The last decade has witnessed dramatic changes in the
business environment in the form of rapid and radical
technological developments in computers, telecommunications,
and information sciences, combined with the globalisation
of business and ever-changing demographics. Given these
changes, the available marketing research and modelling
approaches are rendered ineffective.
But information technology
may prove to be extremely useful in overcoming these factors.
Multimedia and simulation may be used to ''create'' the
future environment. And, as virtual reality becomes more
economical and easy to use, it may become an important
component of all consumer research aimed at assessing
likely consumer reactions to breakthrough products and
Database marketing and flexible manufacturing have also
ushered in the era of mass customisation. Organisations
are no longer searching for the best optimal product,
not even for a product line of optimal products (against
a target of market segments), but for the development
of capabilities to allow customers to customise a desired
product from thousands or millions of possible options.
A quick visit to Audi''s
or Toyota''s website will allow you to choose from all
the possible combinations of upholstery, colour, accessories,
on your ''virtual'' car, and see it take shape on your PC,
before you decide to buy one!
Having mass customisation delivered over the World Wide
Web thus offers customers the opportunities to design
their ideal products and services, including the delivery
mode, financing, and other service options.
The unique nature of the Internet now allows customised
messages to be sent to specific target audiences, across
the globe, in a matter of minutes. We have already seen
the emergence of profiling systems that let companies
know consumer interests, resulting in better targeting
of corporate electronic campaigns. Thanks to such
systems, users only receive information on topics of interest
to them, and companies save money by using electronic
In the not-so-distant future, users will also be able
to define limits, either in terms of number of messages,
or as an expiration date, to avoid spamming (undesired
junk mail), along with a host of advanced features.
and online payments
E-cash is no longer a distant dream. Worldwide, secure
systems already exist to help consumers pay on the Net
using their credit cards. It is very likely that soon
anyone will be able to complete a transaction over the
Internet, using credit cards or whatever form of payment
emerges as the preferred mode of the future.
Electronic banking is yet another application of Internet
technologies using which clients can dial in to bank networks,
or their websites, to get a host of services directly
through their home PCs.
Tomorrow''s banks may very well be devoid of a physical
entity, comprising only ATMs and web-based services, facilitated
by terrestrial or satellite links. And, as an increasing
number of customers get used to anytime-anywhere-anyhow
banking, there is no denying the fact that Internet banking
will be the face of things to come.
In conclusion, what is needed in today''s ever-changing
scenario is a
little bit of lateral thinking. Reaping the benefits of
electronic commerce does require a rethink of our current
knowledge. Success in this arena will come not from posting
on-line versions of company brochures on the Net, but
by exploiting the Web''s unique merits in the face of pitfalls
such as limited screen size and delays in downloading
You will know you have arrived when you can no longer
tell where business stops and the technology starts.
And the killer app may be nothing but a question of applying
your mind to it.