While many consumers are ready to buy, most businesses aren't ready to sell, according to a survey by the independent research firm Odyssey, San Francisco.
That's the bottom line in a recent report, "Taking Off: The State of Electronic Commerce in America," based on a survey of 501 business executives and 2,003 adult consumers conducted by Odyssey for Basking Ridge, N.J.-based AT&T.
About 80 million people - 45 percent of the United States population - have access to the Internet or online services, while 71 percent have access to personal computers.
While online shopping has so far been a dismal experience, the study found that people still want it - 40 percent of the group told Odyssey that they expect to buy something online in 1997 and 55 percent said they would probably do so within five years.
So far, however, only 7 percent had bought anything online.
That current record may be preventing some businesses from jumping on the electronic commerce bandwagon. Only 17 percent of business people surveyed said the Internet is "very important" in sales today, although 33 percent said it will be very important within five years. Still, 20 percent of the business executives said their customers aren't ready yet for the Internet.
The study also found that brand names will be extremely influential in electronic commerce. The fear of giving credit card numbers over the Internet is still prevalent, although most of those interviewed had bought something by phone in the past year.
Businesses are way behind, the study found, in setting up and maintaining World Wide Web pages. While it seems like every company has one, Odyssey found that half don't and still don't expect to put up a Web page within five years. Only 11 percent of companies with Web pages said they update it daily, while an additional 18 percent update weekly. About 25 percent do monthly updates.