E-commerce - A Lifeline
“If your business is not on the internet, your business will soon be out of business.” – Bill Gates
E-commerce commonly refers to buying and selling goods and services online. It is one of the key factors in determining both the long term as well as short term degree of success of a business or any organization, inclusive of sustenance, profitability, and growth of the aforementioned.
However, with a global pandemic afoot and people trapped within their households, the importance of understanding e-commerce has sky-rocketed as all transactions in most if not every industry is now dependant on the same concept. Nonetheless, to use e-commerce as a tool to increase efficiency and effectiveness, it is necessary to understand that it has an equivalent of both, advantages as well as disadvantages, once again emphasizing the importance of educated risks and gambles in a business.
Therefore, we present to you the top 5 advantages and disadvantages of E-commerce.
Advantages of E-Commerce -
1. Wider markets, with low costs:
One, of the foremost limitations of any offline store or showroom, is the limited reach and problems accruing out of the same. Furthermore, the idea of opening one at an ‘ideal location’ leads to exorbitant costs and in turn requires huge funds, not only for buying or renting the space but also for decorating and maintaining the same, while still limiting your consumer base to the locals.
E-commerce contrarily, does away with such shortcomings, as it operates online and maximizes your reach and consumer base domestically as well as internationally, at feasible costs, which are4 comparatively several times lower.
2. Customer satisfaction and reviews:
E-commerce directs and presents online shopping portals to consumers based on analytics of diverse online activities of the consumer which include but aren’t limited to preferences, previous history, time of purchase, and keywords used. All of the above vary significantly with different target audiences.
E-commerce allows sellers to customize the landing pages on their respective portals to cater to the needs and wants of a consumer, especially those who are registered, thus ensuring a personalized experience, including giving repeated consumers discounts, etc. for rewarding brand loyalty, which ensures a higher degree of satisfaction. 24/7 flexibility in operational timings also adds to the same.
Further, the after-care online services can be provided by sellers to acknowledge and resolve various grievances that might occur after the purchase of the product. Besides that, allowing consumers to leave public reviews also maximizes their satisfaction.
These reviews also help analyze and optimize the keywords, user experience, marketing message, pricing strategy, and more.
3. Market demand and consumer trends:
Consumer’s tastes and preferences are volatile in nature in the short run as well as the long run thus, in turn making market demands ever-changing. With the above in mind, fast response to such changes especially in industries like textile fashion and food is paramount. E-commerce helps facilitate the same. Moreover, if the products of the e-commerce store are well photographed and laden with vibrant colors and emotions, they also help in encouraging impulse buys and bringing in the fence-sitters among the three ranges of consumers.
E-commerce stores allow sellers to collect the emails and target consumers who repetitively visit their portals and add products to their carts, without later buying or deleting the same or as previously mentioned, the fence-sitter class of their target audience.
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4. Business scaling:
Online marketing and ads are a major part of the process. With e-commerce a seller can easily and on short-notice adjust their budgeting for the same, this helps in maximizing profits, especially in boom and seasonal periods, while minimizing the losses during bearish periods. This also makes marketing, not only easy but also, quick while optimizing financial costing of the same.
E-commerce also allows organizations to increase their organic traffic along with sales by adding new target consumers and audiences by providing quality content in forms of videos and online content blogging on your industry and products.
5. Employment and training costs:
One of the major expenses incurred by the business is the cost of employment, training, and development of human resource. E-commerce allows the organization to launch and operate its store online even with a minimal number of employees and cuts at the excessive costs incurred in the offline version of the same in terms of sales personnel, etc.
Moreover, it allows the seller to employ people from all over the world, and at a cost comparatively lower than its offline counter. It also minimizes the costs of training and development of the personnel thus hired.
With minimal personnel and the majority of the work being performed by algorithms and processors, the chances of human error also decrease making the store more consumer-friendly.
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Disadvantages of E-Commerce
Even though e-commerce until now seems like every business’ dream come true, it has a few shortcomings as well which are given below:
1. Internet access and glitches:
In a developing country like India, a majority of our geographical lands comprise of areas where people aren’t able to access basics such as electricity, internet for them is further away than a dream itself. Moreover, even urban areas I metro politician cities like Delhi, Mumbai, etc more often than not, the internet bandwidth is not steady, leading to pages crashing repetitively.
This often agitates the prospective consumers and in turn, leads to distrust as well as a loss of their interest.
Other similar situations, like crashing websites, due to unreliable hosting platforms or glitches in processing orders or slow workings also generate similar results.
2. Customer dissatisfaction:
Often e-commerce stores work on a macro basis leading to huge influxes of inquiries and grievances on a daily basis. Consumers expect quick replies, which becomes difficult with the enormity of the influx, leading to people becoming impatient and taking their business elsewhere. Furthermore, an excessive amount of negative reviews online also generates a similar result of lower sales.
The lack of testing and checking products, especially technology and clothing before purchase combined with long and at times delayed delivery process also discourages consumers from purchasing products through e-commerce.
3. Highly competitive:
E-commerce allows consumers to compare the products and prices allotted to the same on different online stores, which is a big incentive in attracting huge audiences. But, the same comparison acts as a double-edged sword as it leads to extensively high levels of competitiveness among sellers. This in turn also increases the cost of advertising and marketing on different popular platforms including but not limited to social media like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
4. Lack of personal touch:
Since a large no. of consumers are not able to touch, see, smell, or try products before purchasing them, it takes away the personal touch that their offline counters offer. Furthermore, to hammer the nail into coffin lack of sale personnel or face to face marketing with a waiting period of at least 24 hours for receiving a reply to the inquiries sours the experience of the consumers.
A proposed solution to the same is 24/7 instant chat boxes on some websites, but these require a large amount of manpower, hence rendering them infeasible in many cases, especially for start-ups and small companies that have tighter budgets without much wiggle room.
5. Security issues:
Since e-commerce is dependent on analytics for results, it allows stores to collect personal information of the buyers or consumers including, name, bank details, email IDs, phone numbers, so on, and so forth. Such highly sensitive information thus, need to be stored and monitored with rigorous cybersecurity, which requires regular investments in software purchase and upgradation.
Furthermore, failure to do the same or leakages not only brings government intervention but also, results in bad publicity and falls in goodwill, in turn leading to distrust among consumers and a fall in sales in not only the compromised e-commerce website but the overall industry.
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Thus, to conclude it is pertinent to understand and remember that risk is a prerequisite to ever award, especially in the corporate world, with e-commerce being no exception as it has both advantages and disadvantages, equalizing it with any other educated risk. However, in our opinion that advantages do make a more favourable hand, especially during the given circumstances.
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