Ecommerce is the buying and selling of goods or services, or the transmission of funds or data over an electronic network. The internet is the primary platform for this kind of activity.
These transactions can occur from business to business, business to consumer, consumer to consumer, or consumer to business - a number of sites exist to facilitate these interactions across a wide range of sectors and industries.
According to IMRG, the UK represents Europe’s largest ecommerce market, with £114bn worth of sales in 2014 alone. In certain seasons, ecommerce performs even better than that, with 2015 online Christmas sales hitting £24bn. The IMRG estimates that around 27% of all retail sales now take place online, a statistic that has been impacted dramatically by the ever-increasing rise in mobile devices.
The growth in ecommerce has been driven in part by improved access, but has also been driven by a determined effort by businesses and retailers to create online spaces for customer interaction. Because of this effort, it is possible for customers to make purchases online that they previously would have had to make in person in a shop.
Travel and healthcare are examples of industries that have moved into ecommerce in recent years; they form just a part of the range of sectors that have contributed to the ubiquitous nature of online services and sales.
As time goes on, and as mobile devices continue to rise in prominence and availability, it is likely that more and more of the retail market will migrate into e-platforms.
The Definition of Ecommerce
As mentioned, ecommerce - or e-business, as it is sometimes known - is a term that relates to any transaction that takes place on an electronic platform. Ecommerce does not only include ecommerce websites, but can also include channels like email marketing.
Ecommerce is a sector frequently used both by traditional retailers, as well as by newer, purely online marketplaces. Indeed, in the modern world of business you are likely to find that most high street retailers also operate an online platform. Even if sales are not directly available on the high street retailer’s website, there are often enquiry options present which can lead to a purchase anyway. Perhaps just as importantly, by having an online space the retailer is able to strengthen their brand.
Although it requires certain resources, like website designers or developers, for companies with stock and the ability to operate via an online platform, ecommerce has incredible potential to be a lucrative source of revenue and brand identity.
Advantages & Benefits of Ecommerce
Ecommerce is a platform that offers a number of advantages and benefits to both businesses and consumers. Not only popular for the ease of access that it offers, ecommerce is also thriving due to a range of other factors.
The Benefits of Ecommerce
- Ease of access - Not only is it becoming easier for consumers to search for and buy products, it’s also becoming easier to have these items delivered.
- Price - Although the costs of ecommerce do exist for businesses, there is also space to save money - an ecommerce store is almost certainly going to be cheaper than a chain of brick-and-mortar shops, and staffing is likely to be less expensive.
- Savings - Consumer can almost always save money online simply because it’s so easy to shop around for the best deal.
The benefits of ecommerce are not just there for businesses, but are there for customers too. Perhaps the best indication of these benefits is the manner in which ecommerce has continued to gain prominence in recent years.
The Advantages of Ecommerce
- Ease of access - Not just a benefit, ease of access can often give ecommerce stores an advantage over brick-and-mortar rivals. Having an online presence that is properly maintained can mean gaining customers that might otherwise visit a competitor in person.
- Reach - Whereas your high street store is limited to just the people that come to it, your ecommerce store can deliver as far as you’d like it to. It is even possible to launch into international markets, although it’s worth bearing in mind that the costs of delivering overseas will be significantly higher than local delivery.
- Setting up - It would not be right to assume that you can set up a fully-functioning online business without any effort, but it is worth bearing in mind that setting up an ecommerce store is easier than setting up a brick-and-mortar one in many ways. For example, an ecommerce store is not limited by location - you could even start one from your bedroom if you wanted. You probably will not have this level of freedom with a traditional retail store.
Perhaps the biggest ecommerce advantage for businesses is the rise in accessibility that it offers. Unlike a high-street store, an ecommerce store has the capability to cater to a global audience, and can do so without limit.
Real-life stores have capacity issues that could limit the number of customers served, however an ecommerce store with a quality website hosting service can keep selling without any limit on their ability to accept customers.
Starting Your Ecommerce Website
Starting your own ecommerce website requires a number of things, and so it is vital that you are aware of the best ways to proceed before setting out.
What is your Ecommerce Website for?
As with any new business, it is vital that you understand your industry - it’s also vital that you are passionate about it. If you enjoy what you do, you’ll be far less likely to grow tired of it, and you’re far more likely to create and manage a successful, profitable business.
- Know your industry
- Know your audience
- Know your products or services
These three point may seem obvious, but far too many people attempt to start businesses without the proper planning and research. If you don’t know your audience then you will struggle to sell to them, even if you know the products inside out; likewise, if you know your audience inside out, but don’t know the products, then you’re just as likely to fail.
For more advice, visit our ecommerce web design ideas page.
Is there a gap in the market?
The biggest businesses, including ecommerce businesses, thrive because they fill a void. Operating in a niche market can be very lucrative, but it will be difficult if you are competing with a range of other established businesses. Look for gaps where you think you can provide a unique service and then tailor your site to this gap.
It could be that you want to create a website that caters to anglers, but you can see that there are a lot of businesses already competing in this market. Are they missing anything? Is there a service or product that you can specialise in that they haven’t got?
You might think that selling the biggest range of goods is the best way to make your site profitable, but the truth is that sometimes a website that sells just one or two products can do very well. In these cases, becoming an expert in one area can provide a lot more sales potential than if you were selling several, non-specialised products or services.
What does my Ecommerce site need?
It’s easy to assume that you could just make a site that performs, but there are a number of considerations that you need to make.
Will you be actively selling products on your site, or just providing contact information so that the sale can take place over another channel?
If you mean to make sales directly on your ecommerce website, then it will need to be designed with this kind of functionality in mind; a website that sells products through an integrated system will require specialised software and catalogues to enable the sales process.
How often will you need to update or edit your site or products?
If you are a specialist ecommerce store, then you may only have one or two products and editing may not occur very often. However, if your website features a range of products, then the chances of updates will rise. If editing is a feature you will likely need, then a CMS will be preferable.
How many selling options will the site have?
Some sites have a large product catalogue - in some cases, this catalogue will also include variations. For a clothing ecommerce store, for example, one shirt could come in six colours meaning that, even if you only have pages for 100 products, these 100 products will in turn need to display as many options as required, with the option for customers to buy whichever of those options they actually want or require. As above, if this is the case it is likely that you will need a more complex site with this kind of functionality built into it.
Get Ecommerce Website Design Quotes
If you are interested in starting an ecommerce store, then looking into design options is an excellent place to start. Approved Index can help here. Fill in the form at the top of this page and answer a few simple questions and we can match you up with vetted, experienced ecommerce website designers who can help your plans a reality.
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