Gordon Brown has referred to the internet as the "High Street" of the future. There is very little doubt that more and more people every day shop via their computer. There is even talk of extending it beyond computers and on to TV screens and mobile phones. This is probably happening as I write.
When parking near shops is a nightmare, when shopping in no longer a pleasure but a tedious job to find something, what could be more convenient, comfortable and easier than going it all from your own armchair at home or even at the office.
In addition to the time, parking fines and petrol saved, most products purchased via the INternet are cheaper because the supplier's selling costs are lower. The saving can be substantial.
While at one time the only products available might have been CDs, games and books, now the range of products and services available is quite estensive and it is increasing all the time. The "Cyber High Street" can provide banking, insurance, holidays, food, homes, clothes, jewellery, electrical goods and lots more.
Every new computer sol these days is provided with the availability of an Internet connection. Count the computers sold in a day and the numbers may well amaze you. One in two persons in the U.S.A. is switched on, in Britain the ratio is one to five and the rst of Europe is catching up fast.
There are millions and millions of Cyber suppliers, from all over the world, offering their goods and services right into your home. Here in Spain, the number of companies on the Internet is increasing on a daily basis, at a marked pace. Well it does make sense! You can cut out the intermediaries, you do not need larger premises, you do not need a posh address, you can reduce the number of sales staff and all of this can result in more competitive selling prices, larger stocks and more profit.
Does this mean the end of the "High Street" as we know it? No, not quite, I do not think so. There are still some items which need to be felt as well as seen, like for example the texture of a material and the smell of a perfume. The search for the home of your dream may be made easier with the aid of the rapidly andancing technology. You may be able to enter evry room of a house right from your screen, but you will still need to see it and feel it for yourself before making your final commitment. Who knows? Perhaps one day it may be possible to touch and smell what you see on the screen! Nobody believed the Great Michelangelo and Jules Verne at the time of their fantastic claims.
Some human needs cannot be replaced by science, not in the foreseeable future anyway and they represent the obvious limitations.
These are needs that will ensure the survival of the High Street Shops.
How to find something or how to be found on the Internet, is yet another problem . As anyone with experience of the Internet will know, it can be quite frustrating to find exactly what one is looking for, particularly so, when you might have something better to do than to spend hours in front of a screen searching, while running up the phone bill.
You may well know what you are looking for, but the "system" does not, with the result that what you get is a lot of meaningless names and information, most of which have very little to do with what you are really interested in. When you finally locate what seems to be what you wanted and obtain your information, you are left with a feeling of uncertainty. "Is this all there was?" - "Could there have been something I missed out?"-"Perhaps there was something better, if only I searched further?" How can you be sure that you have looked into the right and most suitable source of service, supply or information? Are you then confident enough to actually part with money and buy what you see?
By the same token, suppliers have a similar problem. With the millions and millions of other sources of goods, services and information available on the Internet, the chances of being found by a potential client are equivalent to winning a lottery . As the number of companies on the Internet increases at a daily rate, it may well be that winning the lottery will eventually offer better odds.
This is where the "Cyber High Street" begins to fail both the suppliers as well as the clients. This is when the suppliers, who have spent considerable sums of money to be on the Internet, start to get disheartened with the level of sales via the Internet and even fail to update their pages. The large number of visitors to a WEB page sounds all very good, some might even spend money, but surfers, who do it for fun, generally are not shoppers.