It all started in the mid-1990s with the creation of Amazon and eBay. The need for store software was born. For the first time, it was possible to buy and sell products over the Internet. As digitization continued to advance, the world of online commerce also became more diverse. Yet many retailers are still reluctant to invest in e-commerce today. Why it can be worthwhile to expand into the world of online commerce and use a store system, and what e-commerce is all about, is explained in the following article.
What is e-commerce?
E-commerce, also known as online or electronic commerce, refers to the sale and distribution of goods via the Internet. Digital marketplaces or proprietary store systems enable a buyer to store online around the clock. A stationary retail store with representative sales areas is not necessary for e-commerce.
When did e-commerce or online retailing come into being?
The foundation for today’s e-commerce was laid in 1995 when the Internet was made available to the public. However, the start of online commerce was initially slow. Slow Internet lines, few users and expensive data lines did not make it easy for online commerce. This was compounded by the bursting of the dotcom bubble in March 2000. Many investors were in an optimistic mood with the introduction of the Internet and cell phones and expected high profits from the new technology companies. When share prices fell and the bubble burst, Internet trading also seemed to have died for the time being. As a result, companies whose business model was not sustainable disappeared from the market.
Amazon and eBay, which had been on the market since 1995, were able to establish themselves despite the crisis. With the increasing development of new technologies, surfing the Internet became more and more affordable. The introduction of new bandwidth technologies and low-cost data tariffs also led to the establishment of more and more professional online stores. Initially, most stores were from the travel and media industries, but over time more and more product categories from the textiles, media, consumer electronics, computers, hobby articles and furniture sectors were added. From this point on, the online business developed at breakneck speed.
E-commerce and the stationary trade
Online retailing has been booming for years, e-commerce sales have been rising steadily every year, and the company has also been busy in terms of marketing. In the early years of online retailing in Europe, sales amounted to 6.4 billion euros (net) per year. Euro (net) annually, it rose to 44.2 billion Euro (net) by 2016! The absolute growth of four billion euros per year therefore remains high. In industry terms, half of the sales are accounted for by fashion and electronic goods. Nevertheless, all merchandise groups represented on the Internet were able to record average growth of 10.8% in 2016. Source: IFH Cologne Online Monitor 2017
Despite the growing sales figures in e-commerce, according to a study conducted by Regensburg-based IBI Research in August 2017, more than half of European retailers do not offer goods via the Internet. There are many reasons for this: a lack of staff, time and fear of a drop in sales are making retailers hesitant to enter the online retail market. Furthermore, many fear the market power of global players such as Amazon or eBay. Are you an active retailer yourself? What is holding you back from entering the online retail market? With the right online store software, nothing can go wrong.
Changed consumer behavior
As digitization has progressed, consumer behavior has also changed noticeably. Consumers are accustomed to being able to use Internet-enabled devices to obtain pre-purchase information and complete purchases at any time. Convenience is increasingly coming to the fore here. To this end, the various channels for obtaining information, such as retail stores, print media, social media marketing, e-mail, web search and mobile, are being linked together as a decision-making aid. The growing number of multi-channel shoppers and the increase in sales in bricks-and-mortar retail, which are preceded by online information gathering, further underscore the importance of channel linking.
Growth in online retailing brings sales losses in offline retailing
Even though sales in most sectors in the retail industry continue to show small growth, the increase is increasingly unevenly distributed between the online and offline channels. For example, the electronics sector generated an increase in sales of 910 million euros in the online channel in 2016. By contrast, in the offline channel, i.e. primarily in stationary stores, it suffered a loss of 970 million euros. This suggests that retailers who are not digitally active are increasingly hard to find, especially in rural areas. However, according to the Regensburg IBI study, 70% of the companies surveyed plan to increase the future share of investment in online retailing. This requires the right online store software.
The advantages of e-commerce at a glance!
Are you already toying with the idea of becoming active in online commerce? If you are still hesitating, look at the 5 advantages of e-commerce at a glance:
Increased reach and brand awareness
Through digital marketplaces, you reach a much larger target audience than through brick-and-mortar retail. This also makes international customers aware of your product, increasing your brand awareness and reach. This can also benefit your stationary trade. Especially in the home and furnishing industry, the share of click & collect (buy online & pick up stationary) customers on the Internet continues to rise.
Target groups can be defined more precisely
The ability to evaluate information from store systems and marketplaces allows you to define your target group more precisely. This allows you to target your advertising more precisely and reach your prospects more effectively with your online and offline marketing.
Always make customer information available
On an e-commerce website, you can provide as much information as you want. Your customers appreciate that. From product descriptions to instructions to shipping costs, you can provide prospects with all the information they need to make an information-based buying decision. Plus, you don’t have to dedicate staff to answering all those questions one by one. That leaves more time for other tasks.
Reduce operating costs
An e-commerce store incurs lower costs. By using a web-based management system, you can automate inventory management and reduce the associated costs. Furthermore, a pure e-commerce store eliminates the overhead costs that a brick-and-mortar store must bear. The costs for the required IT infrastructure are compensated by the increased reach.
Increased profits and sales through increased conversions
By using digital marketplaces, you will reach many times more customers than in pure brick-and-mortar retail. As a result, you will normally also sell more. Another advantage is the positive feedback that customers can leave through rating systems. And even if there is negative feedback, you can react to it, enter into dialog and improve. In this way, your customers feel that they are being taken seriously. On the one hand, this strengthens customer loyalty and, on the other, makes it easier to convince prospective customers of the value of your products.
To paraphrase Charles Darwin: “Only those who adapt will survive” applies figuratively to survival in the business market. Even if stationary trade is not expected to die out in the next few years, the areas of online trade will continue to expand and be supplemented by other sectors. Through new technologies there will be more and more possibilities to be “online”. Particularly in view of developments in the field of virtual reality, it is only a matter of time before virtual strolling and trying on clothes in real retail stores is possible. Companies should therefore not underestimate the synergy effect between stationary and online retail! Especially in view of the increasing number of multi-channel shoppers, it makes sense to become active in the various marketplaces – both online and offline.
Would you like to get more information about e-commerce development? Contact us today.