When internet commerce first came on the scene, companies were jumping on the bandwagon and creating Web sites with an "if you build it, they will come" attitude. Many businesses found out the hard way that hanging out a shingle on the Internet doesn't guarantee visitors, let alone sales. All you have to do is witness the death of major Internet malls like IBM's World Avenue to realize the Internet commerce business model is still a work in progress.
"There have been extremely high expectations of Internet commerce that have lessened considerably," says Michael Sullivan-Trainor, program director of Internet research with IDC/Link, an information technology research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Entrepreneurs who are succeeding in the world of Web commerce are those who have developed new business models or services particularly suited to the Internet. For example, Amazon.com offers consumers a channel to buy hard-to-find books, while Auto-By-Tel connects automobile buyers and sellers online. Retailers like Lands' End and Wal-Mart and technology companies like Dell Computer have been able to reach consumers who are ready and willing to shop online. Internet commerce that connects companies with regular suppliers or customers to encourage business transactions and sales electronically is where experts predict much of the future growth will come from.
Although business models are continuing to develop (and fail) for online ventures, it's still a good idea to take a look at Internet commerce opportunities for your business. Online commerce provides a new avenue for sales, broadens your customer base and opens a whole world of opportunities. However, in today's changing online business environment, it takes a thorough understanding of your target audience, knowledge of both traditional and Internet marketing techniques, and a little finesse to compete.