Today’s E-commerce and its Convenience
Though e-commerce was a buzzword some years ago, today, with digitalization, it has become a norm. We see a total transformation in the way we shop via E-commerce sites. It has made shopping so much more comfortable and more accessible that people engage in online shopping anywhere and everywhere. Just swiftly pull out your phone and start searching for products, and you are ready to shop. E-commerce is convenient for all those who wish to save travel time, parking space, and money.
When the internet became an important part of our lives, it presented a huge market for commercial entrepreneurs. Thus, one thing led to another, and the online market or e-commerce was born. With time, the underlying e-commerce technology developed to such a great extent that today, the customers can even “feel” the product, virtually understand the shape, size, texture, etc. Without moving out, you can get the best shopping experience right from wherever you are. Shop comfortably, and get your products delivered right at your doorstep. There are several Ecommerce software solutions that facilitate powerful and functional features to online businesses.
History of E-commerce
Michael Aldrich invented electronic shopping in 1979. He connected a domestic television to a transaction processing computer via telephone and called it teleshopping. With digitalization, today, we call it e-commerce. Earlier, e-commerce simply meant the execution of commercial transactions electronically using technologies like EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). This enabled users to exchange business information and carry out electronic transactions. As the internet began to advance in popularity, security protocols (like HTTP) and DSL were developed, which allowed rapid access and persistent to the internet. By the year 2000, the meaning of the word e-commerce changed. People started defining e-commerce as the process of buying and selling goods or services on the internet using secure connections and electronic payment services.
The brick and mortar retailers began to add e-commerce capabilities to their website on recognizing its advantages. By 1994 and ’95, Amazon and eBay entered the e-commerce market and paved the way for a revolution of sorts. They are now international companies and allow small businesses to sell products through their website. Each year they continue to gain popularity.
Types of E-commerce models
There are 6 basic types of e-commerce models. They are as follows:
1) B2B (Business-to-business)
B2B e-commerce model relates to sales made between businesses. For example; Sales made between a manufacturer and a retailer/wholesaler. This type of e-commerce takes place between business entities and is not consumer-facing.
2) B2C (Business-to-consumer)
This type of e-commerce transaction is made between a business and a consumer. This is the most widely used sales model. When you buy a pair of jeans from an online retailer, it is a B2C transaction.
3) C2C (Consumer-to-consumer)
You guessed it. The name says it all. The consumer-to-consumer e-commerce business model is the transaction between customers. For example; the classifieds section of a newspaper. Here a customer, not a business, sells goods/services to another customer. The goals of C2C are to help buyers and sellers to locate each other.
4) C2B (Consumer-to-business)
C2B is when customers offer products or services of value to businesses. How is that possible? This example will help you to understand: Shutterstock is a company that relies on user photos. Thus, they receive their ‘goods’ from customers. A press release or valuable feedback can also be classified as C2B business.
5) B2A (Business-to-administration)
B2A includes all transactions conducted online between companies and government agencies (administration). This e-commerce model works for marketing your products or services on government levels. Services related to tenders, social security, auctions, etc. are examples of this model.
6) C2A (Consumer-to-administration)
C2A deals with direct communication of the consumer with the government. This type of e-commerce helps a consumer to directly post their queries, concerns, or request feedback or information directly from their local governments. Using C2A, consumers can pay their electricity bills on government websites, pay taxes, or pay their health insurance. This helps to increase efficiency within the government.
Here, each participating member has the same capabilities and can collaborate easily.
8) Mobile commerce – The most predominant practice in today’s generation. Mobile phones are used to initiate a shopping and payment is also made via mobile payment facilities. Most of the sites are optimized now for mobile commerce.
9) D2C – Direct to consumers – the latest trend where brands can sell directly to the consumers.
Impact of E-commerce
It is estimated that nearly 95% of the purchases made globally would be via ecommerce shopping platform by 2040. The process of interaction, discovery, and purchase of goods is now a 24/7 cycle. E-commerce integration has become the number 1 priority for retail as well as for B2B systems.
Online and in-store customer journeys have merged, creating a symbiotic ecosystem called omnichannel retail. Almost 65% of shoppers compare prices of goods online on their mobile devices while in physical stores to find out whether they are getting the best price. Let us have a look at the major impact of e-commerce:
Traditional retailers face losses
Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are experiencing difficulty to stand atop competing with e-commerce sites. Amazon is one such example that is currently revolutionizing the online shopping experience. This is because of the facility that buyers can easily compare prices and select goods in more transparent and convenient way with e-commerce platforms like Amazon. As a result, public retailers have lost their enterprise value. Many iconic retailers have either declared bankruptcy or closed down their stores in various locations. For e.g.: Macy’s, Sears etc. As consumers easily get a frictionless shopping experience online, they expect the same in brick-and-mortar stores too. Many international retailers are therefore forced to reduce their store-space in retail centers, or even worse, shut down stores due to low customer footfall.
Small businesses can sell directly to customers
Small and individual business owners can sell directly to customers through their web stores. Through their e-commerce stores, small business owners can diversify their products and reach more customers. E-commerce can open doors to possibilities that were never possible before.
Supply chain management has evolved
E-commerce has had a significant impact on the Inventory, order, and supply-chain management. The complex movement of information and products has become more flexible. Transportation companies of all sizes can exchange cargo documents electronically with e-commerce. Shippers, freight forwards, and trucking firms can streamline their document handling with lower time and monetary investment than that required by traditional document delivery systems. Customers can easily access rate information, place delivery orders, track shipments and pay freight bills. Product life-cycles have shortened. This has led producers to present deeper and broader assortments as a buffer against price erosion.
Customer shopping behavior has changed
The explosion of e-commerce has drastically changed customer shopping habits. Mobile e-commerce has blurred the line between a physical store and online shopping. Companies are working to create a seamless experience between online and offline shopping, giving them the choice to shop wherever they are. Customers also expect more personalized shopping experiences that can engage and delight them. This has challenging for retailers as they have to offer better experiences than they did in the past to attract customers.
Shopping has become a social activity
Today people want to share their experiences with others. Digital marketing helps people do just that, and this has turned shopping into a social activity. Studies indicate that around 64% people check online reviews on Google before they make a purchase. The reviews can be from strangers. People tend to trust reviews more than brands. Retailers have now recognized this power of social media and online review sites to shape their customers’ opinion. They are now actively involved in engaging customers on social media and online review platforms.
Advantages of E-commerce
E-commerce has had far-reaching effects on the global business scenario. From faster buying ability to stores being open 24/7 – the advantages are many. Following are a few of them:
1) Retailers can reach more customers
E-commerce has made it easier for companies to generate a global customer base. Since geographical boundaries do not hinder an e-commerce store, it can be made available to anyone and everyone. Social media advertising provides brands with the added benefit of connecting with potential customers.
2) Customers can buy faster
E-commerce gives customers the freedom to shop anywhere and at any time and with any retailer. There is no constraint of closing hours/opening hours like that of the traditional brick-and-mortar stores. With subscription-based selling on the rise, delivery times have reduced considerably.
3) Lower operational costs
E-commerce retailers can launch their web stores with minimum property investments and a handful of employees. This means lower operating costs and higher margins.
4) More power to customers
Due to high competition, maintaining the quality of products/services has become compulsory for online retailers. Unsatisfactory reviews from customers can tarnish any brand equity and image for good. So, the customer determines the success of a brand.
It is true that e-commerce has made every product in the world easily available. This has made the lives of millions of people more convenient than ever. Online shopping helps us to keep up with our hectic schedules. E-commerce has indeed brought about a shopping evolution of sorts; there are some downsides to it. Let’s have a look at them:
Disadvantages of E-commerce
High return rates
According to research from Barclaycard, almost 22% of bricks and mortar retailers have chosen not to sell online. Retailers who originally embraced e-commerce found that it was difficult to manage the costs of delivery and returns. The convenience of shopping at your comfort zone also has few setbacks. Just because a customer clicks to order, the product is not bought. Studies indicate that almost 30% of customers over-purchase and then, return unwanted items due to generous return policies in place. Managing these costs has become unsustainable for small businesses with lower margins.
Soaring marketing costs
The e-commerce industry is one of the fastest-growing areas of the economy. A huge chunk of consumer buying has moved online, opening up a big market for retailer corporations as well as startup entrepreneurs. Today there are millions of e-commerce stores in the world competing for customers on the three primary websites - Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Ecommerce sites consistently thrive to work best and top the search list. Advertising revenues help the sites in keeping up the profits, and to connect to the right users.
Retail real estate industry facing losses
With an exponential rise in e-commerce sales, real estate developers, landlords, and commercial brokers have become concerned about the health of the retail real estate market. In the battle between ‘clicks’ and ‘bricks’, ‘clicks’ seem to be winning. The pricing power of traditional retailing has been challenging, resulting in a reduction in the number of shopping trips. This has accelerated the number of store closings. Many retailers are also reducing demand for future space in retail centres. Hence retail developers are forced to retrench.
E-commerce does have its perks. E-commerce platforms like Shopify have made it quick and inexpensive to get your online store up and running within no time. However, it may not be right for every business. You need to pick the exact requirement. Question yourself as to do you really want full e-commerce or just social media engagement? Or can you conduct your business through eBay or Amazon store?
In today’s changing business scenario any tool to harness the power of e-commerce may become outdated quickly. Keeping up with the changes is an uphill task for small businesses. Of course, you cannot just transplant your business from a physical premise to a digital equivalent without some degree of pain. The companies which adapt and evolve with the changing technology would manage to stay relevant.
With people spending more and more time online in – spending, e-commerce is here to stay , and flourish well in the future. Let’s have a look.
Future of E-commerce
End of free Returns
As mentioned earlier, the return rates from e-commerce sales are 2 to 4 times higher than those of traditional retail. Online retailers provided generous return policies to increase conversions and reduce customer uncertainty. However, this has created a dangerous side-effect: increasing costs of managing returns. Many prominent retailers have already taken steps to reduce returns.
For example; H&M Canada does not accept returns in store from online purchases. Amazon has set up over 600 brick and mortar stores where customers can return their merchandise
Rise of PWAs
Major e-commerce and social media players have opted for mobile-first solutions to maintain their online presence. Mobile apps do offer a wide spectrum of functionalities for users, but they are rather expensive to build and maintain. Native apps require a bit of promotion in the app marketplaces, and the commission goes up to 30%. They also use a lot of storage space, and have to be updated frequently. PWAs or Progressive Web Apps emerged as a solution to all these problems. PWAs make websites more app-like. PWAs combine the upsides of sites and apps and remove the limitations. They load faster than mobile sites, can work offline, and enable push notifications. All these features make PWAs the new standard for mobile-first solutions. Hence more brands and retailers will move away from sites and apps to PWAs.
Today, buyers expect brands to take a stand on current and relevant issues. People desire a connection with brands beyond merchandise and advertising. For example; When Ed Razek, the CMO of Victoria’s Secret brand disregarded the inclusion of plus-size or transgender models in their annual runway shows. Due to this, the incumbent lingerie brand had to face severe backlash from various segments of the society. This ultimately led to the resignation of the then CEO of the brand. Thus, all big and small brands and merchants have to leverage e-commerce to appeal to consumer’s values and ethics.
Innovative trends that are set to change the face of e-commerce include; Artificial Intelligence-based shopping, omnichannel retail, digital currencies, and micro-moments to name a few.
Establishing a direct and meaningful connection with customers that extends beyond mere products is the call of the day. Interestingly, there are several free and open source ecommerce software solutions available in the market. Shopify, Woo Commerce, Magento, PrestaShop are few popular names.
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