E-commerce survey short of expectations as market slips
By Mindy Hagen
Economic development officials trying to quantify Miami's e-business community through an online survey said they were stymied midstream in part by a downward shift in the industry.
Posted on the Beacon Council's Web site for four months with the goal of mapping out who and what makes up Miami-Dade County's information technology industry, organizers of the project had hoped to land 1,000 replies. But even after a month-long extension, only 320 companies provided data.
Engineered as a partnership between the Beacon Council, Miami Internet Alliance, Tuesday Network, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and other umbrella organizations, the survey was completed at the end of March.
Despite low returns, Jaap Donath, Beacon Council director of research and strategic planning, said the results are still "pretty good.
"When we started the process a year ago, the marketplace was different," he said. "We had a different outlook."
Edgar Jones, vice president of Grubb & Ellis and a project principal with the Miami Internet Alliance, said measuring the depth of Miami's e-business world is still important despite the downward market shift in information technology.
"In the long term, everyone feels comfortable that e-commerce will grow," Mr. Jones said. "This benchmark survey was critical to figuring out what the e-commerce market was. I hope we continue to gather information like this and stay with it because the long-term market will be there."
Dr. Donath said the Beacon Council and its partners in the survey will use the information gathered to market the area's e-businesses more efficiently. Plans are also in the works to create an e-directory and launch a tri-county survey to gather data from technology businesses in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Information from the survey allowed economic development officials to confirm what they always thought to be the case about the county's e-businesses, Dr. Donath said. He said results show about 236 or 74% of respondents with an interest in technology classified themselves as business-to-business, or B2B firms that sell to other businesses over the Internet.
As for company Web sites, 89% of businesses surveyed had already launched one, with 7% planning to do so in upcoming months. Web sites in English and Spanish were most common, with 90%, or 298 businesses, posting English Web sites and 124 in Spanish.
Dr. Donath said this figure didn't surprise him.
"The ability to appeal to a multilingual audience is the reason these companies have come to Miami," he said.
The average size of the businesses that responded to the survey was 271 employees.
"This is just a snapshot in time," he said. "The number of employees has seen ups and downs."
Because the initial information has now been obtained, Mr. Jones said there must be an effort to redo the survey at certain intervals.
"While we were gathering the information, the market turned and the e-commerce world began to slip," he said. "By resurveying, we can find out if the market is growing or shrinking again."