E-commerce is not the new Eldorado

What will e-commerce be like in the coming years? What traps should be avoided and what advice should be followed? In his work entitled E-commerce: good practices for success, Damien Jacob, a visiting professor at the University of Liege, reviews the current status of on-line sales and expected developments in the sector while explaining from the outset, that, in spite of the double-digit growth usually observed, the expected Eldorado needs to be put into perspective…

COVER e-commerce“Selling shoes online will never catch on”! Advice is cheap. Damien Jacob who has been a visiting professor since 2002 at the HEC – School of Management of the University of Liege and the Haute Ecole de la Province de Liège (College of Higher Education of the Province of Liege), learned this to his cost when he declared to his first students that consumers would never agree to buy bootees, sandals or other purchases on the web because they would not be able to try them on beforehand. “One of my biggest blunders”, he writes today, in the introduction to his new work, E-commerce: good practices for success (1).

Eleven years later, strengthened by the knowledge that shoes were indeed one of the products which made it possible to popularize online stores, Damien Jacob regretfully reiterates that he does not possess a crystal ball which would enable him to predict the future of this fast-moving sector. But in his book, he ventures to predict the main developments which are likely to occur during the coming years. 

“I had the idea to write this book in the context of my profession, explains the man who, in addition to his duties as a Professor, is an expert in information technology and communication at the AWT (Walloon Telecommunications Agency). I had noticed that many companies that we were helping to launch their activity on the internet were doing the wrong thing”.  Damien Jacob therefore intends to speak to new entrepreneurs who are in the process of setting up their business on the net, but also to already-established companies that wish to optimize their chances of success.

Failure and success factors

His work, E-commerce: good practices for success, is in two parts. The first part conducts an inventory of the sector and deals with possible developments within it, while the second (and more voluminous) part, focusses on “how to sell on-line (also)”. The work is a practical guide which deals with all the stages involved in transforming an idea into reality, from the moment the strategy is defined, to its daily management, and concludes by recounting the stories of people involved in e-commerce who share their good and bad experiences. 

To complete this work, Damien Jacob carried out a survey among some seventy specialized participants in order to identify failure and success factors. At the same time he prudently points out that making reliable predictions about the future is a dangerous exercise, even for period as short-term as three or five years. “It would not be surprising, indeed it might well be true to say that, within a few years, the advice given in this book will have become irrelevant or even obsolete”, he affirms.

(1) JACOB Damien, E-commerce : les bonne spratiques pour réussir, Liège, Edipro, 2013.

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