Ignore cyberspace at your peril

Australian businesses can afford to ignore the internet no longer, was the chief sentiment expressed at an Australian Financial Markets Association seminar yesterday.

According to Sausage Software CEO Wayne Bos, Yahoo local managing director Tony Faure, and Commonwealth Securities director and chief operations officer Paul Rickard, companies need to rethink their entire business models in order to retain a competitive advantage in the internet economy.

Using the internet as a platform for business, as well as customer relationship, is tantamount, the executives agreed.

"Don't redesign your website. Redesign your company," Bos advised. "Don't just leave it up to your IT department."

However, qualified Rickard, business plans need to be proven viable, whether they're web-oriented or not.

The trio of dot-com execs agreed that a newfound customer "obsession" was required in order to differentiate one internet company from the next.

"We are dealing with an age which is driven by consumers, not an age which is driven by computers," Faure said. "Consumers don't care about technology unless it doesn't work."

Rickard said the Commonwealth Bank went to great effort to understand its customer demographic. Most of ComSec's customers are young (18-29 year olds), wealthy, educated males, he said.

Only 25 per cent of Commonwealth Bank's "offline" customers held credit cards, compared with 75 per cent of the bank's online customers, he said.

Despite current e-commerce market turbulence, Bos predicted that the total market capitalisation of Australia's online economy would have grown sixfold in less than six years. This greater wealth will be divided up between fewer companies, he said.

"Time is not on your side," he warned.

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