01 May 1997

ELECTRONIC COMMERCE is still in its infancy and has barely touched core household buying. Predictions about its future size and shape should be treated with some scepticism, warns Cyberhype, a report by the Credit Card Research Group. By the time a critical mass of households is able to gain easy online access, how the Internet is used and conventional shopping trends may have changed dramatically, says CCRG. Internet commerce is much more likely to influence the way people shop than totally to replace conventional methods: marketing, information and placing basic orders by E-mail are the most likely uses for cyber-shopping. Comments Peter Welch, economic advisor to the CCRG and co-author of the report: 'In the immediate future, the Internet is likely to make most impact in terms of how retailers market and communicate with their customers. But for the time being, shoppers show every sign of preferring the 'hands-on' experience of shopping - particularly food shopping.' Plastic cards are the preferred way [is there another?] to pay for cyber-shopping, and consumers will gradually lose their fears over giving their credit card details in net transactions as they gain confidence in the security measures, Elizabeth Phillips, CCRG director, forecasts: 'Within two or three years, shoppers are likely to regard giving their card details over the Internet as safe as giving them over the phone - in reality, it will be safer.'