Is Scotland stuck in a digital noughties time warp?
Given the current obsession with eCommerce, it would seem so.
In the last eighteen months, we have seen:
- Newspaper headlines claiming that eCommerce is the ‘biggest thing in business today’
- Publication of the SQW eCommerce Report for Scottish Enterprise
- The recommendation that a Scottish University should launch an MSc in eCommerce
- Announcement of the eCommerce Forum and Awards by ScotlandIS
- A major initiative by Scottish Enterprise to promote Global eCommerce – ‘one shop front, 7 billion customers’
If only it was that easy.
As described recently by an expert in the field, eCommerce is about ‘selling stuff online’. Are we really going to gamble the future export competitiveness of the Scottish economy on our ability to sell ‘stuff’? If so, a number of legitimate questions need to be addressed by those pushing the current eCommerce agenda:
- Why have previous eCommerce initiatives failed? Please refer to the following two press releases from June 2000 – ‘Nicol Stephen urges Scottish firms to make e-commerce their business‘ and ‘Henry McLeish launches drive to promote e-commerce‘. Why, 13 years later, has eCommerce not become ‘an integral part of the business community’?
- Are we really that naïve (or arrogant) to think that there are 7 billion global customers just waiting to buy Scottish products online if only our companies would start ‘selling stuff’?
- Do we actually have a critical mass of companies in Scotland who can significantly improve our export performance if only they would sell online? If so, why are they currently not doing it, 13 years after we made eCommerce a strategic priority for the Scottish economy?
- Is it right to provide public sector support to such sleeping giants, if they actually exist?
- Why does the Scottish Enterprise web page promoting Global eCommerce use a video of a brewery where you can only buy online from the UK mainland? Is there a problem exporting beer ‘stuff’ to 7 billion potential customers worldwide?
My own view, for what its worth, is that the current obsession with eCommerce is highly damaging to the future export competitiveness of the Scottish economy. It diverts attention away from the real digital challenge facing Scottish industry in global markets – how do we survive and prosper in an era of constantly connected, highly empowered global customers? This requires new approaches and new mindsets radically different from the current ‘build it and they will come‘, ‘sell stuff online‘ approach currently in vogue.
I am fully aware of the politically incorrect nature of this post. However, our future international competitiveness depends on thinking like Clayton Christensen and Brian Solis rather than Arthur Daley or ‘Del Boy’ Trotter.
Are we happy to pretend that 2013 is the same as 2000? Or are we willing to accept that it is now the ‘End of Business as Usual‘?
Comments and feedback are very welcome (Please Note: due to a recent spam problem, all comments will require ‘approval’. We will normally do this same day).
Dr Jim Hamill