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Issue 2001-7 Friday, April 13, 2001









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  m-commerce and other future innovations: it's time to come back to earth  

As far as I am concerned, I am an almost unconditional adept of novelties in both the computing and electronic fields and as a consequence, I was among the first to believe in the future of the Internet at a time when most of my acquaintances thought I was just a friendly dreamer.

Henceforth, I naturally place myself even ahead of the "early adopters", according to Geoffrey A.Moore's classification in Crossing the Chasm.

m-commerce and its corresponding wireless infrastructure should therefore count me among its most fervent followers.

Yes, but…

Even if it proves interesting to project ourselves in this seemingly wonderful future where we will all be connected permanently with the rest of the planet through smart terminals that will be found everywhere, including in our clothes, it would still be a good idea to ask ourselves a few concrete questions before we can contemplate such an idyllic future.

My first question concerns… yesterday.


Yesterday, that's to say Internet, the Internet in its most classic version: a desktop computer connected to the Internet.

Can we really be happy with this "yesterday" some people ask us to forget a little too soon as they already wish to sell us "tomorrow"?

As it happens, as an analyst, I have the mentality of an artisan, I still think highly of the work well done, and as far as I am concerned, quality wins out over quantity.

This is why I would like us to have the courage to take stock of eCommerce Web sites, not those of tomorrow, but only those that can be presently found on the Web. I would like us to look at our eCommerce sites in a critical way, to look at their real performances, at the technologic failures that can always be seen in this type of Web sites, at their global lack of ergonomics and real interactivity with their visitors, before we rush into the wonderful wireless world.

How could we possibly transpose, as soon as tomorrow and on smaller terminals, what we still fail to transmit to our customers on a 17" or 19" screen?

Shouldn't we first try and finalise what needs finalising before we can hope to convince enough people to use the wireless, as this is the very last hope to ever make it profitable.

But the real question is not a technologic but an economic one: can we possibly imagine that this future wireless world, with expensive UMTS operating licences, will succeed where the "classic" Internet hasn't quite passed its entrance exam?

This is why I would like to see my everyday life much improved before I tackle this extraordinary future.

How often do I have to finalize my "online" order over the phone, in view of all the bugs I came across in the payment process after I spent long minutes filling out complicated and unclear forms?

How often do I have to "learn" the site I am visiting for lack of a clever navigability?

How many times do I have to ask myself what the site I am visiting can really bring me without my having to read and scroll through a few pages to find out?

How many e-retailers really give a personalised answer to the questions they're asked and… how long after the questions were asked?

How often do people receive the product they ordered at the expected time?

Unfortunately, I could go on endlessly.

To cut a long story short, we can wonder who conceives these Web sites and for whom? In any case, they are seldom conceived for their customers.

These poor customers are actually left on their own and the opinion they have on the site is hardly exploited, supposing the e-retailer ever tried to get it.

We're far from this wonderful Web interactivity that was so much talked about when the Internet was born.

How many Web sites really take customer experiences into account in order to try and improve their payment process, their usability… not to mention the human touch that is even more rarely found in this virtual world.

Let's come back to earth: what do customers want? How can we transform visitors into buyers, how did these visitors convert themselves into buyers, how can we customize them?

The crisis that is presently taking place in the technologic sector will have managed, a little late, to shed light on these few thoughtful reflections.

So, first things first, let's try and offer good eCommerce sites before we promise the earth to our customers through a "revolutionary" wireless service.

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