The benefits and potential of the Internet are everywhere I look. Not only in the way I work and communicate, but also in the way I shop, and even interact with friends and colleagues. But it is not just the potential for myself that I see - it is for others, too. Whether I drive down Parramatta Road, past the ubiquitous car yards, or get out of the rat race and head for the bush - where the need to get from one town to another has left smaller towns and businesses dusty and derelict - I see traditional business models shifting. While the benefits may differ for everyone, there are definite advantages to a move online, no matter what your line of business, no matter its size or location.
The potential of the Internet and its opportunities is something everyone should at least explore. But there is also plenty of potential to stuff up, especially if the Internet is not your forte. Making the move online requires more than some shots of your products, pricing and an online order form - which some businesses believe is all there is to e-commerce.
When I think about the old style, bricks and mortar shopfront or business, I realise that many of the same rules of those businesses apply online. Businesses that take the time to plan their online strategies, and listen to their customers, will ultimately succeed, where other "me too"-style start-ups fail.
In Australia, the sector with the most to gain from the move online is small to medium businesses. With many larger enterprises and government organisations investing heavily in Internet technologies for their business, many smaller businesses feel lost in the hype, and miss the potential of the Internet to level the playing field. No longer does the size of your business, nor its geographical location, have to factor in its success - with the Internet, you can play with the big boys! But this is also a sector that is already stretched, both financially and in terms of time invested in the business. So, while most small to medium businesses want to make the move online - either now or in the future - most believe that investing time, resources and the money and infrastructure for an online expansion may push them to the brink.
Or will it? This month, PC World launches its e-commerce editorial initiative, eComWorld, as a special section focusing on global networked business. Spanning the coming months, eComWorld will look at the things businesses really want (and need) to know - making money online, how to save time and money and, importantly, how to get online without blowing the bottom line. Each edition of eComWorld is broken into ordered, easy-to-reference stages, which will assist businesses through their online progression. The stages will contain a mixture of planning, background information and steps of action, from determining if the time is right to make the move online, to building an information site, and all the steps in between. And best of all, this independent information source will be all in one place - at your fingertips!