The Dot-Com Explosion
By Melissa Roglitz
It's really quite humorous to think that two three-letter syllables sum up the entire future of business: dot-com. Usually some intellectual or some government bureaucrat or some business entrepreneur creates a seven- to 10-syllable word to describe something so phenomenally important to the way we do anything, in this case business. But not this time. No. Just dot-com. Say it out loud three or four times in a row. Sounds funny, doesn't it? Dot-com stands for an estimated $106 billion in revenues worldwide. Dot-com stands for a forecasted $634 billion to $2.8 trillion in electronic transactions between U.S. businesses in 2003. Dot-com now also stands for a new way of doing business in aviation.
Dot-com aviation businesses are popping up like dandelions in spring. But they're not all covering the same lawn and they're not all yellow. Different aviation areas are addressed and each dot-com company goes about their business in a slightly different manner. Some companies provide directory services, some offer a suite of services for your maintenance records - making them available anywhere anytime by logging onto a web site, and some offer aviation search engines. Emerging as the most popular, though, (and the focus of this article) seem to be the sites that offer a meeting ground for buyers and sellers of parts and, or services. And more than several of these currently exist.
Where it all began
The idea of bringing buyers and sellers together using an interactive service is not a new one. In fact, the notion is over 20 years old. Inventory Locator Service®, Inc. (ILS) has been offering online buying and selling services since 1979 - before "online" was even a global concept - using a dial-up service.
As Vice President Rick Greenwald of ABDOnline.com, a free online searchable part number database, noted, "ILS is sort of like the grandfather - it's been around for 20 years. They did a very admirable job because when they started out, most people still had their inventory on a manual card system."
To where it has evolved
With competition already there, ILS is now making the move to the Internet; however, the company is still offering its original dial-up service and isn't forcing users to switch to the Internet service.
ILS President Bruce Langsen said, "We've introduced a whole new set of services for the Internet that seem to pull them across (from the dial-up service). About 40 percent of our customers now access us via the Internet."
Other dot-coms haven't copied ILS, but they have spun off of ILS' original concept. And they all have a plan to get your business and keep it.
The different ploys
For free or not for free, that is the question
ABDOnline.com's Greenwald believes his company's no-cost services will capture users.
"Free is going to beat paid every day of the week. I think this is how it's going to shake out and it seems logical. There will end up being two or three major services like in any segment of the industry. But I don't think any of these will be able to charge suppliers to list their inventory because we're not doing it. And I don't think they'll be able to charge the buyers to access it . . . because we offer it for free. They're [other dot-com businesses] going to have to survive off the advertising, like we're doing."
On the other side of that is Langsen of ILS: "Most of our customers are more oriented to value than price. We do have some very price-sensitive customers, but they're in the minority. Most everybody else is interested in what's going to help them today, tomorrow, and next year. . . . The fact is, we charge for the service and we just set new records for inventory listed on the service in May. While people are certainly willing to list their inventory for free in some cases, the fact is they're willing to pay for that service if they feel like they're getting good value."
Keeping the traditional methods of operation or changing them?
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