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Local Traffic and the Global Highway

by Glen Emerson Morris
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One of the most positive effects of the Internet, and the publicity surrounding it, is that the public is becoming aware it's easy to talk to businesses via their home computer. The Internet has succeeded in a way that the commercial online services have not. Online services like Compuserve and AOL charged such high rates for businesses seeking space online that sales were limited to high price items like airline tickets and hotel reservations. Most online services found their subscribers were mainly interested in E-mail, not spending on plane tickets.

The Internet is doing better at selling goods and services because it has a mass audience appeal that the online services never had. The Internet is a perfect combination of CB radio and the wild frontier, and the fact that the Information Highway is beginning to have commercial roadstops where a person can actually buy something is only adding to the appeal of net cruising.

The recent Internet exhibition in San Jose was marked by dozens of vendors selling Internet online solutions for businesses. The audience included thousands prospective corporate buyers, looking for the latest way to put there business on the Internet. Online services don't have those kinds of crowds.

Ironically, he Internet may provide the most benefit to businesses that aren't even on it. The Internet may entice people to spend money with their computer, but most of that money will be spent locally, and businesses don't have to be on the Internet to reach local consumers.

Consider the examples of a Pizza restaurant and a car repair shop. In either case the target market is limited to a few miles from the business. People who sell Pizza in Colorado don't need to make their menu available in France, which is exactly what the Internet will do. But a Pizza restaurant could use a system which let customers call the restaurant from home with their computer, see the menu, make selections, and have those selections sent to a monitor screen near the chef. A good BBS could also let customers pay for their Pizza by credit card or bank debit card.

A car service shop could also use a BBS to let customers schedule appointments, and see sales information online, like notice of a brake special that week. Since many cars are being built with computer ports enabling them to connect to service center diagnostic computers, it's only a matter of time before they can include a phone connection so the car can be tested by the service center, while the car is still in the customers garage. This way the repair shop will know what parts to order, and approximately how long it will take to fix the car. A customer who suspects car trouble can simply have his car telephone the repair shop, run the diagnostic, and have an appointment scheduled if there's a problem.

Remote diagnostics has been used for years by IBM to provide service to businesses using IBM mainframes. When a problem happens, the computer's operators see a message saying an IBM service representative will be arriving shortly with the needed parts to fix a problem the operator doesn't even know about yet. Remote diagnostics can also be used for large appliances, like air conditioning, central heating systems, even computers. In most cases the need will be for local telephone lines.

Putting up a BBS for a local business is relatively cheap and simple. A basic BBS system with computer, modem and BBS software can cost under $1500, or about one months phone bill for a T1 line for Internet service. As a result, a local business has to do a lot less business over a BBS to make it pay for itself.

In the long term, traffic on BBS systems for local consumer to business communication will probably dwarf business traffic on the Internet. The success of local systems will be due to the Internet, but the profits will go to the smaller business, and the advertising agencies and computer consultants who help them go online.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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