You don't have to go far to find evidence of e-retailing's rapid growth. Every day, dot.com companies are advertising their wares on television and radio. In fact, the second annual Internet Shopping Survey found that 76% of retailers were already selling or were planning to sell on the Web. The survey was conducted by the National Retail Federation and the consulting firm Ernst & Young.
Obstacles To E-Retailing
What is preventing the remaining 24% of retailers from selling online? According to the survey, retailers contend with a number of obstacles, including:
- the state of security/encryption and electronic commerce technology
- lack of technology infrastructure
- insufficient resources (e.g. money and people) for Web site development
- integration with existing business processes.
In this issue's cover story
, KBkids.com overcame significant e-retailing challenges. When KB Toys merged its online operations (KBkids.com) with brainplay.com, the company needed to resolve order fulfillment and customer service issues. Shawn Davidson, KB Toys vice president of technology and operations, selected Smith-Gardner's WebOrder
Internet Commerce System to help solve these problems.
Technology And Services To Put Retailers Online
A number of technologies and services are available to help launch an e-retailing site. Many of these solutions were displayed at the NRF.com Conference & Expo, Sept. 26-29, 1999, in Philadelphia. Here are just a few of the solutions available to retailers
- E-commerce solutions for the enterprise – Many retail enterprise software providers have developed an e-commerce module for their products. Take GERS Retail Systems (San Diego) and Pandesic (Sunnyvale, CA), for example. [Editor's Note: Pandesic's e-commerce software is built from the SAP R/3 enterprise software. Pandesic is a joint venture for Intel and SAP.] GERS and Pandesic offer e-commerce solutions to handle everything from front end Web site development to back end supply chain automation.
- E-commerce solutions – Beyond enterprise software providers, few companies have introduced stand-alone e-commerce products and services. SubmitOrder.com (Columbus, OH) is one example. SubmitOrder.com provides e-fulfillment services ranging from technology integration to supply chain consulting.
- Web site hosting – There are two primary advantages to a retailer's outsourcing its e-commerce site to a host company. First, the retailer does not need to maintain the hardware in-house to support the e-commerce site. Second, the host company typically has the infrastructure to expand a site's bandwidth to handle additional traffic without a site crash.
- E-commerce merchandising – Retailers have learned that presentation, placement, and pricing of products are important sales tools in brick-and-mortar stores. Software products have been introduced to apply the same merchandising magic to the Web. Take BrightInfo (Mountain View, CA), for example. BrightInfo (www.brightinfo.com) provides e-merchandise management, online branding, and personalization for e-retailing sites.
With the help of technology companies, retailers are launching e-retailing sites with little effort — other than signing a check. By all accounts, retailers' investments in e-retailing may pay off. Forrester Research predicts that consumer online shopping will be a $41 billion business by 2002.
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