- Category: November - December 2009
Online shopping is a major part of the overall electronic commerce, or e-commerce, industry which consists of all the buying and selling of goods and services over electronic systems such as the internet and other computers. Especially with the rise of the internet, the amount of trade that is conducted electronically has seen extraordinary growth, but before the widespread introduction of the internet to the general public in 1994, the term electronic commerce referred to the use of technologies such as electronic data interchange (EDI) and electronic funds transfer (EFT), that had been introduced already in the late 1970s, to facilitate business practices. With the rise of the World Wide Web many predicted the e-commerce would soon become a major economic sector, but security protocols such as HTTPS did not become secure enough for widespread use of such transactions until 1998. Nevertheless, there came along the dotcom bubble, which saw the emergence of the internet as a new economic sector, which collapsed when the bubble burst in 2000 and 2001. Despite this, many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers recognized the valuable markets identified during that time and took steps to add e-commerce capabilities to their own website. Thus, new methods of sending payments, such as e-shopping carts, electronic payment services and secured credit card payment authorizations became more widely used. And nowadays, online shopping in the Asia Pacific region is set to expand rapidly in coming years underpinned by rapid economic growth in this field and has many distinct and unique advantages and disadvantages which separate it from traditional retail shopping:
On the plus side, online stores are available 24/7, unlike traditional retailers, and can be accessed from the convenience of one’s own home. Second, searching and browsing for products online is often quicker than in a physical store, although consumers with dial-up internet access may have trouble accessing content-rich websites quickly.
On the minus side, the need to ship the product to the buyer often introduces a significant delay, not present in traditional retailing. Second, should the customer not be satisfied with the product, or should some unforeseen problem arise requiring the product to be returned, it may be more difficult for the customer to obtain compensation or a refund than if they have had purchased the product from an actual store.
The shopping experience for online shoppers is also very different:
Online stores must describe products for sale with text, photos, and multimedia files, whereas in a physical retail store, the actual product and the manufacturer's packaging will be available for direct inspection - which might involve a test drive, fitting, or other experimentation.
Some online stores provide or link to supplemental product information, such as instructions, safety procedures, demonstrations, or manufacturer specifications. Some provide background information, and advice, designed to help consumers decide which product to buy. Some stores even allow customers to comment or rate their items or show dedicated review sites that host user reviews for different products which may not be available to brick-and-mortar shoppers.
In a conventional retail store, clerks are generally available to answer questions. Some online stores have real-time chat features, but most rely on email or telephone communications with a more anonymous and distant shop employee should they have any queries.
The ability to compare prices between different stores quickly and easily is a big advantage for online shoppers, and they often have access to a wider selection of goods, made possible by avoiding the need to physically display them. The availability of unique goods, which may be hard or impossible to find offline, is for sure also quite attractive to some consumers. Shoppers find a greater selection online in certain market segments (for example, computers and consumer electronics) due to a relaxation of certain constraints, such as the size of a "brick-and-mortar" store, lower stocking costs (or none, if drop shipping is used), and lower staffing overhead.
Some of the most bought things online are books, clothes, shoes, and accessories, besides cosmetics, nutrition products, and groceries. About one fourth of travelers buy their plane tickets online because it is a quick and easy way to compare airline travel and make a purchase.
One third of people that shop online use a search engine to find what they are looking for and about one fourth find websites by word of mouth that has become a leading way by which people find shopping websites. When an online shopper has a good first experience with a certain website, sixty percent of the time they will return to that website to buy more according to experts’ surveys.
Online shopping provides more freedom and control than shopping in a store and consumers are particularly satisfied when it comes to comparing prices, the wider range of offers, the affordability of products and the choice of suppliers. However, they are less enthusiastic about unclear product information, advertising, the protection of privacy, issues of trust and the possibility of returning goods.