Internet Commerce - An Overview
By Dr. Wieslaw Z. Michalak
This monograph continues the series of investigations related to e-commerce and Internet retailing that have been a focus of research activity at CSCA since 1996. Debates concerning the future prospects of Internet shopping continue to vary considerably. For example, Paco Underhill in his book Why We Buy (1999) concludes that the Internet will complement but never challenge conventional store-based retailing. According to Underhill, "we live in a tactile-deprived society and shopping is one of our few chances to freely experience the material world first hand. Almost all unplanned buying is a result of touching, hearing, smelling or tasting something on the premises of a store." It is interesting to note PAco's use of term buying rather than shopping, since most Internet retail sites are still informational and continue to report very few sales transactions per thousand hits. However, it is undeniable that sales over the Internet are increasing at a remarkable rate. A 1998 survey of 3000 companies undertaken by the University of Texas estimated that US firms generated $301 billion dollars in annual revenue from sales over the Internet. Approximately a third of this total was comprised of what we would consider traditional retail activity. In response to this fundamental change in how consumer can shop, both Statistics Canada and the US Bureau of the Census are now collection and will release data that capture the volume and growth of Internet retailing. Data from these two national agencies will be welcomed and will finally clarify the extent of Internet activity given the wide range of Internet-based retail sales estimates that continue to be reported by various sources.
This report focuses on the general trends in e-commerce and the IT industry and their specific effect on commercial activity. As such, the report positions Internet retailing within the broader context of business networks and issues associated with the management of technology.