In the beginning...

My, how times have changed. This site was started in 1994 (I even think it was my first Web site) - a time before E-commerce, secure transactions and big corporate presence on the Web. I started it as a way to keep track of contact information for companies that put out physical mail order catalogs. A company having a website then was the absolute exception to the rule.

A snippet in a recent new iTunes feature caught my eye as I was preparing this update,

"Digital distribution is no longer an afterthought. It is today's dominant medium for consuming music and as such needs to be treated with utmost care and attention."
This is just as true of commerce on the Web these days - no longer an afterthought, it has become a full first-class citizen in the retailing world. Today, all companies have an online presence - it is absolute folly if they don't. It is also highly unusual for a company that does retail business to NOT provide a way to purchase their goods on the Web.

A + B = $$$

In the "old days", the equation looked like this:

  • Company sells only through brick-and-mortar stores
  • Company sells only through mail order catalog
  • Company sells both ways

Now that we add selling online to the equation, the matrix of possibilities becomes complex. There are many companies today which only sell products online - no catalogs or physical store fronts. And with the costs of sending a physical catalog through the mail rising every year, that can only increase.

It's a matter of trust

Commerce on the Web is all about trust. We often have precious little evidence to use in deciding whether to spend money at a website. Creating a portal that shoppers want to spend their time and money on is worthwhile to a company's bottom line. I've found that the companies with a strong mail order catalog background often have the deepest pockets to create such sites. There are also some companies that would rather spend their marketing budget on an e-commerce web site than on a physical catalog. In the end, you want to spend your effort (and cash) on a place that you can trust will sell you quality goods, at fair prices and in a timely manner - with customer service you can count on. You don't want a fly-by-night operation that will disappear tomorrow.

Ooo! Pretty!

You can tell a lot about a business by how much effort they've put into their web site, how modern their site looks and how often their site/content is updated, but don't let shiny widgets and pretty colors be your only guide. In the end, you must do your own homework to satisfy yourself that you can trust any of these, or other companies you find on the Web. What is provided here are pointers and snippets of information to help inform those big decisions of who or what to trust.

Good luck and happy shopping!