Pilgrim’s progress

What are the major challenges facing e-tailers in the new dot-com era? Leveraging brand partnerships, managing demand and improving customer care, according to Toronto-based consultancy J.C. Williams Group and industry participants in a recent e-retailing workshop.

“”The priorities have not necessarily

changed,”” says analyst Jim Okamura in the Chicago office of the J.C. Williams Group. “”But the goal has changed from being first to market and building market share at any cost, to being profitable.””

As a group, leading U.S. e-tailers became profitable in 2001, adds Okamura. In Canada, this country’s leading e-tailers, including Future Shop, Indigo Books and Music Inc., Canadian Tire and Sears Canada, are not profitable as a group.

The biggest concern Canadians have about shopping online pertain to privacy and security, according to the Toronto office of Ipsos-Reid.

Canadian e-tailers have however, made strides in customer care. Toronto-based Novator Systems Ltd., a $10-million provider e-commerce solutions, is helping clients deliver post-sale service. Say you made a purchase from Mississauga, Ont.-based Grocery Gateway Inc. and your lettuce arrives wilted. With Novator Systems’ technology you can use a live-chat engine to talk to a computer that will refund your purchase in a minute or two. You bypass holding on the phone, or sending an e-mail and waiting hours for a reply.

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