Zona Identifies E-commerce Concerns

The rapid pace of transformation in the Internet space exemplifies the time-tested observation that all things flow and nothing abides. But in the midst of one of the most dynamic sectors of the Internet today -- e-commerce -- some things are staying the same, or so it seems to enterprise e-commerce customers.

Market research firm Zona Research (www.zonaresearch.com) tracks industrywide e-commerce concerns. Over the past several quarters, Zona has charted the occurrence of an interesting phenomenon in the e-commerce space: Even as consumers are more willing to embrace e-commerce, enterprise e-commerce vendors have become increasingly wary of the medium.

According to Jack Staff, chief Internet e-commerce analyst at Zona, when asked to rank their chief e-commerce concerns, respondents to the quarterly survey identify a triad of issues as problematic. Data security, scalable integration and management of market demand were consistently highlighted over the course of about a year and a half. Zona’s research indicates that respondents’ concerns over both data security and management of market demand actually rose since last quarter.

Staff says a number of underlying causes may be responsible for the consistency of respondent concerns. He notes that today's e-commerce consumers are no longer as forgiving as in the past, a phenomenon that places the onus of expectation on e-commerce system architects. Staff speculates that the continued maturation and sophistication of e-commerce systems, coupled with the emergence of a new class of e-commerce-savvy consumers, have created a higher implicit standard for enterprises: Customers now expect e-commerce systems to be available, to be secure and to be accurate.

"Most vendors are telling us that people coming into online sites to make purchases fully expect the system to work and they expect it to work very well," Staff comments.

More consumers are taking advantage of the ease and leisure of e-commerce shopping, but a significant majority -- as high as 64 percent, according to a recent poll by research firm Jupiter Communications (www.jup.com) -- are unwilling to completely trust a Web site in the first place, even one that may feature a prominent privacy disclosure policy.

Michele Slack, an analyst with Jupiter's Online Advertising Strategies services, says the severity of this problem is in large part fueled by media over-exposure and hype. "The intense media coverage of the online privacy issue is fueling consumers' fears," she contends, noting that Web ventures haven't proactively taken their case to Web customers to seek to assuage their concerns.

The issue of data security has consistently ranked as the foremost concern among respondents to the quarterly poll, Staff says. Security as a vital concern among both consumers and e-commerce vendors is indicative of a mindset that believes no system is completely unhackable, he maintains.

"Our view on hackers is that you will never have a full-proof, totally unhackable system, period. That's a little bit like securing your home. A professional thief who wants to get into your home will be able to get into your home," Staff explains. "In the same way that there's almost no full-proof system for home security that a professional cannot break, it's the same on the Internet."

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