by November 1, 2004 0 comments


All indications are that B2C commerce on the Net is returning. But the hype surrounding the scramble for eyeballs and then sticky eyeballs, followed by impressions and then page views, is now absent, giving hope that this time it will not be a bubble.

What is driving this? For starters, technologies have matured. Bandwidth availability has increased and broadband is now a reality. So, the prospective consumer gets a better experience of shopping online. The years since the late nineties have also helped consumers slowly become familiar with buying without seeing.

On the seller front, the focus has moved from blindly using discounts to lure more customers to offering more enduring value propositions. For example, railway commuters pay more to book tickets online, in exchange for the comfort of doing it at their convenience. While air travelers are queuing up online for cheaper fares from Air

Banking transactions are also slowly moving to the Web, with almost all banks giving at least basic account information over the Web. At least one candidate (Howard Dean) in the primaries leading up to the American Presidential elections showed the power of the Internet as a campaigning and, more importantly, a fund-raising tool, in such a way that elections the world over would never be the same again. Another major component of online purchases abroad is from catalogues, a segment otherwise dependent on phones for closing sales.

Another good portent is that it is not just the big names that are going online. Small businesses are also using the Net to sell their wares as a casual browsing of Rediff or Bazee will surely show. 

But it is not as if all the inhibitors to the growth of online B2C commerce have disappeared. We are yet only seeing the tip of the iceberg. In a country where the bulk of businesses do not yet use e-mail for communication, it is too early to expect a good number to take to selling on the Web. Micro payment mechanisms have still to evolve. Identity theft and other forms of online fraud are still cause for serious concern and still remains a strong deterrent to commerce. Adding to the threat is the rising number of phising scams aimed at stealing the login names and passwords to online banking sites.

Wiser sellers, wiser buyers, better bandwidth, better technology! The mix is just right for online B2C commerce to take off. Hopefully, the detrimental factors will not over power the momentum.

Krishna Kumar

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