Ecommerce: Potentials, Problems, And Recommendations
The online selling of goods, known as “etailing” or ecommerce, is now an almost ubiquitous sales channel available for most industries and products. From everyday grocery items to high-end electronics and everything in between, consumers can point their web browsers to Amazon, eBay, and innumerable independent store websites and purchase anything they’re after. The convenience and the ease of comparing product specifications and prices in various stores are definite advantages to consumers, and the ability to reach much larger (in most cases, global) markets is a clear advantage to manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers that ecommerce confers. There are also disadvantages, though, such as increased competition for inline and brick-and-mortar businesses alike, decreased personal interaction (which can be a sales driver), and customer service complexities. Target markets for physical stores are limited by geography but supported by such interaction; global markets can be targeted by online retailers, but providing the same level of interactive service can be difficult.
Another issue facing both customers and businesses when it comes to ecommerce is the security of online transactions and information that is transmitted via the Internet. Customers can maintain strict control over their passwords and the like, but ultimately if they are going to use payment methods online they are at the mercy of the businesses they do business with; ensuring reputability and regularly monitoring credit card statements and credit reports is necessary for all consumers these days. Companies have an obligation to take technological steps to prevent unauthorized retrieval of payment information from a variety of attacks (Mookhey, 2010). Internet security is a highly technical fields that is constantly evolving as new types of programs are used to transmit information, new types of attacks are developed to retrieve information, and new security measures are implemented, in a never-ending cycle that truly requires constant vigilance (Mookhey, 2010).
Websites like Amazon that deal with a wide array of goods from a variety of manufacturers, retailers, and independent sellers are one part of ecommerce, but many traditional stores also now have websites that serve specific company and consumer needs. Hello Books, a new and used bookstore and curio shop in Rockland, Maine, has an extensive ecommerce site that greatly strengthens its relationships with its identified stakeholders — the owner and employee of the bookstore, the customers of the bookstore, and the community of Rockland, Maine (Hell Hello Books, 2012). Through offering most of their inventory for sale online, providing calendars of events and other information about the bookstore and Rockland, and by providing a variety of social media options that enable customers and fans to share news about the store and its offerings, this website strengthens the direct business operations (that is, increases revenue) by reaching more customers and also increases awareness about Rockland and its happenings (Hello Books, 2012). This provides benefits to the owner/employees through wage and salary growth, to customers through having more options for shopping, and to the Rockland community through a more bustling economy.
Target markets from online retailers can be reflected in numerous ways, from the style and design of the website to the product and price offerings to contact options and other features. There is still a misconception that “online shoppers” are themselves a particular market segment with strong identifiable trends and demographic similarities; while it is true that some demographics are more likely to engage in ecommerce than others, it is also true that broad segments of the world’s population now shop online, and there is just as much potential for segmentation and targeted marketing online as in traditional retail, and possibly more so given the amount of information that can be quickly collected and assessed regarding online consumers (Toomey & Wysocki, 2009). The Hello Books website is clearly marketed toward semi-counter-culture and “hip” (or hipster) consumers, which can be seen in the layout and style of the website’s design, in the manner in which the products are displayed, and in the products and events listed on the website (Hello Books, 2012).
This particular ecommerce website does not take direct comments, however the owner of the store and website provides an email address for contacting her, and feedback/commentary can also be left on the store’s facebook page, which has a direct link on the site (Hello Books, 2012). While on the one hand the lack of directing commenting and interactive abilities might seem a downside, research has shown that a growing number of consumers rely on static information available online rather than on interactions with other people, even online interactions, in making decisions about purchases (Clifford, 2012). This suggests that the impact might not actually be that significant, and that consumers are not that likely to view the store in a negative light simply because of the lack of commenting ability. This might even strengthen the customer relationship by allowing complaints or problems to be dealt with more discretely.
Clifford, S. (2012). Younger Shoppers Using Technology, Not Salespeople. NY Times. Accessed 1 April 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/business/younger-shoppers-using-technology-not-salespeople.html?_r=1&ref=customerrelations
Hello Hello Books. (2012). Accessed 1 April 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/business/younger-shoppers-using-technology-not-salespeople.html?_r=1&ref=customerrelations
Mookhey, K. (2010). Common Security Vulnerabilities in e-commerce Systems. Accessed 1 April 2012. http://www.symantec.com/connect/articles/common-security-vulnerabilities-e-commerce-systems
Toomey, A. & Wysocki, A. (2009). Distinguishing between Traditional and Online Retailing: Evaluating E-commerce with Respect to the Food System. Accessed 1 April 2012. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe820
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