A recent issue of the New York Times reported on an entrepreneurial
company, TowerStream, that is working with emerging technology capable
of providing high-speed wireless Internet service from a single,
centrally located antenna. An antenna mounted on a tall building,
for example, could provide data transmission to users as far away
as 30 miles. What makes this news item interesting is that Internet
service would be possible without having to tear up streets or dig
trenches to lay the cables. And, because this service would bypass
all the telephone and cable television companies that control the
actual wiring, it is cheaper.
For a company to make this sort of an investment and to take this
much risk there has to be a payoff. The payoff is the increasing
number of high-speed Internet users and the increasing usage of
the Internet. To say the World Wide Web has “caught on”
is a charmingly old-fashioned understatement.
As a case in point, take Draperies & Window Coverings. In 1996
we began posting each monthly issue of D&WC online (www.DWConline.com).
Since then we’ve added many useful features including an index
to articles (listed by topic and by author), a searchable version
of our annual Directory & Buyer’s Guide and online classified
ads. Once, we were happy to say several thousands of industry professionals
visited our site regularly. Today, we average 900,000 hits a month
(at times we have gone past the million mark) from an average of
100,000 visitors a month.
Yes, Americans are quickly approaching the point where each home
has more Internet-connected computers than it has TVs. And that
begs the question: What are people doing on the Internet?
First and foremost they are sending and reading e-mail. More than
54 million Americans do this daily. But a large portion of them
is doing something more useful to businesses: they are researching
a product or service. More than 21 million Americans do this online
every day. Are they buying online? Yes, some products they are,
but not nearly as many are buying as are researching. I can only
speculate, or course, but once these customers begin researching
online that indicates they have already made the decision to buy.
What they are trying to decide is exactly what and from whom.
Providing useful product and company information (location, service,
experience, etc.) may not seem like an immediate need for many window
coverings dealers—especially now during the busiest time of
the year. But every day more customers go online before they go
to a store. What’s it worth to have them decide to come to