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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
As you know I usually dedicate these lines to a discussion and description of the articles appearing in the issue. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I would like to share with you an e-commerce anecdote, fresh on my mind as it has just reached closure. Perhaps there is a lesson in it.
A month ago the Systems Administrator in my office downloaded and installed a trial version of a popular server-side antivirus security suite. We were upgrading our systems and it seemed like a good opportunity to try out a robust security product. The download was smooth and the product performed as expected. So, what’s the problem? Well, at the end of the trial period we received a systems message asking us to buy and enter an activation key. We’re a small office and the five-user license was to cost just over $200, so it seemed a simple matter to go online with a credit card and execute the transaction.
But while the company’s Web site had allowed us to download the trial version, it had restricted actual online purchase to those businesses located in the US or Canada. In other words, “download it, try it, like it, but we can’t help you actually purchase it”. To make matters worse, there was a list of “other” countries where the company suggested offline purchases can be made after speaking to a salesperson – but Israel, and many other countries, did not have a sales office on the list.
So began a scramble to find an actual person somewhere in the world who would accept a credit card payment and provide the software activation key over the phone.
After four e-mails and a series of telephone calls to New York, California, Ottawa, London and Dubai, we were finally told that there is indeed a local Master Distributor in Tel-Aviv. A phone call to the Tel-Aviv distributor (who also could not sell direct), led us to the same Systems Integrator that had actually sold us our new hardware a month ago – who could sell us the software for less than the price (almost) offered online. Something is very wrong with this picture.
The reason underlying this sales debacle is the company’s desire to control its distribution channels and keep them motivated by limiting the consumer’s ability to purchase without going through a local office. Understandable? Only if you are short-sighted. A proper e-commerce strategy would:
structure distributor compensation to include a (possibly reduced) commission for online purchases originating in their territory; and
indicate to potential customers downloading trial software that there are restrictions as to online purchase.
What makes this case even more annoying is that we are talking about a company that makes its living selling products designed to make Internet usage smoother and safer. It also tells us that we still have a very long way to go in designing and implementing online and hybrid (clicks-and-mortar) marketing strategies. True story.
There is perhaps no better motivation for the first two papers in this issue. In “E-volution of a supply chain: cases and best practices” by Folinas, Manthou, Sigala and Vlachopoulou, we are shown that there are indeed better ways to plan and manage a supply chain. In “A practical evaluation of Web analytics”, Phippen, Sheppard and Furnell treat us to a fresh look at how to evaluate Web site performance and its actual correlation with company strategy. Now there’s something my security software vendor might consider – correlating their strategy with their Web site.
D’Ambra and Wilson, in “Explaining perceived performance of the world wide Web: uncertainty and the task-technology fit model”, focus on the use of travel related information. Their detailed empirical study reveals a number of new insights into the effectiveness of the world wide Web as information resource in supporting decision making by users and consumers.
Also in this issue we have Dixon and Quinn with “Franchising and the Internet: an exploratory study of franchisor Web sites” – an exploratory study in an area that has not received much attention to date – and Berry discussing “Internet research: privacy, ethics and alienation: an open source approach”, exploring an area that has received considerable attention, from a new and refreshing perspective.
David G. Schwartz