What Is e-Commerce?
eCommerce, also known as electronic commerce, is a business model which involves transactions taking place on the internet.
Stores that sell their products online are e-commerce stores or businesses.
History of Ecommerce
The foundation for ecommerce was created in 1979 by Michael Aldrich. He connected his television to a computer using his telephone line. While it was unlike ecommerce as we know it today, his idea sparked the idea of shopping without visiting a physical store. At the time, most people didn’t own computers. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs popularised computers for the average person. Bill Gates even said that his goal was to put “a computer on every desk and in every home.” Without computers, e-Commerce would be remarkably different.
In 1994, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon as an online store selling over one million different books at launch. Amazon would eventually go on to become the most popular online store for consumers to buy any type of products.
By the mid-1990s and early 2000’s, people were adding computers to their home and paving the way for the growth of ecommerce. Companies were accepting checks in the early to mid-1990s as there wasn’t an online payment gateway to transfer funds from customers to businesses. When PayPal was founded in December 1998, it simplified the shopping experience for customers as credit cards were easily accepted.
By 2008, online sales made up 3.4 percent of all sales which shows industry growth. In 2014, it was estimated that there was around 12-24 million online stores worldwide.
Fast forward to 2021 and the knowledge gap is closing very quickly between beginners and more advanced ecommerce professionals. Thanks to the ever increasing blogs and online resources, industry tips, tricks, and strategies are available at the click of a button. Now anyone can set up an ecommerce website over night, and start seeing solid results from their efforts in less than six months.
- It’s estimated that, by 2022, global e-Commerce sales will reach $5 trillion, which makes e-Commerce a growing and profitable industry to be in.
- The US was estimated to have 162.8 million mobile shoppers in 2019. As a result, store owners must ensure that their websites and ads
are mobile-optimized to reach their target audience. According to Business Insider, men (22 percent) are also considered more
likely to buy a product via a mobile device than women (18 percent).
- Women tend to shop online more frequently than men. For every $10 spent online, women are spending $6 while men spend $4.
- Millennials, ages 18-34, tend to spend approximately $2000 online each year making it the generation that does the most online shopping.
Online Business Models
There are four widely known business models, but there are other niche models. These widely known types of ecommerce are:
- B2B: The B2B model, Business to Business, is when a business is selling to other businesses. Alibaba is an example of a B2B business, as their suppliers sell to other businesses. Alibaba prices are extremely low as they’re wholesale prices to allow businesses to make a profit off of their products.
- B2C: The B2C model, Business to Consumer, involves businesses selling to consumers. If you decide to open your own online store, you’ll likely be selling to customers instead of businesses. Amazon, Walmart, and Apple are examples of B2C businesses.
- C2C: The C2C model, Consumer to Consumer, is when consumers are selling to other consumers. Examples of a C2C business model are eBay, Craigslist, Facebook groups, and Kijiji. Many of the sellers on those sites aren’t businesses but average consumers selling products they own whether second-hand or new
- C2B: The C2B model, Consumer to Business, is when a consumer sells their own products or services to a business or organization. This could be a photographer selling their photography to a business.
Types of Online Stores
- Physical Goods Ecommerce Website: Retailers who have brick and mortar stores can host their store online to sell to a broader audience.
This option is great for retailers who want to increase sales but not physical stores.
- Service-based Ecommerce Website: Freelancing, and pure online service providers have become a huge trend recently with websites created
as the link between a freelance and their potential clients.
- Digital Products Ecommerce Website: Companies that sell digital productslike software or video games don’t need physical stores to sell their
products as it only involves the customer downloading the product. This type of ecommerce business thrives as remaining solely online drives
down costs making it easier to be profitable.
- Dropshipping Ecommerce Website: Slightly different to physical goods stores, dropshipping is where merchants sell goods to customers on
their online store but they don’t hold any inventory. Instead they find a supplier to sell goods from, wait for customers to buy these products,
and the supplier fulfills the order for them.
What Makes an Online Store Successful?
Running an ecommerce store is not easy. Just having a store and some stock to sell does not mean that people will flock in and buy your products.
There are things you can do to try to ensure your store will be a success.
- Focus on the User: With ecommerce, you can sell anything to anyone but you must be careful to know what you need to do to make website
visitors trust you enough to buy a product from you. Pick the right website theme, choose the right branding and tone of voice for your copy,
and keep your focus on only one or two target audiences so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Test with Friends: Use your friends as your test subjects and have them run through the purchase steps to make sure everything flows perfectly.
You don’t want the checkout process to be too long that people leave before they have placed an order.
- Be Mobile Optimized: Make sure that users can purchase on mobile and desktop devices. More and more mobile is growing in every industry so
keeping on top of this trend is paramount to being successful in your e-Commerce store.
- Invest in SEO and PPC: SEO and PPC drive traffic to your store so missing out on them will slow down your success. Find a good consultant or
agency if you have the budget and watch as, even with a small budget, sales can come in easily.
- Research and Develop: Never be content with what you do, research new products and ways to sell them. You don’t need to restock your
ecommerce store every month. Try to attract attention through innovative ways to grow your store more.
Future of eCommerce
The ecommerce industry will continue growing. According to N Channel, in the US, brick and mortar retailers generate $3.9 trillion
in sales while e-Commerce generates $294 billion. Over time, ecommerce will continue to take away market share from brick and
mortar retailers as it has been doing over the past few years. This is good news for those looking to start online stores as sales
will only continue to go up, though competition will also increase in the space.
Ecommerce will also likely evolve over the years creating a more virtual or augmented reality experience for shoppers. Stores may
eventually include features to help customers ‘virtually’ try on clothing. This will ensure that clothes fit the customer’s shape while
allowing them to see what it would look like on before buying. Shoppers may be able to ‘try’ on makeup using their laptop or
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