Saturday, October 16, 2004

What Hinders E-commerce in Pakistan?

As the Internet continues to infiltrates our lives, the digitization of business processes is becoming akin to enterprise survival. While the western corporations have shifted some or all of their processes to the digital world, Pakistan has yet to trap the monster. Amongst a number of other compelling reasons for this failure, the consumers' skeptical attitude towards the electronic paradigm is the most visible hindrance. According to market research firms, over a trillion dollars in revenue would be generated through the Internet by the year-end. Clearly, Internet may just have the answer to some of our macroeconomic problems like employment and poverty.

The customer awareness is mandatory for survival of e-commerce in Pakistan. Customers must be made to understand that a transaction over the Internet is only as risky as its offline counterpart. The digital world is no different than the real world in terms of fraud and theft. On the contrary, Internet is a haven for consumers with a restricted budget that offers convenient and cost-effective access to the global markets. Building the customers' confidence should, thus, be the cornerstone of any ecommerce promotion initiative in Pakistan. The companies must take a proactive approach by educating the customers on the pros of e-commerce.

As a first step, e-enabled companies should use the Internet to facilitate business processes that do not require the customer to delve out any personal information over the Internet. Since the aim is to alter the perception and the misperceptions of ecommerce, customer services and customer relationship management (CRM) programs are the optimum candidates for rudimentary digitization in Pakistan. According to Gartner Group, 68 percent of all customers switch over because of poor customer service. If this is not enough to make our IT pundits and managers listen, then what is?

CRM is the fundamental means of increasing sales. Whereas, such initiatives involved significant costs in the past, the digital era seeks to impress upon other investments such as organizational commitment to customer satisfaction. Money is no longer a stress factor. In other words, CRM via Internet comes really cheap if you consider the long-term benefits of a solid and trustworthy relationship with your customers. There are plenty of sites that offer CRM programs - just do a search on Google. You can also check out and

We have to understand that customer confidence is a function of organizational commitment to the customers. In the digital era, where there is a massive influx of quality information, customers have to be pampered and treated like royalty. Trust is the key element of any relationship and the one formed with your customers should not lack it. The goal of customer satisfaction should be communicated subliminally to smooth out the public's apprehensions about transactions on the Internet.

The e-commerce mantra also dictates an expansion of services to facilitate transactions. Currently, Citibank is the only one to offer Internet merchant accounts that accept Pakistani Rupee credit cards on the Web. It is not about growth of e-commerce in Pakistan. Rather, the question remains whether Pakistan has what it takes to capitalize on the tools of e-commerce. Just as malls and markets characterized the pre-digital era, the future is almost certain to be dominated by e-commerce.

No comments: