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The Science of eCommerce - What is eCommerce
The Brief History of Commerce
Not too long ago, to sell a product in any meaningful fashion meant that you needed a store front or physical location. While this worked (and still does for many businesses), it limited your audience to the people that were in proximity based on the geography of the area.
As time progressed national and international businesses and brands were formed and while the store front became larger it didn't necessarily change the landscape dramatically. The ways and means of reaching customers changed of course through media - print and Television primarily but in reality the "buying" public saw what the advertisers and companies wanted you to see so in reality a lot of small businesses that had the perfect product failed, simply because they couldn't inform the right target market of what it was they were trying to sell as they simply could not reach them.
However with the advent of the Internet and Online Search the way in which people find and buy their items has changed dramatically and is continuing to change in new and unforeseen ways every day. One of the biggest drivers of this change is eCommerce. With a global reach many businesses are now only located online and in fact some of the world's largest brands and businesses (Facebook, Google) have no physical presence at all and are purely virtual.
What is eCommerce
eCommerce is generally defined as the buying and selling of products and services over the Internet. eCommerce however is not restricted just to the transfer of goods and services but can be any transfer of information over the Internet. While most transactions are conducted through the use and utilization of credit cards, there are also many alternative methods available to consumers (Paypal, eCheck etc...) interested in making a purchase.
The actual completion of these transactions are not restricted to web-browsers and personal computers though as mobile apps are taking a larger and larger share of the global eCommerce market through the use of smartphone's and tablet computers and it is expected that this trend will only speed up over time.
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What Do You Need to Consider as a retailer?
Choosing to have an eCommerce site is not a simple decision to be made as there are many different factors to consider. In addition with some of the large powerhouses of eTailing (eBay and Amazon) many smaller organizations, companies and individuals can take advantage of their global reach to gain access to a much broader market without having to worry about their own site. While there are advantages in going this route, the most significant disadvantage of course is branding - without your own name, you will never fully own the market and for those companies with a stand out product that is not really an option.
At a very high level some things that you need to consider when building your online presense are as follows (note this list is not comprehensive):
- Domain Name - choosing a name that makes sense is key as by far the biggest driver of eCommerce success is Search and if people cannot find you they cannot buy from you. Once you have a name selected of course finding a matching domain name can be significantly harder - especially if you are a late comer to the Internet revolution. Most companies prefer to have a .com name as that is the accepted standard for business' but many companies also choose to go with a country specific domain name - .co.uk for example. Part of the Domain Name process is choosing a specific Domain Registrar and a Domain Hosting company to host your website.
- WebDesign - when customers view your products online, you want them to get an outstanding experience. After all without the ability to touch and feel a product to make their decision, they are going to need to rely upon images and text descriptions only and for some high value items this can be difficult. One thing to consider when designing a site though is the speed and overall user experience as while you want to show your customers the best quality images of your products if they are too large the site will just crawl and they will not bother to view the site at all.
- Shopping Basket - there are primarily two different types of eCommerce sites - informational and retail. For retailing sites, it is necessary to have a shopping basket so that customers can add their purchases somewhere. Of course along with a shopping basket you also need to then consider how they are going to pay for their items - i.e. what methods of payment will be accepted.
- Security - of course as soon as you introduce credit card payments, you also need to start considering security. There are many major websites and companies that have been compromised already and have had their data stolen and if you do not take into account the lessons learned from the past, there is a very good chance that you will also experience a similar attack!
- Marketing and Promotion - as already mentioned with the Internet it is now possible to have customers searching for and purchasing your product from any where in the world, however if you do not have a proper way of informing the public that you are out there and what your product is, it really does not matter how great your product or service is. Unfortunately - if you build it they will come - doesn't really hold true in the real world!