My first transaction online was registering and paying for a piece of shareware software at Kagi.com for my Mac whilst I was still in college. I can’t remember what it did now, but I remember that the author was a student at a Scottish university. The first physical item was bought from Boxman a few years later.
The first thing I purchased online in what most people would understand as e-commerce was a Kevin ‘Reese Saunderson CD under the name e-dancer from Boxman.com. I can remember why I loved Boxman.I had read about them in an article in the Sunday Times, it was a way of getting CDs from all over Europe in one place, Boxman would buy at the lowest price, consolidate their stock in one warehouse in Holland and pass on much of the savings to the consumer.
(CDWOW have a similar approach and have incurred the wraith of the record industry who like to have keep up market barriers to maximise profit margins.)I picked up an import copy of the Troubleman soundtrack by Marvin Gaye, when I couldn’t get a UK copy on back order from HMV. The mix of choice and price the e-commerce killer application for me.
Unfortunately Boxman.com unraveled for a number of reasons. Usability experts put it down the search function on the site being the only way for finding what you were looking for (although I had no trouble). Tony Salter, one of the directors in the business laid the fault at the foot of the software which controlled the supply chain of the site. In order to fulfill on its promise, Boxman needed to:
- Track wholesale prices and cost of delivery across Europe, including comparison pricing for the same product with different national catalogue numbers
- Organise shipping in the most effective and efficient manner
- Track customer orders and trends
- Calculate the most effective and efficient ways to ship goods
This was on top of the complex website functions visible to the consumer. The system would be much more complex than your typical JD Edwards ERP set-up, so Boxman got some of the brightest names in IT to help out: IBM. The project seems to have been a learning experience for IBM as the software failed to deliver on its promise. Anyway, Slate.com have a timely reminder on the importance of logistics management, before we all get lost in reverie around web services revolutionising the online world. More related content here.