Its two in the morning and you are unable to sleep. There is a nagging thought at the back of your mind. Something is telling you that you have forgotten something extremely important. Then with a sudden jolt of realization, you realize you’ve forgotten to buy the present for your best friend’s birthday two days away. With work matters that will occupy you the whole of the next day, you realize you may not have the time to head down to the store in town. No matter, thank god the store has an online presence. Bleary eyed, you place an order for the item and choose same day shipping. Going back to sleep knowing the item will arrive by post later in the evening, your worries are over.
Roll out the red carpet and move aside, traditional businesses, for the age of e-Commerce has arrived. Like the Internet, its appeal is becoming increasingly popular. At present, approximately 60% of people in the United States are estimated to have bought something online, a trend that is likely to catch on with time. So why choose e-commerce over the traditional brick-and-motar stores that have existed for centuries, if not millennia? After all, the golden rule of ‘if its not broken, don’t fix it’ applies here right? Well, it would depend on how one looks at the issue. The introduction of the Internet has changed the rules of commerce, and the benefits of e-commerce are arguably too numerous and holds too much potential to ignore.
E-commerce has an edge over traditional businesses in various ways. The most obvious difference at first glance would be the absence of a brick and mortar shop, which translates to lesser costs involved. Without a physical presence, businesses are able to save on costs otherwise incurred on rent, which are approaching sky high rates at the present day. The rent for that quaint little shop at the corner of the street you have always found attractive could run up to the thousands per month.
Furthermore, e-commerce not only eliminates costly rent but also the costs of possibly hiring help and having ready stock on hand for customers to interact with. Display pieces remains one of the few draws a physical business have over online stores, especially in the case of clothing. Most of us would have likely encountered buying clothes online only to find that the cutting is not as accurate as described in the size chart provided. Also, not having the chance to physically inspect what you’re buying leaves open the possibility of misleading item descriptions and ending with one buying the wrong item. Thus, care has to be taken to ensure the seller or merchant website is a trusted one with much positive feedback.
E-commerce also has the benefits of being open 24/7/365, whereas a physical store would be restricted to their opening hours only. Also, e-commerce is able to circumvent the physical boundaries of the world, engaging in sales that span halfway across the globe. Both of these points would increase the potential customer base of a store. All it takes is for somebody to have the means to make payment online, be it through credit/debit cards or middleman services like PayPal, and an internet connection. The fact that online stores never close, perhaps only during maintenance, ensures that there will always be a potential customer at any point in time.
The most important difference that allows e-commerce to set itself apart from a traditional store would likely be that virtually anybody can start their own businesses online. E-commmerce is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as
‘commerce conducted via the Internet’
which effectively means any individual who has something to sell can engage in e-commerce! The Internet age has seen the emergence of websites such as eBay or the Amazon Marketplace, both of which has major sellers that appear to be making serious cash of the buying and selling of goods. Additionally, it also allows sellers to target smaller niche markets, which would not be feasible in the real world owing to possible high costs that would be incurred.
Virtually anything can be sold online, and I mean anything. After all, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Even though you may see something as junk, say your old music CDs of bands you don’t listen to anymore, somebody on the other side of the world may be an avid collector of these music memorabilia and are willing to offer a reasonable price for them. Even virtual items, such as in-game items for video games such as World of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2, can be found on eBay.
For instance, iWOOT (which means i Want One of Those) has ‘Nothing‘ for sale. That’s right, ‘Nothing‘. Retailing for a cool £5.99, the reviews left by customers are currently at around 4.8 stars out of a possible 5 are is one of the more popular items on the website. For those thinking ‘Pictures, or it didn’t happen’, here are images of ‘Nothing’.
The fact that you’re paying £5.99 for
nothing ‘Nothing’ notwithstanding, this actually makes a pretty ingenious gift for those moments when you somebody says they want nothing for their birthday gift. The look on their faces when they actually realise they’ve received exactly what they asked for should be priceless.
Taking a look at the other products on iWOOT, one would realise they do have an enormous inventory to choose from, In all likelihood, a physical shop selling purely such things with an inventory size of iWOOT’s would cost a fortune to set up. Given the inventory size and the nature of their products, the issue of shelving would likely result in a major headache. Online, items can be arranged any way at all at the simple click of a button, be it by pricing or even by popularity. A most useful feature would be the cross sales feature or item recommendations on each product’s page. These list what items customers who have bought that particular product have looked at or bought as well, which would likely increase revenue.
Taking a page or two from the past decade’s dot-com flops, e-commerce has the potential to be the next big thing and avoid going the way of the dodo by learning from past mistakes. At an age where broadband internet is the new norm and means of online payment are easily within reach, the potential customer base is too substantial to be ignored.