COMPANIES LIKE DELL COMPUTER HAVE MADE THEIR FORTUNES by making electronic commerce work through all aspects of the business, not just up front on the web. "You can increase sales on the web, but you can't be a successful online merchant without integrating shipping, inventory and customer service," says Microsoft's Alejandro Villanueva. "Latin America doesn't have that integration." But Latin America does have courier services, all ready and willing to fill the gap. We'll be the logistics provider and integrate systems with both buyer and seller," says DHL's Bert Bertagna.
Shippers are visualizing important new roles for themselves, from brokering payments to creating portal shopping sites and owning the only face to face contact with the buyer in the new world of virtual commerce.
Needs in Latin America remain at a much more basic level. "Trade laws date back to the 18th Century," says UPS's John Menna. "Our customers see e-commerce as a way to break through all that. They say 'forget the laws, let's just do it."' "Doing it" refers to getting the goods through customs, still the most worrisome and feared steps of Internet transactions. Patience and money are the best solutions. "The barriers force our prices up," says Menna. "But people buy anyway."