My wife was shopping online this past week. While she was watching the rich-media cat walk feature on asos.com, which is now the norm for clothing retailer websites, it occurred to me how things have changed. Moreover, how our expectations have dramatically evolved.
On a regular basis I hear friends, colleagues and business partners complain about the perceived speed of their internet connection – web pages not loading fast enough, unable to reach a particular website, or a poor user experience on Skype. Consumers are demanding more – more broadband speed, better applications and abundant availability.
Apparently, raised expectations are a key theme for the East London Tech City initiative. How did we get here?
Let’s go back in time to 15 years ago, when I was a teenager, and we all were content with very basic online connectivity. I remember our family’s first PC at home — it came equipped with dial-up internet access, chugging along at 56kbps. This was our gateway to a world of new possibilities.
Notable Advances in Online Retail
The path of our evolution included some potholes. Back in 1998 a new company was born, boo.com, which was later considered one of the biggest flops in internet history — not because of their business model, but because (in hindsight) they were too far ahead of their time.
The Boo.com online experience theoretically allowed consumers to have a 360 degree view of the product on display. However, in practice, viewing this multimedia rich website via an analogue modem was very problematic. Fast-forward to the present day and asos.com can, in contrast, deliver a vastly superior shopping experience — due to the availability of residential broadband internet access services.
But it wasn’t just boo.com that had a business plan somewhat ahead of its time. Back to 1999 you could order your groceries online via webvan.com, and request a prompt delivery to your door. The concept seemed a good fit for the busy lifestyles of many consumers. But this experiment also failed to reach expectations.
The intended webvan.com innovation stumbled partly because of the unsatisfactory online experience, coupled with their decision to quickly spend $1 billion on their physical delivery network of vehicles. Now, jump forward only 3 years later, as internet speeds were increasing and becoming more widely available, the delivery network of Ocado (via Waitrose) enabled it to become a successful online grocery service.
Anticipating a Multitude of e-Commerce Applications
A key factor that determined the success or failure of these start-ups was the pervasive access to the essential telecom infrastructure. That said, some people believe that symmetrical broadband speeds are often inadequate for today’s rapidly growing interactive HD video applications such as YouTube. Some already complain they experience a slow response from websites via their smartphones, even while using the latest 3G wireless networks.
To date, this demand of faster broadband has been driven by the consumer markets with currently 20% of all internet traffic being video. But with the shift that is currently happening, Cisco predicted in its most recent VNI report, that by 2015 this figure will be nearer 90% of all internet traffic will be video – with the charge predominately being led by business users.
With the ever increasing mobile application (App) market and more and more people using their smartphone or tablet devices to shop online — or perhaps access their bank account — mobile service providers must continue to invest in their wireless broadband network capacity.
If more mobile apps rely upon cloud-based services, then service providers will once again need to anticipate the increased demands on their essential network platform. They’ll need to install more fibre optic backhaul circuits from a growing number of cell sites. They’ll certainly need to expand their intelligent network coverage. It’s an acknowledged imperative for the continued evolution of 21st century e-commerce and m-commerce (Mobile-Commerce).
BIG things are happening, at the heart of the digital revolution.
Take a look at this video to learn more.
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