E-commerce is business transactions through electronic means, including the internet, telephones, televisions and computers. As the number of internet users grows, many believe e-commerce will soon be the main way to complete business transactions. There are purchasers and business alike that are affected by e-commerce. Let’s take a look and see the main e-commerce advantages and disadvantages.
E-Commerce Advantages for Customers
- Convenience. Every product is at the tip of your fingers on the internet, literally. Type in the product you are looking for into your favorite search engine and every option will appear in a well organized list in a matter of seconds.
- Time saving. With e-commerce there is no driving in circles while looking and digging in hopes of finding what you need. Stores online offer their full line as well as use warehouses instead of store fronts—products are easy to locate and can be delivered to your door in just days.
- Options, options, options! Without driving from store to store the consumer can easily compare and contrast products. See who offers the best pricing and have more options to choose from. While a physical store has limited space, the same store on the internet will have full stock.
- Easy to compare. Side by side comparisons are readily available and easy to do. When products are placed online, they come with all the specifics, and they want you to compare them with others, know they have the best options and come back for more!
- Easy to find reviews. Because the competition is high, companies online want you to look at other consumer reviews. Good and bad reviews are on every site, not only can you see if the product is liked, you can also see the reasons behind the thumbs up or down.
- Coupons and deals. With every online business wanting you, more and more coupons and deals can’t be avoided, which are totally great for customers. With major sites that act as department store, you may find items up to 80% off! Take advantage of the competition and find the best price available.
E-Commerce Advantages for Businesses
- Increasing customer base. The customer base is every business’s main concern, online or off. When online, a business doesn’t have to worry about getting the best property in town, people from around the world have access to their products and can come back at anytime.
- Rise in sales. By not managing a storefront, any business will have more sales online with a higher profit margin. They can redistribute money to make the consumer shopping experience faster and more efficient. While being available to international markets, more products will sell.
- 24/7, 365 days. If it’s snowing and the roads are closed, or it’s too hot and humid to even step outside in the summer, or a holiday that every store in town closes, your online business is open for consumers 24/7 every day of the year. The doors never close and profits will keep rising.
- Expand business reach. A great tool on the internet is…translation! A business online does not have to make a site for every language. With the right marketing, every consumer around the globe can find the business site, products and information without leaving home.
- Recurring payments made easy. With a little research, every business can set up recurring payments. Find the provider that best suits your needs and billing will be done in a consistent manner; payments will be received in the same way.
- Instant transactions. With e-commerce there is no more waiting for the check to clear, or a 30-day wait for certain other types of payment. Transactions are cleared immediately or at most two to three days for the money to clear through the banking system.
E-Commerce Disadvantages for Businesses
- Security issues. While businesses make great efforts to keep themselves and the consumer safe, there are people out there that will break every firewall possible to get the information they want. We have all seen recently how the biggest and most renown business can be hacked online.
- Credit card issues. Many credit card businesses will take the side of the consumer when there is dispute about billing—they want to keep their clients, too. This can lead to a loss for e-commerce business when goods have already been delivered and the payment is refunded back to the consumer.
- Extra expense and expertise for e-commerce infrastructure. To be sure an online business is running correctly, money will have to be invested. As an owner, you need to know transactions are being handled properly and products are represented in the most truthful way. To make sure you get what you need, you will have to hire a professional to tie up any loose ends.
- Needs for expanded reverse logistics. The infrastructure of an online business must be on point. This will be another cost to the business because money will need to be invested to ensure proper handling of all aspects of buying and selling, especially with disgruntled consumers that want more than a refund.
- Sufficient internet service. Although it seems that everyone is now on the internet all the time, there are still areas in which network bandwidth can cause issues. Before setting up an e-commerce business, be sure your area can handle the telecommunication bandwidth you will need to run effectively.
- Constant upkeep. When a business has started as e-commerce, they must be ready to make changes to stay compatible. While technology grows, the systems that support your business must be kept up to date or replaced if needed. There may be additional overhead in order to keep data bases and applications running.
E-Commerce Disadvantages for Customers
Privacy and security. Before making instant transactions online, be sure to check the sites certificates of security. While it may be easy and convenient to shop, no one wants their personal information to be stolen. While many sites are reputable, always do your research for those with less than sufficient security.
- Quality. While e-commerce makes everything easily accessible, a consumer cannot actually touch products until they are delivered to the door. It is important to view the return policy before buying. Always make sure returning goods is an option.
- Hidden costs. When making purchases, the consumer is aware of the product cost, shipping, handling and possible taxes. Be advised: there may be hidden fees that won’t show up on your purchasing bill but will show up on your form of payment. Extra handling fees may occur, especially with international purchases.
- Delay in receiving goods. Although delivery of products is often quicker than expected, be prepared for delays. A snow storm in one place may throw off the shipping system across the board. There is also a chance that your product may be lost or delivered to the wrong address.
- Need access to internet. Internet access is not free, and if you are using free wifi, there is the chance of information theft over an unsecure site. If you are wearing of your public library, or cannot afford the internet or computer at home, it may be best to shop locally.
Lack of personal interaction. While the rules and regulations of each e-commerce business is laid out for you to read, there is a lot to read and it may be confusing when it comes to the legalities. With large or important orders, there is no one you can talk to face to face when you have questions and concerns.