaper
  6. Business Models and Value Webs
  7. New Standards and Rules Create Opportunity
  8. Evolving Infrastructure and Tools
  9. The New Face of Marketing
  10. New Dimensions for Growth and Evolution

1. The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
The tried and true basics of business will be back - to remind us of the  old-fashioned principles that still seem to work, even in this new  Internet-enabled world. Profitability, revenues and proven processes will be key.

Peter Sisson, Chief Strategy Officer,
"The new e-commerce brands will grow more slowly because the investment  community has no patience for losses. The emphasis will be on profitability,  which means we will see fewer expensive ads."

Sean Kaldor, Vice-President of E-Commerce, NetRatings Inc.
"E-commerce business operations will mature, and overall methods will  solidify around a few key processes."

Gwen Hanna, Vice-President of People,
" New e-business companies are becoming more humble as they begin to  realize that some of the basic rules and principles of business (such as  profitability) applies to them, just as it does to the "brick and mortar"  companies. Based on these trends, what I humbly predict in the future is  a mutual admiration between the "click and close" companies and the  "brick and mortar" companies, where each will learn to respect and leverage  their approaches to business."

2. The New Economic Environment
Although we are already mired in the New E-Conomy, we are just at the  beginning of the changes, as brick and mortar companies race to be successful  on-line, and dot.coms try to dethrone established companies' brands.  There will be more consolidation, hybrids, partnering, and new business  models that will shift the mix and balance of power.

Clyde Foster, CEO, eConvergent
"There will be a more seamless merger of online and offline worlds. Brick  and mortar companies will get better at online business, and dot coms will  get better at traditional business and profitability. Economies of scale will  result for both worlds."

Lisa Sharples, Chief Marketing Officer,
"A multichannel approach will be used for all e-commerce companies,  including retail. The line will blur between who's an e-commerce company  and who isn't."

Rip Gerber, Chief Strategy Officer and Vice-President of Marketing,
"The age of the large conglomerates is over. Ten years from now, the  Fortune 500 will be irrelevant. Those that survive will either be invisible  giants running the infrastructure for everyone else or those that will  unquestionably own their customers through passion-invoking brands  and impenetrable customer relationships."

3. A New Internet-enabled World
In the not too distant future, the use of the Internet will be routine, rather  like electricity, as the comfort level with the technology and this method  of doing business evolves. Not only will more of our work and personal lives be connected because of the evolving technology infrastructure, but  more integrated as well. Processes and functions that we use in the workplace  will make their way into our homes. A total Internet-enabled world where  every IP appliance can coordinate an exchange transaction with or without a  human guide, is right around the corner.

Mohit Mehrotra, Vice-President and General Manager, American Express Corporate Services Interactive
"In the near future, conducting business online will become the norm.  There will be a much higher level of comfort in conducting business online,  from both the company's and the customer's point of view."

Barbara Jones, Director of Customer Service, Cisco Systems
"The customer of the future will live in an Internet-integrated environment -  extending to the home. Ideas such as smart home appliances like smart  refrigerators, or cars that alert you to the maintenance schedule - all controllable  via the Internet - are just around the corner."  

Dylan Tweney, Writer and Consultant, Tweney Media
"There will be more e-commerce in general and people will be more  comfortable with it. We will also see e-commerce in more contexts -  embedded in web applications and in Internet devices."

4. Customers Rule
With the Internet, customers have gained considerable power to choose  with whom they will do business, where and when. The need for intense  customer focus and exemplary customer service will continue into the future,  as customers remain central to the growth of e-commerce. 

Ashu Roy, CEO and Chairman, eGain
"Websites will become 'customer interaction centers', where customers  can access information and buy goods and services on a 'self-service' basis."

Bill Daniel, Senior Vice-President of Products, Vignette
"The place from which you buy things will blur. Customers will expect that  companies provide a choice - which may be tough to do from an infrastructure  standpoint."

Bob Cross, President, Venture Capital Online, Inc.
"If not used wisely, the tools of the Internet merely enable marginal vendors  to provide empty promises slicker and faster - and they call it e-commerce.  In the long run, it won't work, because the customer is still king, and the  Internet doesn't change that. Although the Internet can indeed change  processes and channel structures, it doesn't change customer expectations.  Even in the virtual world of the Internet, customers still vote with their feet."

5. Better, Faster and Maybe Cheaper
With continued learning and experimentation, companies will build better  products and services by utilizing the multiple capabilities of their own  companies and also their partners. Price may still be a determinant in customers' buying decisions, but value received is becoming more important  than price by itself. New ways to conduct business enabled by technology  will lead to many new opportunities for companies, with improved choices  for customers and more efficient payment mechanisms for the exchange of  value between parties.

Brooks Fisher, Vice-President of Corporate Strategy and Marketing, Intuit Inc.
"The nature of money will change. The physical need for it will disappear. This removes the administrative headache from buying things."

Peter Ostrow, CEO, Testmart
"Companies will get better at usability, navigation, and e-commerce in general. There will be better products to buy."

George Roman, CTO, diCarta
"There will be simpler payment schemes which will make it easier for people to buy goods and services. Customers will have higher expectations with sites as well - every interaction must be a positive experience."

6. Business Models and Value Webs
Just when you thought things were settling down with business models,  be prepared for more changes. Improvements in efficiency of the supply  chain and logistics, disintermediation and continuing complex are part of  the future.

Alan Naumann, President and CEO, Calico Commerce
"There will be more collaboration than ever, and it will be much more effective.  We will apply what we've learned from manufacturing supply chains, and  extend successful partnering through to the customer."

Norm Hullinger, Vice-President of Sales and Operations,
"The level of service for the 'last mile' will increase significantly. Express  carriers such as UPS, FedEx, etc. will be faster and less expensive."

Paul Brazina, Executive Director, Electronic Commerce Institute, LaSalle University
"The key to e-commerce profitability will be an efficient and effective system to distribute products and services."

7. New Standards and Rules Create Opportunity
There has been much controversy and discussion about privacy and security  and how it affects e-commerce. Quite often, new regulations and laws can  be perceived as just more bureaucracy that gets in the way of doing business.  However, as security issues are mitigated and standards are commonly  deployed for security and privacy, new opportunities will actually be  created for business.

Mark Walsh, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, VerticalNet
"Anonymity on the Internet will disappear. With advances in technology  and electronic signature legislation, the privacy barriers start to disappear.  It will be easier for companies to acquire and maintain information about  customers in order to sustain lifetime customer relationships."

Brooks Fisher, Vice-President of Corporate Strategy and Marketing, Intuit Inc.
"With improved security and recent changes in legislation such as e-signatures,  virtual has become 'real'. This is one of the last holdouts where infrastructure  was still needed. With that barrier removed, businesses can come online  much faster."

Kaj Pedersen, Vice-President of Engineering, Lycos
"The Internet has become the method by which many financial firms retrieve  and advertise their services. With this come issues that relate to security  and a company's ability to disseminate information. With the increase in  demand for online trading and financial services, the winners will be those  who can exploit the opportunity for real-time services, within a secure  environment."

8. Evolving Infrastructure and Tools
Many advances have been made in integrating front office and back office  systems both in a company and via the ASP/BSP model. Technologies that  improve speed, collaboration or integration of processes will be a requirement  for survival and growth in the future.

Ashu Roy, CEO and Chairman, eGain
"The network effect of the Internet that allows businesses to collaborate will continue, and that will mean economic efficiencies."

Clyde Foster, CEO, eConvergent
"The biggest opportunity for companies will be the integration of all customer  touch points in a reactive and proactive way. This means a tightly linked  infrastructure that ties marketing and customer relationship management  together."

Andrew Krainin, Senior Vice-President of Marketing,
"New technologies will improve the speed and efficiency of existing supply  chains. Internet-based systems dramatically reduce the cost and complexity  of connecting enterprises, to make collaborative planning and optimization  the rule rather than the exception."

9. The New Face of Marketing
As companies continue to wrestle with issues about online and offline branding,  we are entering a new era of personalization. Marketing will be faced with  implementing new approaches in the Internet-enabled world.

Jim Sterne, President, Target Marketing of Santa Barbara
"We are entering the age of proactive or anticipatory customer service.  Companies will target customers and send personalized FAQs to serve their  customers."

Atul Vashistha, CEO,
"Marketing will change. There will be a need to be more precisely targeted,  more precisely customized. Niche players may actually have an advantage in  the future if they have solid customer relationships in the markets they know.  Also, brand will matter in the end, but companies will have to find innovative  ways to build brand loyalty because there are very low switching costs."

Russ Cohn, CEO, Brigade Corporation
"I believe that there will be less selection and less free stuff online. Also, I think there will be less 'unjustified' customer service."

10. New Dimensions for Growth and Evolution
As today's leaders make decisions about tomorrow's growth, there are  many factors at work in this new environment that will make a huge impact.  Technologies such as wireless and portable computing will provide more  ways to access the Internet, and require companies to provide content  accordingly. The world marketplace means greater demand for products  and services, and companies need to figure out how to build businesses  across geographic boundaries. We are faced with much growth in the next  few years. Whether it happens slowly or quickly, we all need to be armed  with the lessons we have learned so far to be better prepared to meet all the  challenges of the brave new world. 

Anwar Akel, Alexandria, Egypt
"To die is losing the ability to change - not the loss of breath."

Mark Resch, President and CEO, CommerceNet
"Adoption of the Internet will continue to rise - with or without the speculative  enthusiasm of Wall Street. There is surprising vigor around the world, and  much enthusiasm for e-commerce. Clearly, these are the early days - even  in North America only about 10 percent of the manufacturers have true  e-commerce presence on the Internet."

"E-commerce will continue to behave like a complex, adaptive system. There  will be no single global control point or mechanism; the tangle of non-hierarchical  interaction will continue. The sophistication of global electronic commerce  presences will increase, and companies' behavior will change with experience.  The dynamics of the system make it unlikely that optimum equilibrium will occur  in the near future."

Bill Daniel, Senior Vice-President of Products, Vignette
"There will be an increase in the number of people who interact with the Internet and conduct e-commerce using wireless devices."

Jorden Woods, Chairman and CTO, Global Sight
"Mobile, wireless access to the Internet will be commonplace, that will  greatly accelerate globalization (no wait to get wired). And with that,  global standards for the wireless Internet will emerge."

I wish to thank all of the people who made predictions and contributed quotes  for this chapter. These people from the "real world" will help shape our  Internet-enabled future in the next few years, and I am looking forward to  sharing the experience with them.

NOTE: At the end of each chapter there is a  number of evolutionary tactics listed. Here are the evolutionary  tactics associated with this chapter - "A View from the Real World".

Evolutionary Tactics

  • A number of the old-fashioned principles that worked in the Industrial age will work in the Internet age. You don't have to start over. Don't relax, we are just at the beginning of the changes brought about by the Internet age. Figure out how you can transition your company to be successful online maintaining the brand you currently have in the physical world or dethroning the brand of the current incumbent.
  • Treat the use of the Internet the same as a standard commodity, like electricity.
  • Deliver intense customer focus and exemplary customer service; share value among all your partners.
  • Run many experiments and continue corporate learning to create better products and services.
  • Reexamine your business models and be prepared for continual evolution and change.
  • Support Government and private sector activities to bring about global standards in security and privacy.
  • Whether you run your internal IT shop or outsource this function, integrate your front and back office systems to deliver improved speed, collaboration and integration of processes.
  • Deliver on mass customized products and services.
  • Be prepared to embrace new paradigms as they become pervasive in society and help deliver increased value to the customer.

Let me leave you with a few of my favorite quotes this month:

"Back to Basics" The year 2000 was a volatile year for eBusiness. The world witnessed the dot-com meltdown and the realization that many B2B models and practices were not mature enough to support collaborative business across the Internet. In a rush to be Internet ready, some organizations ignored the complexity and difficulty of integrating business processes across their extended supply chains. They were also too optimistic about the technical capability of their infrastructures to support complex business process integration. 2001 will be a year of reality. Getting back to basics means that analyzing business goals and objectives, understanding customers and markets and assessing operational/technical readiness to support new eBusiness initiatives will be a top priority for every organization. (Kenneth F. Fitzpatrick, General Manager, Global Marketing Computer Associates International, Inc.)

It's only going to get uglier. All those choices are going to get narrower and  first to market will only mean you opened the door for the best to come.  If you're not the best choice, best product, best service, you'll be last.  And best will only last as long as your next version can be introduced. (Aaron Heinrich, VP,

2001 is going to be a very difficult year. The year of the truth. At the end of  2001 we will probably see the dot.coms which will survive in the long run.  Along that way there will be a lot of businesses which will go out of business.  Difficult times for e.g. Webvan or etoys and many others around the world.  (Patrick Stark) 


I hope you enjoy this eZine.
See you in cyberspace,

Mitchell Levy
Executive Producer, <>
President, <>
Founder and Coordinator, SJSU-PD ECM Certificate Program <>

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