Consumers who shop online will now have the ability to set up an electronic wallet that will work throughout the Internet. Until now wallets have been offered on some Websites but each wallet system has had its own format. This week a group of industry leaders endorsed a universal format for digital wallets called ECML or Electronic Commerce Modeling Language. The format utilizes a set of uniform field names that streamlines the process by which merchants collect electronic data for shipping, billing and payment. Typically, consumers are required to fill out considerable information for a purchase — especially at the first purchase — and this can take several minutes. Electronic wallets allow consumers to input such data once and automatically fill in the merchant’s form at the point of purchase on a merchant’s site. To serve consumers completely, wallets must work at merchant sites around the Web and establishing uniform fields for data collection will allow that to happen. For consumers, establishing uniform fields for data collection will simplify the form-filling process to make the overall shopping experience more convenient. This in turn will increase the number of completed transactions at merchant sites. In fact, a February, 1999 report from Jupiter Communications on digital wallets found that 27 percent of online buyers abandon orders before check-out due to the hassle of filling out forms. ECML is publicly available today and can be easily implemented by online merchants and technology vendors. For the full scoop visit www.ecml.org.