ECONOMY

Semi-wired domestic firms still shun online buying and selling

Information, as the basic resource for enterprises, has for several decades spearheaded the efforts of successful companies internationally. Big domestic firms have clearly come to realize this as well. They are therefore investing in information technologies and communications (ITC) applications to secure access to fresh and reliable information from the market. This was one of the first comments made to Kathimerini by Giorgos Avlonitis, marketing and communication professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business, regarding the findings of the Athens Laboratory of Research in Marketing (ALARM), which he heads. Two of the main conclusions from the study were the great scope for ITC penetration in the country’s big companies and the still-formative stage of these companies’ online sales and purchases, although virtually all companies (99.8 percent) that took part in the survey use the Internet, and e-mail in particular. Eight out of 10 employees use the Internet for three hours per day for collecting information, conducting transactions with the state and banks, seeking alternative suppliers and doing market research. Again, however, the predominant characteristic is the minimal activity in online sales and purchases. «This reflects the intense reluctance of companies to accept the Internet as a new alternative channel for product and service distribution,» Avlonitis said, further noting another finding that «illustrates that the Net is more considered a channel for company and quality communication.» As many as 80.6 percent of companies have their own website, but the main reasons for its existence, particularly for construction and service companies, are to provide «information about the company history and activities as well as the promotion of products/services.» The most widely used ITCs are Local Area Networks (LAN) websites, Intranet, and Remote or Mobile Wireless WAN. However, Value-Added Networks are used by a strikingly small number of enterprises. The main reason companies adopt ITC is the quicker access it gives to data and information. Following that is improved work efficiency, standardization and simplification of business procedures and reduced operating costs. The survey makes special reference to the Open Source software program, which in the last few years has been the focus of attention, even though one in two companies polled seem not to be familiar with it. Even among those who are aware of it, though, mainly very big service providers, just three out of 10 use it. However, most of the companies not using it intend to do so within the next five years. The survey recorded the electronic transactions of 500 top companies in Greece, according to their turnover, from various sectors. It seems that nine out of 10 do not take part in any e-marketplace or auction. Online sales are made by a meager two out of 10, usually via e-mail, for the smaller companies, or via their website for the bigger ones. On top of that, «seven out of 10 companies not making online sales do not even intend to do so in the near future.» The reasons mentioned are that it does not fit their industry, e.g. in construction companies, and to a smaller extent that they «do not do retail sales.» Avlonitis commented on this finding by saying that «a very small percentage of enterprises have linked online sales with selling products and services to the consumer, although online business-to-business (B2B) sales are an established means in the US and many EU countries. As our survey shows, almost half of the companies who do sales on the Internet sell to B2B markets.» As for online buying, the survey indicates that almost one in two companies use the Internet to purchase products and/or services. Nevertheless, just 11.9 percent of those firms pay online toward those purchases, due to «the lack of security perceived about Internet transactions.» Out of the companies selling online, as many as eight out of 10 do not receive money online; payment is made through money deposits in a bank account, and just 20 percent of those companies express the intention to provide for online payments in the near future, mainly service-providing companies.