June 5, 2001, 12:00 AM

The web’s power is only being scratched, keynoter tells Catalog Conference

The web is still primitive today, but it holds great potential as a global marketing tool. Retailers must keep a close eye on what users are actually doing on the web to take advantage of its power, says Bran Ferren.

For e-retailers to succeed, they need to monitor what kids are doing online, Bran Ferren, co-chairman of futurists Applied Minds, told the 18th Annual Catalog Conference in Boston today. Citing the 1.4 billion AOL Instant Messages that travel the web daily-mostly from kids to kids-Ferren said: “You are not part of this dialog. But it’s the most significant thing in communications today. It’s not part of your business, but it won’t be long before these discussions directly affect your business. These kids are the principal consumers of your business in the future.”

The IM phenomenon is only one way in which users are changing the web, often in ways that are invisible to those not directly participating, he said. Today’s web is primitive compared to where it will be, Ferren said. “We have a terrible web-it’s embarrassing, ugly and unresponsive. It’s just plain awful,” he said. “But what do you expect when we’re only 20 minutes into the computer age? The Internet will change and change very quickly. If you judge the Internet by what you see now, you will be making a mistake.”

The web will become a powerful global marketing tool, he predicts. “When it becomes good, you’ll be able to tell your story to anyone in the world in their own language,” he said.


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