No matter what type of company you run, it’s almost inevitable that technology, computers, and the internet have impacted some degree on your operations. Whether you just use tech for emailing and browsing competitor sites or you’re already more immersed with a fully-fledged e-commerce store, pretty much all companies these days rely on technology to at least some degree in their day-to-day operations.
It’s worth remembering the web is still a media very much in its infancy (the first modern web page only went live 30 years ago), and the internet’s relevance and importance in our everyday lives are still at a largely embryonic stage. That said, the last 30 years have seen a total technological transformation in terms of our work and social lives, largely driven by technology.
Of particular note in this digital revolution has been the meteoric rise of online shopping. In 2019, online shopping accounted for just 14.1% of all retail sales - however, fast forward to 2023, and that figure is forecast to rise to 22% and be worth $740 billion in the US alone. Indeed, even at today’s relatively early rates, it’s estimated 75 % of people now shop online at least once a month.
The importance of getting your business online asap
With such impressive figures behind the growth of e-com, it’s more important than ever for firms to have an online presence. The growth of online shopping seems now to be largely unstoppable - so, if you’re not selling online already, it’s vitally important you prepare as soon as possible to stay competitive against your rivals. Even if you offer online shopping as a sideline, it could provide a valuable extra income stream and will help raise your profile in the minds of your customers - both potential and existing.
The effect of Coronavirus on online shopping
Studies show the lockdown and isolation restrictions caused by the emergence of Coronavirus have likely accelerated the take-up of shopping online by as much as four to six years. Moreover, with populations around the world forced to stay at home, retailers that were already fully equipped with a functioning virtual store frequently enjoyed bumper sales through the virus.
Even now, as we seemingly leave the worst of the pandemic behind us with the promise of the protection offered by vaccines, it seems unlikely these ingrained habits will simply change overnight. Rather, it would appear more probable that e-commerce has finally found the foothold it needed in the conscience of shoppers who will continue to feel more at ease with the online shopping experience.
How technology is driving the revolution
Today’s vastly superior software, programming, servers, and connection speeds are, in part at least, driving the e-commerce revolution - from both a customer and retailer perspective.
From a customer’s point of view, online shopping is frequently considered a more relaxing, simpler experience than trawling the traditional high street shops for goods. Instead, we browse from home comfort - or, increasingly, on devices as recent Mobile Commerce Trends suggest. Then, once we’ve found an item that catches our interest, we select it, pay, and - boom - a short time later, the goods arrive as if by magic.
However, from a retailer’s perspective, selling online goes much deeper and offers considerably more practical advantages than real-world retailing. For example, by integrating e-com software into your operations, you accurately trace each stage of a customer’s path through your site so you can prioritize goods that are of interest and viewed most frequently higher up your pages. Going a step further, if you employ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software into your operations, you can hand-hold your clients through every step of their purchasing journey - from the first contact through the buying process to after-sales care and attention.
Indeed, if you integrate services like Google Analytics into pages, you can even know how customers found you and where they came from - which also lets you accurately assess the effectiveness and Return on Investment (ROI) of your marketing and advertising.
The time and cost savings that can make you more competitive
Selling online offers previously unimaginable advantages to retailers to gain insights into their customers and build brand loyalty. For example, if you also build a presence on the major social media channels, you build familiarity and even create dialogue direct with your clients saving you both time and money compared to traditional forms of communication like mailshots or media advertising.
Also, as the e-com model continues to evolve, we’re starting to see the emergence of interesting and highly innovative services that can slash the costs of running a store. For example, the dropshipping model where a shop doesn’t even stock the products it sells has garnered a lot of attention of late as the ideal model for potential retailers to follow to minimize their outlay and slash costs.