E-sales to hit $2,000bn by 2001

European companies are placing increasing importance on e-commerce, according to a report from KPMG, and expect annual Internet sales to rise to US$1,990bn by the year 2001, an increase of 10 percent on current figures.

KPMG’s Electronic Commerce Research Report 1998 questioned the marketing directors of over 500 European companies on their use of e-commerce, including intranets, EDI and the Internet. Over half of respondents believe that e-commerce is becoming vital to global competitiveness while a quarter believe that access to new customers is the principal benefit of the Net.

More than a third believe that Europe is lagging behind the US in the implementation of e-commerce.

The survey also reveals a growing disparity between companies embracing new technology and those slow to adapt. Said Paul Barker, partner responsible for e-commerce at KPMG: “Because the market is maturing, we are able to identify leaders and laggards.”

About 10 percent of those surveyed are identified as e-commerce leaders.

They are characterised by their sophisticated approach to e-commerce projects, as well as board level involvement.

The main barrier to the adoption of e-commerce technology is the issue of security: a quarter of respondents expressed nervousness at the perceived threat to systems. This feeling is borne out in a separate survey conducted by software provider Novell and risk mitigation firm Kroll Associates.

Electronic Confidence: Doing Business in the 21st Century looks at the growing importance of information as the most valuable asset in modern business. However the need to allow information to flow freely while protecting it from falling into the wrong hands is seen as crucial. The solution to this security paradox is seen as a methodical enterprise-wide approach to information security, which would allow organisations to extract maximum value from their information and allow it to be traded electronically – without risking its integrity.

The inexorable rise of the call centre and the resulting need for skilled staff is leading to a marked change in employment practices at the centres, according to a survey by recruitment consultants Office Angels.

The demand for call centre staff is outstripping supply with many companies offering incentives to attract skilled staff. These include the offer of performance-related pay and increased pay for anti-social hours, as well as staff training.

Paul Jacobs of Office Angels said: “In the long run, a fulfilled workforce, benefits the organisation, resulting in higher levels of service and improved customer relations.”

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