Doing business activities on the internet is the simplest definition of e-commerce (short for electronic commerce). It is the buying and selling of products and services through a website. An e-commerce website is also called an online store. The store has features that makes it easy for customers to browse for products, choose what they want, put them into a cart and pay for them at the checkout.
Benefits for the shopper
- People love this method of shopping because it is convenient. They can shop from the comfort of their houses.
- An e-commerce store is open 24/7 (unlike a regular brick and mortar store). Customers can get online and buy products at any time of the day.
- Shoppers can save on price of the product, taxes and gas for transportation.
- Shoppers need not spend time going physically from one shop to another looking for a specific product. They can also buy from any part of the world with the help of search engines.
- The possibility of great product selection over different suppliers/manufacturers delights the customer.
- The savings that the retailer gets by avoiding overheads on the physical store can be passed on to the customer.
Benefits for retailers
The number or people going online for shopping is increasing. It makes sense for a retailer to be present online to make use of opportunities. With other outlets adopting online method, a retailer has to move with times and make shopping a good experience for the customer.
A business owner strives to grow by attracting new audiences. Online retail, as compared to physical retail, has the added benefits of driving traffic from search engines. Customers can land in the store even if they have never heard of the retailer before.
The geographical and time constraints do not apply to an online store. Thus the reach that can be achieved by an online store far surpasses that by physical stores. Any corner of the world with internet facilities can be a potential source for customers.
Online stores save cost on having to rent a physical space, paying utility bills and
Additionally minimal licenses or permits are required for setting up an online store.
By using web-based automated inventory management, the business owner can reduce the cost of operation. This saving can either be utilized for upgrading or can be passed on to the customer. Computerized inventory management ensures that there is enough stock of products at all times.
Unlike regular employees in a brick and mortar store, the e-commerce website does not wear out. The automation process can ensure quick and seamless information exchange thus facilitating faster deliveries. In business, time is money. This also makes customers happy and retaining them will be easier.
The model of a regular physical retail shop is restrictive in understanding the target group / persona of customers. As a business owner, the retailer likes to know about buying habits of customers – what they are interested in. Through an online store, the retailer can track of what customers searched for, what they bought and how frequently. The database is easy to make and maintain. This information is power for the retailer. The analytics helps to fine tune marketing strategies for the right audience. Selling becomes more efficient.
In the internet environment where thousands of retailers vie for customer attention, a retailer can make their mark by using good keywords thereby optimizing the search by a customer. By continuing to improve the site, the ranking goes up and eventually people become familiar with the brand. This works on an international platform and hence the business has the potential to grow. The traditional physical store, with respect to marketing, has limited potential.
Unlike regular physical store, retailers can provide customers with all the information they require to buy a product. Customer reviews, shipping charges etc. are available online. The retailer saves money and time on training sales staff.
Benefits for the environment
E-commerce saves fuel by avoiding driving (this offsets any shipping/freight related fuel consumption).Then there is less traffic and therefore less idling in congested areas avoiding further wastage of fuel.
Paperless billing saves trees. It goes without saying what this means for our environment.
Through online stores which sell goods from individuals to individuals, there are more chances of used goods being transacted. This takes the burden that will be imposed on earth for its resources.
Resource consumption is reduced considerably since there is no physical store to be built and maintained in terms of lighting, air-conditioning, security etc. Renovations are also done away with. There will be some offices that require spaces to run their backend operations but they are likely to be small.
E-commerce business reduce the need for printing catalogues, flyers etc. since marketing can be done fully online.
E-commerce stores can employ people who work from home thereby reducing the need for transport. This reduces carbon emissions and is an environment friendly approach.
Likely negative impact on the environment
The need for more energy-intensive computers drives the need for more electricity generation.
Consumerism may increase because of ease of shopping. This can lead to more carbon emissions due to increased transportation. This also can increase stress on earth’s resources.
On the whole, the balance tilts towards e-commmerce - when compared to traditional business models -since it facilitates convenience, better infrastructure for conducting the operations and last but not the least, utilizes the earth’s resources effectively in the long run.