In Brief

After 1998’s e-Christmas shopping season, most observers predicted a slowdown for digital retail sales. But a new study shows that the momentum of consumer e-commerce hasn’t skipped a beat.

On-line retailers in the U.S. and Canada will have collected US$36.6 billion during 1999, according to the report entitled The State of Online Retailing 2.0, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group for Internet retail trade association The 1999 forecast is a 145 per cent increase over 1998’s revenues of US$14.9 billion, which comprised 0.5 per cent of all retail sales in the U.S. and Canada. From 1998 to 1999, the number of orders received by digital retailers increased 200 per cent and the number of shoppers visiting these sites increased 300 per cent.


A new code for e-commerce conduct is well on its way to final approval by a council of hundreds of Internet businesses. But one industry analyst firm isn’t waiting.

The first draft of the rules, drawn up by the Council of Internet Commerce – which would require features such as privacy notices, product warranty information and order histories – met with overwhelming approval in on-line voting by the membership, which includes companies such as, Federal Express, iMall and Almost 200 of the council’s members voted on the first draft of the standard. The only provision dropped from that draft was one requiring order notifications via e-mail, because such a requirement might have unfairly burdened small businesses, critics said. The rules were to be ready by December.


Hiring managers are clamoring for Web skills this quarter. But they’re not desperate for Web developers anymore. With e-commerce taking off in just about every industry, information technology hiring managers now want seasoned professionals to turn their Web sites into moneymakers.

“Retail stores like the Gap, Ann Taylor, Nine West and Ethan Allen need to get their sites up and running competitively on-line. Everybody is screaming for knowledge of the business – those who understand how to grow the business philosophy in IT,” said Lina Fafard, executive recruiter at Montgomery West, a search firm based in Torrance, Calif.

Hiring managers need Web architects and designers to build and maintain their e-commerce backbones. They’re also looking for back-office integrators to tie Web interfaces to their sales and accounting applications. And they need directors of Web infrastructure projects to provide strategic planning and electronic business strategists to provide marketing direction.

This is great news for people with Internet skills. Many of them can expect six-figure salaries, say job placement professionals.


A growing number of Web retailers, from Victoria’s Secret to Reader’s Digest Association Inc., are outsourcing or considering off-loading pieces of their e-commerce operations, especially Web server hosting.

In fact, Frost & Sullivan, a Mountain View, Calif., marketing consulting company, expects the U.S. Web hosting service market to soar to US$4.04 billion this year – a 256 per cent increase over the US$1.13 billion collected last year.

“The demands posed by e-commerce on lots of firms will force them to outsource to get the technical expertise as well as the physical and network resources that they need,” said Jeanne Schaaf, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

But Schaaf cautioned that the Web outsourcing market is immature. “Users don’t always know where to go because the Web hosting companies aren’t always clear what they’re about,” Schaaf said.