Ecommerce – an article from 2002-04 era

There was a time when I used to write a lot of articles. Mostly to do with the job I had at that time, and then there was my own interest in areas of business and how things work. The following is one of the many I wrote between 2002-04, and is presented below unedited since then.

Ecommerce (electronic commerce) as we all know is the virtual trade of items, usually considered to be over the internet. Over the years, the perception of ecommerce has moved from a non-conventional approach of trading to one that has become a household conventional pattern of exchange for valuables, tangible and intangible alike. Since the history of ecommerce is quite commonly known now, we will only talk of more advanced application of ecommerce and some security aspects to consider.

The opportunities that led to the success of ecommerce and the host of available solutions that facilitate ecommerce can be summarized as:

  • The internet is ubiquitous, accessible and is increasingly becoming a low cost communication solution
  • The time to market and reach is reduced
  • Existing credit cards, debit cards and other stored value cards can be quickly adapted
  • There no geographical limitations
  • A supplier can reach the end consumer directly, thereby reducing the need for a middleman from the supply chain
  • The just in time approach can be flexibly adopted, eliminating the need to holding inventory at a physical store and retain on display items
  • Transaction costs and overheads are minimized, reducing the need to maintain and manage extensive sales processes
  • Promotion of a paper-less environment
  • Opportunities exist for right-sizing an organization’s staffing and rationalizing costs
  • Ecommerce can be used through diverse forms of technology, namely computers, PDAs, mobile handsets, digital TV and also kiosks at various shopping malls or convenience points

Some popular brands we know today exist practically 100% online, without the need to maintain physical points of contact, adding features and value additions to the services offered. Case in point being Amazon.com, a virtual warehouse for everything under the sun, and eBay, which allows users to offer and bid goods, with boundary-less interactions. Following on the successes of similar companies, there are more organizations that aim to provide a better set of features for better security, accessibility, interaction and business intelligence.

With the development of web services that started off as simple sales push solution (in this case Web 1.0), to what is now a feedback oriented or demand driven solution (Web 2.0), we can say that the internet and the way we do business has evolved positively, and consumers are getting what they want in a more effective manner. How the internet is a better medium can be judged by some simple characteristics it has developed over time. The average urban citizen uses the internet for almost 40% of the day s/he sits at the desk and is online. The outcome is phenomenal, the business generated within that time frame is a great deal, and within that short time more people get to know what the consumer is thinking, ready with possible solutions to help him/her out at the click of a button.

Here’s another example of how every urban citizen is definitely using ecommerce in daily life. A regular credit top up to your mobile phone subscription, a credit or debit card swipe at a POS, communicating through instant messaging or email casually or for business purposes, using a search engine, sharing your life on social networks and blogs, subscribing to news feed or even applying for a job online, you are definitely part of the ecommerce world. And yes, how can we forget online or electronic banking and bill payments through your banking system. Most of us see ads on each of these locations, and if you look closer, they relate to the content you are looking for or targeted toward your user profile. Isn’t it interesting how customized the internet becomes?

Just thinking about how ecommerce affects our lives might get you understand that the perception of threat or security is far from being common. If you ask an expert, s/he will tell you how secure it is, in fact at times more secure than real world commerce. Several security features are available that will make your transactions extremely secure, and even ask for verifications prior to acceptance of your transaction.

And if you haven’t noticed, your mobile phones are equally contributing to commerce, now on the go. You no longer have to be on your favourite couch or at your desk to start the process, your mobile handsets are now a tool of convergence, bringing convenience to your hands and pocket with everything you need. Here comes mobile blogging, banking through your phone, an office suite, instant messaging and email, internet browsing, everything put together in a neat, bundled, portable device that has become an integral part of who you are and what you do.

All said and done, there is nothing more important than your own security and taking personal measures to protect yourself from any unwanted act that may affect you, as the user. The information of each user is critical and private to each consumer; hence the onus lies on the vendor to ensure that information is secured. Information security can thus be summarized as:

  • a cornerstone of maintaining public trust
  • a business issue, and not just a technology issue
  • risk-based and cost effective
  • aligned with organizational objectives and priorities, prudent practice and in most cases, a requirement by government
  • directed through policies, and implemented by businesses
  • it is everyone’s business

To ensure some level of security and assurance for consumers, vendors tend to provide as much information they can provide for their services, and also put together an agreement, so that they can be justified in their actions, and the consumer can choose to sign up for the deal, or decline. In most cases where the goods are of a long-term nature, after sales support agreements are also put together to benefit both parties.

Corporate governance measures have also come to surface to protect the majority of businesses, and ensure consumer rights are upheld while trading online. Regulation and policies then play a major role in defining how trade is conducted, the level of disclosure required, visibility of processes, information exchange security, component and module designs are all kept under check by various organizations globally and locally.

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