As of last week, I have begun to awaken to and admire the amazing world of E-Commerce. E-Commerce is a conveniently concise term, but one that is many-faceted and quite intricate when you begin to dig deeper. I’ll explain exactly what I mean…
E-Commerce has eight unique features that give it its “Wow” factor. The first one is Ubiquity. Ubiquity is defined as being something that occurs everywhere. Ever since the inception of the internet, its user base has grown exponentially, and with it, E-commerce has blossomed. Libraries, homes, businesses, people’s personal cell phones and even airplanes, all have access to the internet. The great thing about the internet is that pretty much everyone, everywhere, can access it for free or quite cheaply. Which makes it a fabulous tool for trading globally, which leads to the next feature of E-commerce, global reach.
Global Reach refers to the previously smaller, more contained marketplace (where we traditionally did business before the internet – brick and mortar stores) turning outward and morphing into a “marketspace”. This new marketspace is online, and encompasses every single type of business you can imagine, from Amazon which sells a little bit of everything, to much more focused businesses such as Lighting manufacturers. Global reach allows previously unheard of retailers to sell to the other side of the world, while it also connects the bigger sellers with new opportunities as well. The marketplace has never been more alive than now, with the help of E-commerce!
Another important feature is Universal Standards, which is fairly easy to understand. The internet has its own universally accepted standards of how information is presented. This equalizes the playing field for many businesses, because it means anyone can access the information they need to enter the market, and also price discovery is no longer a pain in the butt. For instance, if you want to know how much a 55″ LCD flat screen TV is going to cost you, you simply type in the brand you want in a search engine and *poof*, seconds later you are presented with all the options you could possibly want. Nearest store location, online prices, other features of the unit you’re looking for…etc.
This ability to procure mass amounts of information so quickly has led to other innovations online. The average internet user gets bored quickly by reading through so much print, so to compensate, E-Commerce has encouraged the trend of information Richness. This simply refers to the fact that there are now video ads, audio messages, and even interactive text options, on many retail sites. Businesses discovered that they could amplify their advertising power by using new methods to catch potential buyers’ attention, and boy does it work! A good example is Facebook. They monitor your activities while you are logged into your account, and then tailor the ads you see on the right side of your screen to more accurately reflect your interests. This makes you much more likely to purchase something, since they know exactly what you’re looking for.
Another feature of E-Commerce is Interactivity. Interactivity is something I really like, because it makes me feel like I’m a valued customer. There is nothing more frustrating than going into a store to find something you need, and not getting the assistance you feel you deserve. With the new standards being set by E-Commerce, interactivity is now pretty standard in most businesses you find in the marketspace. There are online agents to chat with you live if you’re having issues with a product, shipping or billing. Also, customers are better able to give feedback on products, which allows other users to see whether or not they want to actually spend money on items. Amazon is great example. Every time you buy something, you have the option to rate your experience with not only the product, but also the seller. This tells future customers whether or not they will be given fair pricing, quick shipping, and intact products.
Slightly unrelated, but equally important as Interactivity, is Information Denseness. There is so much pricing information floating around in cyberspace, it seems like it would make things very complicated for a perspective business owner to decide how to fairly price their products. However, because of Information Denseness, pricing has in fact become much easier! Now you can easily access your competitor’s, manufacturer’s, and delivery service’s information, which allows you to save on information processing, storage and communication costs. This not only drives costs down, but it also speeds up the process of accessing the information which contributes to increased service times and happier customers!
Nearing the end of this fabulous list is Personalization. In this hectic world we live in, with everything we could possibly want at our fingertips, and having the expectation of instant gratification, the next best thing to quick service is perfect service. This implies that not only will you receive your products in a timely manner, but that they will be exactly what you want. There is a growing trend now of customization in many different businesses. An interesting example is Mission Bicycles, in San Francisco. They allow you to create your entire bicycle from the frame up, choosing colors, handlebars, seat style, chains, pedals….you name it! Depending on what kind of product you’re looking for, you’ll most likely find a way to customize it online so that it fits your idea of perfection.
Last of all, E-Commerce has played a huge role in Social Technology. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on, are not merely there for your entertainment. They all collect information about you and as I mentioned above, show you the kinds of ads and sites you would most likely be interested in based on that information. Social technology has changed E-Commerce in many ways. It has allowed people all over the world to start networking and share their interests, which in turn has allowed companies to more selectively target their customer bases. IBM has a nice little article about how they use Social Technology to increase and improve their interactions with their customers. As stated in the article, “Social technologies are increasingly being used to connect with customers to build strong and lasting relationships, through ratings and reviews, blogs, micro-blogging, forums and communities like Facebook. All of these social technologies are changing the customer experience for the better, turning a regular customer into a brand advocate.” IBM knows the marketspace very well, and obviously knows what their customers are looking for in a relationship, too.
All eight of these features contribute to the reason why E-Commerce is the way of the future for all businesses. If you aren’t online, you’re not going to survive in this new marketplace/marketspace. E-commerce has significantly (positively) changed the way we do business, and will continue to do so for generations to come.