Rapid developments expected in e-commerce in next few years

Any previous reservations Greeks may have had about e-shopping seem to be disappearing. The percentage of people who bought products online rose from 4 percent in 2002 to 13 percent last year. The January 2008 turnover for was 9.2 million euros, up from 8.5 million euros in December. About 500,000 Greeks log on to that site every month. However, it is Plaisio’s online store that seems to be really taking off. A recent survey by Focus-Bari showed it has overtaken popular sites, such as Amazon and eBay. «We may not have caught up with the Americans yet (about 30 percent of all purchases in the USA are made online), but we can say that we do have online shopping in Greece, and there will soon be rapid developments,» said Professor G. Doukidis, of Athens University of Economics and Business’s Administrative Science Department. «I estimate that in four to five years’ time, there will be a million online shoppers in Greece and annual purchases will total more than 500 million euros.» He believes e-consumers prefer stores that combine online sales with prompt delivery and good service. «It is also crucial that online stores offer more services than conventional stores. For example, 30 percent of Aegean Airlines tickets are sold online, precisely because passengers can choose their seats, something that they can’t do through a travel agent,» explained Doukidis. According to a National Statistics Service survey on e-commerce in 2007, the lion’s share of online purchases in Greece (29.7 percent) is in tourism services (tickets, package deals, hotel accommodation), followed by books, magazines, newspapers, online education (21.2 percent) and software, computers and video games (18.1 percent). Greek Web-shoppers also like to buy CDs and DVDs (15.9 percent), clothes (14.5 percent), as well as concert, theater and cinema tickets (11.8 percent). Only a small percentage (3.4 percent) buys food online. Most of these modern consumers are young, aged 16-34, most of them are university graduates (64.2 percent) and wage earners (61.8 percent). Experts say the only restriction on e-shopping is the relatively low level of access (only 33.4 percent of Greeks have Internet access), as well as the fear of a virus getting into one’s personal data. «I use e-banking a lot,» said Doukidis. «Once or twice the bank called me to ask about an unusual transaction. One of those times someone had in fact accessed my credit card number. But the more often we make transactions online, the better the services will be.» Greek students have found out they don’t need to work long hours as a waiter to pay their way through university – as long as they have a computer and a fast Internet connection. «A lot of my students earn extra money by working for companies abroad from their homes,» said Professor Michalis Vafopoulos of the University of the Aegean, who has for some years been exploring the possibilities of e-working. Many more earn extra cash by taking part in online advertising surveys. Most of these moonlighters are the self-employed who already work from home as webpage designers, programmers, journalists, architects and accountants. «The question is always one of productivity,» said Vafopoulos. Multinationals have carried out pilot programs in Greece that allow mid-level employees to work two days a week from home. There have been positive results, but the culture for this kind of work does not exist in Greece. When you work from home, you lose some of your prestige, your power. We have linked one’s presence with productivity.» The experts believe that working from home will not easily take off in Greece. «Psychologists say that it is good to separate not only the roles, but the places in which they exist. I believe that in a few years there will be a mixed system that will provide workers with flexibility. High-definition television screens will make e-conferencing child’s play,» he said. Meanwhile, studying from home has been made much easier with the Internet. Nancy, a 38-year-old working mother of two, has just received her diploma in business management from Leicester University, attending «classes» from home.