19 January 2009
A recent debate on a LinkedIn Group (click here to join The ShipServ Group) centred around whether eCommerce in shipping will ever be as widely used as in other industries. Always a great debate, and one that’s been raging since 2000.But it struck me in that discussion that there’s a lot of people out there who seem to see eCommerce as a minor irritant that should just go away and stop annoying them. Which IMHO is just weird. Surely everyone gets that the Internet and eCommerce has a role to play in business? Anyway, here’s some of the points I heard from people who thought not:
1. “You can’t automate an order because specifying what you want needs person-to-person discussion”Actually, in a way, I agree. For SOME cases. Lets not get confused. eCommerce is no different to any other communications channel. Whether you’re emailing, phoning or faxing a badly defined requirement is a badly defined requirement. Also, if you can’t “productize” in some kind of definition what you’re offering, then clearly you need a more complex, involved conversation. But there is still a massively untapped opportunity to automate a major proportion of purchasing – we reckon upwards of $70bn in spending.
2. “E-commerce sites are not updated in time and they’re just a waste of time.”eCommerce is a broad, broad term. One approach is to put up a store and fill it with products. This is prone to ageing if the store isn’t refreshed regularly. But eCommerce can also encompass the automation of exchanging messages/transactions – simplyfing the interchange of information. Also what you automate can range from chartering to ship supplies. At ShipServ we actually focus on connecting buyers and sellers of ship supplies/operational/spare parts, strengthening the business relationship, not creating a store and hoping people will come.
3. “It drives me crazy when I get an electronic order. Why can’t they just send me a spreadsheet?”Remember life before Microsoft Word? When the world was populated by incompatible products like WordStar, WordPerfect and MS-DOS Word? No? Well I do – it was a total pain exchanging documents. In the end it was easier to fax the document instead.That’s the pain we’re trying to solve now in eCommerce. Everyone’s fed up with passing incompatible documents back and forth. Wouldn’t it be great to get everything in one format? For now, yes, eCommerce is just another format in the mix. But bear with us – standardization will come. But do you think its going to ever be in a handcrafted spreadsheet?
Anyway, regardless of what you think about e-Commerce, do you REALLY think it will just go away? I’m not saying that everthing’s perfect, but surely this is a journey that even the strongest non-believer will agree should bear some fruit eventually. So, I’m going to be so bold (unsurprisingly) to say its here to stay. But its up to everyone to help it just get better and better!
John Watton, VP Marketing, ShipServ.
Email me at email@example.com with your views.
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