NEWS

Online transactions slow to catch on

Greek consumers as yet are not familiar with the practice of online shopping, although the country’s commercial sector has adopted it with somewhat more enthusiasm. A positive sign for the electronic market is the interest shown in a venture by the Plaisio firm that began in May 1999 (at www.plaisio.gr, www.plaisio.2b.gr and www.plaisiowap.gr). To date, e-sales have totaled 4.4 million euros. Computer marketing director Grigoris Kranos attributes the success to the «multi-channel system.» «Companies that dealt solely in electronic sales have closed,» Kranos told Kathimerini. «The secret is a system that includes many aspects of the traditional store, with catalogs, sales to consumers, sales to companies and purchases via cell phone. An individual consumer who sees a product online will want to come down to the store to talk about it with the salesperson, while a company will order by telephone. For the time being, the Internet is used as a source of information and not as a means of commerce in Greece. It will be a long time before people are confident enough to buy products and carry out transactions over the Internet,» he said. Meanwhile, G. Terpsidis, one of the founders of ONIA-Net, believes that Greeks associate shopping with «going out for a coffee.» E-shopping at supermarkets is not as widespread as some people imagine. One supermarket chain in Greece initiated an online service a few years ago with just one customer. Now it has 40. Another kind of sales to consumers is the group-buying model that first appeared in the USA. The larger the number of buyers, the lower the price. In Greece, AHEAD RM provides such a service. On its site www.snowball.gr, it is possible to buy everything from books to electrical goods, cigarettes to holidays and even car accessories. According to the company’s managing director, P. Kordonouris, there are between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors to the site each month, but revenue has by no means covered the site’s operating costs that are met by the holding company Costamare, which is targeting not only current but future customers. Another form of commerce that is slowly gaining ground is the auction business. At the site in.gr, customers can bid at a number of auctions for everything from holiday tickets to furniture and flowers. According to the service director of OTEnet’s e-Epiheirein, A. Lyrantonakis, the two websites (auctions.otenet.gr and ra.otenet.gr) are receiving a large number of visitors and carrying out plenty of sales but are by no means OTEnet’s main income earner. A different service is provided by cosmONE (www.b2bauctions.gr) for auctions between businesses. Lyrantonakis added that despite the difficult conditions last year, there were 96 e-auctions, 166 percent more than the previous year. Electronic retail companies without «traditional» stores (in other countries those aimed at specialized markets have done well) are not common in Greece, nor are those that sell by mail order, which are also popular abroad. These days, hopes for a move into the electronic age rest with the young and with the Olympic Games – as information technology enters the school curriculum and prospective Olympic spectators are forced to log onto the Internet to acquire tickets.