UK firms fail to cash in on the Internet

The UK’s companies are failing to make effective use of the Internet, according to a report sponsored by McKinsey & Co. The report, which was carried out by Fletcher Research, found that 65 per cent of sites had “no commercial” aspect – they were merely marketing or investor relations exercises: “glorified annual reports”.

William Reeve, head of Fletcher’s Internet Practice, said: “In financial services, for example, there’s no sign of the innovation that marked First Direct.”

Successful sites would include media companies, which already have content to put on their sites, but, said Reeve, “we don’t yet know how profitable they are – these sites are partly defensive”.

Most sites fall at the last fence when it comes to actually generating business, referring customers to mail or post: “Most companies haven’t got the infrastructure to take orders over the Web,” said Reeve. “You can’t take out insurance over the Web, for example. It’s easy to set up a Web page – have an agency do it for you. But companies are not investing in updating and maintaining the site, or using it as a new channel to do business.

This is a lost opportunity, as the UK online community is much more business oriented than that in the US, for example. Said Reeve: “The Coopers and the Andersens of this world all have websites, but they don’t offer anything for sale. Yet the audience that’s online in the UK-average income #44,000, upmarket, well-educated, 85 per cent male – is very suitable for the attentions of consultants.”

Related reading

HMRC banknotes