There are still gaps for e-commerce to fill

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Abdulrahman Saleh Alotaibi

The application of e-commerce is becoming widely accepted among businesses and consumers. The numbers of virtual stores and online customers are on the rise. In recent years, a number of regular - brick and mortar - stores have started to embrace e-commerce as an important channel for offering their goods and services. The continuous quest for optimization is a characteristic of business people and incorporating e-commerce is a major milestone in continuous optimization efforts.

Certain factors influence the acceptance of e-commerce, among which is the increase in the cost of labor. While e-commerce will not replace labor, it will ensure adequate manpower requirements and will help employees make the most of their time when they receive orders online instead of running regular - brick and mortar – stores waiting for walk-in customers who expect to find the required goods or services right away at a proper price which regular stores cannot always provide. Regular stores can only attempt to predict the requirements of walk-in customers.

For businesses that wish to expand their market presence, e-commerce is a viable, cost efficient option. This is especially relevant when products and services cater to niche market segments. Customers are usually scattered across massive geographical locations, and in order to fulfill their requirements, e-commerce is the best option. The message to those clients is “tell us how we can help you in a few clicks, and sometime later, we will bring it to your doorstep”. Even if some or all of the required goods and services are not currently available, businesses will have a grace period to procure them, and with this sales opportunity and customer satisfaction are assured.

In the context of e-marketing, a business can create its own e-commerce portal on its website. The cost of building a proper website is lower nowadays, yet, for a business website to be effective, it should include concise descriptions of the goods and services it is offering with pictures that clearly illustrate to the customers what will they get. Also, the website should include adequate contact information and clear language – as a minimum requirement, the local language as well as English. Frequently asked questions are useful and can be built from the usual inquiries received by the business. Furthermore, providing a live chat option at least during peak hours is ideal.

Before launching the website, carefully decide on selecting the shipping options. You can elect to handle the shipping yourself or partner with a provider. This will also influence the payment method that you will make available to your customers. Apart from the regular online payment methods (such as credit cards), some shipping providers offer cash on delivery options on your behalf that is very desirable for local customers buying from you for the first time. Shipping providers will give you the ability to reach customers across borders and will allow the option for tracking the shipment.

Creating traffic to your website may require a serious effort and may necessitate a marketing campaign, yet, the website contents and links can be used to expand your reach via social media and e-commerce marketplaces. Expanding into these channels will enable you to manage advertising costs while reaching new customers. These platforms are subject to changes on the level of usage and every now and then a new platform will be trending. This is why businesses should always have their own website as the main source of information prior to expanding into other platforms.

From the point of view of customers, e-commerce offers the convenience of easily finding their desired goods and services and thus allowing them to invest their time in something else. This is especially relevant for people with a busy lifestyle. To them, the opportunity cost is higher when it comes to walking to stores with the hope of finding what they want. Even for those who might not be that busy, the cost of transportation and traffic congestion may discourage them from visiting your store.

As a consumer in this day and age, chances are you have made a number of purchases that turned out to be a waste of money and there are equal chances that you may have purchased, owned or come across something you really liked and greatly valued. Or you may have something in mind that suits your taste that marketing research and mass production requirements have not provided. You may wander around markets and eventually end up going home empty handed.

“It was so frustrating that no such network existed before” was a comment following the introduction of the World Wide Web to the general public in the 1990s. The same can easily be said about e-commerce. It is the contemporary representation of finding an old oil lamp and rubbing it, releasing a genie from confinement, yet, instead of asking for three wishes, your credit limit of wishes is much better!

I urge businesses to expand into e-commerce and become wishmakers who offer solutions to customers across the globe, creating happiness and creating an economic surplus. Notably nowadays e-commerce is widely used in food, transportation and accommodation. Having said that, there are gaps that still need to be filled, mainly in the area of business-to-business transactions, such as industrial and service supplies.

Abdulrahman Saleh Alotaibi


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