How Catalog Companies will Use the Internet

The Internet is the name for the international network of computers that has grown up over the past 25 years. The Internet is not owned by any single organization. Almost all online services provide access to it. Anyone who subscribes to one of these services is on the Internet. According to recent estimates, there are now 30-35 million people on the Internet.

The World Wide Web defines a graphical interface to the Internet. The web makes it possible to view both text and images, and you don't have to type anything to use it. You just point and click, and instantly you are talking to a computer in another state, or even another country.

Estimates of the number of people with web access range between 5 and 10 million. A recent Newsweek poll found this group to be ``more educated and more affluent than the general population.''

Microsoft is said to be planning to include web-browsing software in an upcoming version of Windows. By then, if not before, almost everyone who uses a computer will also be able to use the web.

A company's presence on the web is called a web site. A web site consists of web pages, which can contain text and color images, just like pages in a magazine or catalog. Once you have established a web site, people with web access will be able to see it from anywhere in the world for the cost of a local phone call.

For companies in all businesses, the web will be an important sales tool. For catalog companies, especially, the web has decisive advantages over paper:

We do not expect that the web will replace printed catalogs. We do expect that it will eventually account for a substantial fraction of catalog sales. The Internet, like the telephone and the print media, will be a valuable sales tool for those who know how to use it.

The web is probably best considered in the way you might consider a potential retail space. Does renting a good space automatically yield sales? No, but it certainly helps. A good location gets attention, and a well-designed store inspires respect. The same is true on the Internet.

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