E-commerce is the transaction of purchasing and selling products and services through electronic systems.
The beginning of e-commerce can be traced back to the 1960s. At that time, it was meant for exchanging data electronically for the first time. After that, the 90s saw the first secure online purchases. The e-commerce industry then grew quickly from this point onwards. Online sales accounted for more than a third of total U.S. retail sales growth in 2015. This is according to data from the U.S.
E-commerce is still growing. It is also expected to continue growing all the time. As you can see in the graph below, global online business-to-consumer (B2C) sales are expected to nearly double between 2012 and 2018.
The rise of e-commerce forces IT personnel to move beyond infrastructure design and maintenance and consider numerous customer-facing aspects such as consumer data privacy and security.
Reasons for customers to shop online:
1- 24/7 availability: they can do their shopping at anytime of the day and at any day of the year. It doesn’t matter whether it was midnight or noon, or if it was a holiday or a normal week day. The possibility to shop online gives the customers the freedom to shop at their own pace and convenience.
2- Variety: One can get several brands and products from different sellers at one place.
3- Comparison of prices: Online shopping has made the comparison of products and prices possible and easy. This allows the customers to determine which online store offers the most affordable item for them to buy.
4- Avoid crowds: Crowds may be one of the annoying issues that anyone could face while shopping. Crowd can also be a problem when it comes to finding a parking place where you want to shop. So online shopping can help customers buy without having to stand in long lines and wait, or go around the place searching for a parking.
5- Save time: Purchasing online saves time. The customers only choose what they want to buy and with just a couple of clicks they put the order. They can save time this way and move to other important things they want to do.
6- Save fuel: The market of fuel industries battles from increasing and decreasing its cost every now and then. One of the advantages of shopping online is that there is no need for vehicles; so no purchase of fuel is necessary.
7- Easy to search for products: the customers can easily search for the product they are looking for with all its specifications. In addition, it is easy for them to find out whether this product is available or out of stock.
Advantages of shopping online for small businesses:
After we’ve learnt how the customer would benefit from shopping online, you must be wondering, how can a small business benefit from it? We are now going to cover a few key advantages of running an online e-commerce store for small businesses.
1- Lower cost: Starting an offline business needs a lot of money. You will need to have a physical storefront which will incur rental and management costs. On the other hand, it is not expensive to start an online business. Your main costs will be the software you use to set up the online store, the hosting and the domain name. So in general, an online store costs less to set up and run than a physical shop, but it’s still important to recognize that making e-commerce work requires continuing investment.
Some of the other costs that can be also reduced by opting for e-commerce are: advertising and marketing costs, personnel costs and travel costs.
2- Visitors tracking and analysis: Google analytics makes it extremely easy to know where people finding your website are from, which pages they visit and from what region they are. There are also other tools that can analyze the cursor movement as they browse your site. Such statistics would be very difficult to get with a physical store. These statistics can help you easily track what works and what doesn’t . It can also help you calculate and evaluate sales effectiveness, customer effectiveness, marketing campaigns, product mix, customer engagement and more. Having gathered all these information, you can thus build your customer persona and all the suitable things for them.
3- Social media: Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others, have now made it possible for everyone to express their feelings and recommend products and services to others. You can also use social media for your marketing campaigns and to promote your products for free.
4- Product inventory: Since the products are purchased online, you can easily track what products are being shipped to the customers and how much products are left in your storage. You can also decrease the operational costs of inventory management by having an automated management system.
5- Customer email communication: In the online world, it is easy for you to get the customers’ emails. This will enable you to send them future offers and marketing messages. It’s a cheap and easy way to keep in contact with your customers.
6- Written reviews: Online, it’s easy to take advantage of customer reviews and reviews around the web to build credibility in the eyes of a potential customer. You can also support your digital marketing efforts by including these reviews and testimonials.
7- Location independent: You can easily manage your business from any part of the world. You don’t have to be in the same place in order to keep an eye and manage your business. It’s also not a must to have your warehouse and staff in the same place, you can hire a staff member from another state or even country and take advantage of possible cost reduction.
8- Larger marketplace: Selling online removes all the borders to your business. Any person, from anywhere with an internet connection can access your website. This gives you an expanded geographical reach and even a local business can become international, just by having an effective e-commerce strategy.
9- Advertisement tracking: It is much easier to measure and track your marketing efforts and marketing campaigns done through online platforms. Through this, you can keep an eye on your customers’ buying interests and habits and tailor offers that suit their needs. The result of this tracking will help you in your future campaigns.
Finally, are you still hesitated to customize your small business to work online?