There are as many predictions for life and business in 2000 and beyond as there are people making them. But there are some certainties-things we can count on not to change with the flip of a calendar page-that will remain constant as long as there are buyers and sellers. Here are a few of them:
• The Internet, and particularly e-commerce, will continue to be a growing factor in how business is conducted. Experts say 183 million consumers will be making on-line purchases by 2003. Most of them will begin by using the Web to research products before they buy. By 2003 the market for these "researched products" sold on-line is expected to reach $56 billion.
• Quality products always will be in demand. That goes not only for each individual product sold, but for each business as a whole. Part of every business' product line is its expertise and customer service before and after the sale.
• Advertising pays. There is always a potential customer out there looking for a product or service you provide. But customers will never know you exist unless you tell them. An advertising program consistent with your market niche will draw target customers to you.
• There always will be somebody willing to beat your price. Discounting prices may lead to higher volumes, but the gains are short-lived. Smart, successful businesses know what margins they need to make and set prices accordingly factoring in custom services consumers can't get elsewhere.
• Your best customers will always be repeat customers and referrals. Each new customer should become a repeat customer, and each repeat customer should refer you to others. Striving for this type of customer loyalty ensures future business-next month, next year, next time they call you.
• Strange things will continue to happen, some foreseeable others not. Arch-rival competitors will merge, national warehouse outlets will open small, local retail shops . . . whatever. The flexibility to handle twists of fate is a mark of a successful business.
We hear time and time again from successful retailers around the country that there's plenty of business out there for everyone. That seems to be a constant, also. As long as there are homes with windows, there will be a market to be served. Those businesses committed to success will be around to serve it.