Posted by Pamela Swift in Online Business
eCommerce is not any recent-year phenomenon like the iPad or Facebook. It has been around for decades. In fact, history says that eCommerce transactions have been happening ever since the late 90s. However, their role and preview was limited to a very tiny user group consisting mainly of the government, tech lobbyists and IT enterprises.
But today, eCommerce is a massive industry with its own identity. At least one-third of the consumer goods we own have been home delivered by an online store.
What is eCommerce?
Common knowledge, yet so many seem confused about this term. eCommerce is the use of Internet and its network prowess of any commercial transaction. If you thought online shopping is only for of eCommerce, you are wrong.
eCommerce includes a variety of other transactions like online banking, ticket booking, B2B selling and buying, etc. In other words, any monetary or business transaction completed with the help of Internet is referred to as eCommerce.
The beginnings of eCommerce
As we said before, eCommerce dates back to the 90s. But they were miniatures of the real eCommerce process and were short-lived. The real beginning of eCommerce happened with Amazon. Launched in 1995 as an online bookstore, Amazon rapidly grew becoming an everything store.
Why is eCommerce so popular amidst vendors?
A handful of reasons why eCommerce has become popular than it was ever imagined to be:
- Breaks all distance barriers. You can reach for products and customers anywhere in the world.
- The costs are fractional compared to the costs of running a physical store
- The profit margin is higher since there is high business flexibility
- Inventory management is easier since distribution centers can be located close to customer-centric regions
- Digital advertising helps cut costs further compared to tangible marketing campaigns
What are the risks involved in eCommerce?
While eCommerce opens up the world for business, it is also accompanied by a range of risks that online store owners must seek protection against.
The biggest risks involved in the eCommerce business are: earning customer trust, maintaining cash flow, logistics and timely delivery.
Winning customer trust is easier said than done. The first time a customer logs into your online store, they’ll have three questions in their mind:
- Is this store trustworthy?
- Are the products of good quality?
- Will my credit card information be handled with confidentiality?
No matter how great your brand name is, if you convince your customers of these three questions, you are saved.
Once customers trust your brand, they will place regular orders and the risk of cash flow will slowly deplete while maintaining a sturdy infrastructure for logistics.Apart from an owned delivery network, you may also want to set up third-party enabled delivery network to handle peak season order fulfillment.
Further, as a wannabe noted brand in eCommerce you might also want to secure things at your customer’s end. Here are some common customer abuse instances you must stay aware and protected against.
Common forms of customer abuse in eCommerce
- Identity theft
Identity theft is recognized as an illegal offence in most countries. Despite the legal implications, it continues to rise as a major customer abuse form that is threatening the growth of eCommerce. In identity theft, sensitive information about an individual is either stolen or faked for malicious purposes.
- Credit information stealing
VISA found in its survey, that almost 74% of online customers pay for their shopping bills using credit cards.
Now imagine the tragedy if this vital information is either lost or stolen by unauthorized process? The customer will become liable for bill charges that he never made in the first place. Not to mention the exorbitant interest costs that will leave the customer drained of finances. Furthermore, it will hurt the public image of the eCommerce store from where such information was lost in the first place.
eBay, Target, Home Spot, are some online stores where such instances have happened in the past.
- Over charging
“Almost 56% of online shoppers abandon costs when they are presented with unexpected costs.”~ Statistia
Unexpected costs are huge turn offs in online shopping. Not only does it take away the trust placed in the store but also makes the customer wary of logging into the store again.
Online stores with clear and transparent pricing systems tend to be favorites for customers. This includes costs for delivery as well as gift packing, scheduled delivery, etc.
- A messed returns policy
I don’t want to shop from that store because they won’t entertain returns.” How many of us would have felt the same while browsing things online? Unlike in brick & mortar stores, in online shopping there is no facility for the customer to trial a product before deciding to buy it. Hence, when a change is required, a clear cut returns policy goes a long way in ensuring customer satisfaction. Without it, the store will fail to sustain the customer it has painstakingly won.
How to be a reliable eCommerce brand?
The fanfare for online shopping has increased thanks to the advent of cyber security measures like SSL certificate (Secured Sockets Layer). HTTPS enabled websites make customers feel at ease. There is a reasonable amount of assurance that their private information will not be leaked or made available in the hands of unauthorized personnel.
- Ease of access
Today’s customers want to have multiple payment options available and if you don’t have their preferred method of payment, they will simply move on to a retailer that does. It isn’t enough to take traditional forms of payment like credit card and PayPal any more because customers are more aware of the fees and risks associated with those methods. Having the ability to process checks electronically through an ACH check processing system is a nice touch because it provides just one more option for weary consumers to make a purchase. Always provide the customer with as many payment options as possible.
Amazon is counted as the top-ranking online store in the world due to its customer-centric approach. They do small things which go a long way in impressing customer and being engaged to the brand. Wooing customers with small acts of attention like customized delivery, quick returns, etc. help build an impressive brand image.
As we said before, the eCommerce industry is not an easy one to crack with so many risks involved. But with some amount of customer-oriented approach from the store;s part, it is always possible to create a reliable brand image. A recognized brand image is the quickest way to increase your sales.