Benefits of e-commerce include its around-the-clock availability, the speed of access, the wide availability of goods and services for the consumer, easy accessibility and international reach.
Aside from outages or scheduled maintenance, e-commerce sites are available 24×7, allowing visitors to browse and shop at any time. Brick-and-mortar businesses tend to open for a fixed number of hours and may even close entirely on certain days.
Speed of access. While shoppers in a physical store can be slowed by crowds, e-commerce sites run quickly, which is determined by compute and bandwidth considerations on both consumer device and e-commerce site. Product pages and shopping cart pages load in a few seconds or less. An e-commerce transaction can comprise a few clicks and take less than five minutes.
Amazon’s first slogan was “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.” They could make this claim because they were an e-commerce site and not a physical store that had to stock each book on its shelves. E-commerce enables brands to make a wide array of products available, which are then shipped from a warehouse after a purchase is made. Customers will likely have more success finding what they want.
Customers shopping a physical store may have a hard time determining which aisle a particular product is in. In e-commerce, visitors can browse product category pages and use the site search feature the find the product immediately.
International reach. Brick-and-mortar businesses sell to customers who physically visit their stores. With e-commerce, businesses can sell to any customer who can access the web.
Personalization and product recommendations
E-commerce sites can track visitors’ browse, search and purchase history. They can use this data to present useful and personalized product recommendations, and obtain valuable insights about target markets. Examples include the sections of Amazon product pages labeled “Frequently bought together” and “Customers who viewed this item also viewed.”s provided a more practical and effective way of delivering the benefits of the new supply chain technologies.
Limited customer service
If a customer has a question or issue in a physical store, he or she can see a clerk, cashier or store manager for help. The site may only provide support during certain hours of the day, or a call to a customer service phone number may keep the customer on hold.
Not being able to touch or see. While images on a webpage can provide a good sense about a product, it’s different from experiencing it “directly,” such as playing music on speakers, assessing the picture quality of a television or trying on a shirt or dress.
E-commerce can lead consumers to receive products that differ from their expectations, which leads to returns. In some scenarios, the customer bears the burden for the cost of shipping the returned item to the retailer.
Wait time. If a customer sees an item that he or she likes in a store, the customer pays for it and then goes home with it. With e-commerce, there is a wait time for the product to be shipped to the customer’s address. Although shipping windows are decreasing as next day delivery is now quite common, it’s not instantaneous.
Security. Skilled hackers can create authentic-looking websites that claim to sell well-known products. Instead, the site sends customers forfeit or imitation versions of those products or, simply collects customers’ credit card information. Legitimate e-commerce sites also carry risk, especially when customers store their credit card information with the retailer to make future purchases easier. If the retailer’s site is hacked, hackers may come into the possession of customers’ credit card information.
E-commerce platforms and vendors
An e-commerce platform is a tool that is used to manage an e-commerce business. E-commerce platform options exist for clients ranging in size from small businesses to large enterprises. These e-commerce platforms include online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay that simply require signing up for user accounts, and little to no IT implementation.
Another e-commerce platform model is SaaS, where store owners can subscribe to “rent” space in a cloud-hosted service that does not require in-house development or on-premises infrastructure. Other e-commerce platforms may come in the form of open source platforms that require a hosting environment (cloud or on premises), complete manual implementation and maintenance.
This means they’ll expect to be able to research, browse, shop, and purchase seamlessly between different devices and on different platforms (like a standalone web store, an Amazon presence, etc.).Overall, we have to remember that ecommerce is still fairly new in the big picture of retail.
The future holds endless opportunity, but its success and continuation will depend largely on buyers’ preferences in the future.
*This story is covered by Swiftnlift Business Magazine