E-commerce – or electronic commerce – is the process of electronically buying or selling products via online services or over the internet. It is a huge market that is having a massive impact on the retail sector, with stock being sold from warehouses, rather than stores on the high street or retail parks. It’s a further development in the retail sector, that has been undergoing significant changes in the last two decades.
Internet retail milestones
Here are some significant, surprising internet retail milestones:
1995: Amazon.com is launched by Jeff Bezos
1995: eBay is founded as AuctionWeb as the first online auction site supporting person-to-person transactions
1999: Global e-commerce reaches $150 billion
2017: Global e-commerce transactions generate $29.267 trillion, including $25.516 trillion for business-to-business transactions and $3.851 trillion for business-to-consumer sales.
Internet shopping, or e-commerce, is not for everyone. There are obvious advantages to actually going into a shop and seeing the products and handling them. But the appeal of online retail is that you can literally search for anything online and find it for sale somewhere in the world. To some extent, it has taken the fun out of going out and finding real things, but the convenience and ease of payment is undeniably straightforward. It is also very useful for people who, for whatever reason, are unable to travel to the shops, through infirmity for example, or living in remote areas with poor transport links.
E-commerce has made a big impact on supermarkets, which have capitalised on the popularity of being able to order online. All the major supermarkets have their own version of shopping online for home delivery, with liveried vans making the drops. Things have come full circle, and this harks back to many years ago, when a village shop would have a delivery van that would go out on a round, to deliver to houses in the area.
Some of the budget supermarkets still do not offer this service, but it is probably only a matter of time until they do. Their margins are already tight, but they will no doubt find a way to make this happen logistically. It must be worth the investment, as it adds an entirely separate revenue stream. There is generally no minimum spend, but there is usually a delivery charge or an incentive to coax customers to sign up with a specific supermarket. Exact time-slots can be requested, but it is first come first served at Christmas release times – the good slots get booked up quickly.
A global shop window
E-commerce draws on a range of technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, digital marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. It is by far the most sophisticated and convenient way to shop and can be carried out on any mobile device or personal computer. The digital nature of the Internet of Things means that compatibility is king. E-commerce is driven by technological advances and is by far the largest sector of the electronics industry.
Online-specific goods and services include digital distribution, e-books, software and streaming media, online banking, florist delivery, concert tickets, food ordering, pharmaceuticals, e-procurement, travel bookings and grocery delivery. Each of these categories has led to its own micro-culture – so online travel has spawned the concept of Airbnb accommodation booking.
Buying at the click of a button
Online marketplace services include advertising, auction sites and comparison shopping. The cheapest deals can spread like wildfire on social media. As a result, the outlook for e-commerce looks rosy. With improvements in the UK infrastructure, more and more places are becoming connected, and even the most remote rural areas will have access to fast Broadband and connectivity. In most towns and cities these days, you are never far from a Wi-Fi hotspot or a digital hub – and consequently an online store.
E-commerce uses the internet to carry out the transaction. Typically this may include an interlinked combination of a website to carry out the ordering, email or mobile phones for notifications and bank websites for the transaction.
Boughey Distribution has its own BougheyNET system that can trace your stock in real time. Wherever and whenever items were ordered, they will be in the right place at the right time. This makes sure that in the digital age of online ordering, customers can be satisfied that they are placing their stock in a safe pair of hands.