With online transactions nearly hitting the trillion dollar mark, e-commerce has evolved to the point where there are numerous subsections rising and changing our perception of how we purchase and sell products. What was originally the domain of retailers, the Web has not only made the entire process easier, but has empowered both the seller and the buyer to create a more even playing field.
For retailers, their goods get to reach a wider audience while consumers, it means fewer barriers when completing purchases, they can be more informed and gives more power to them in the form of reviews, ratings and feedback.
What this has resulted in is a rapidly expanding sector that shows no sign of slowing up. With E-commerce growing in popularity and the potential of mobile commerce slowly being realised, it's essential for retailers to try to be ahead of the pack if they don't want to be left behind.
1) Types Of E-commerce
2) M-Commerce Technology
3) Startups/Retailers To Watch
4) Emerging Trends
5) Opinions & Guides
6) Infographic Sources
Types Of E-commerce
While e-commerce is constantly developing with new definitions emerging, there are a few main types to keep in mind. The most popular models would be B2C commerce, which is the domain of brands such as Amazon and other online retailers, and B2B, the selling of goods and services from one business to another. B2B tends to generate more revenue than B2C, mainly because in a regular supply chain, there will be many transactions between different businesses as a product is being produced. Items like raw materials and components would be mostly sold under B2B with the finished product usually being sold as a B2C transaction.
Other emerging sections include C2C, which is one person selling goods to another, effectively cutting out the middleman when it comes to the selling of goods. A good example of this would be eBay where consumers buy and sell goods and services to one another and because the people selling goods don't have the same presence or reputation as a brand, the majority of sites lets you rank users to highlight trustworthiness and their reputation.
Another emerging area is B2M (Business to Machine), which allows businesses and brands to link to remote machines via the internet. B2M technology allows a company to monitor their machines from far away, finding out whether they need to be repaired or restocked, and seeing which products are being sold. This is to help retailers have their products reach areas not usually served by retailers and ensure that their products. This would normally be used by drinks companies like Coca-cola who would place their own branded vending machines in different locations, bypassing the need for retailers.
The final area would be M-commerce, which is the fastest growing e-commerce section and sees the transaction of goods and services through smartphones and tablets.
As well as movements being made in mobile commerce through carriers, and social payments, we're also witnessing a complete change in the world of commerce as your phone essentially become your wallet. Contactless payment or NFC (near field communication) has been bandied about for a while, way before it was at the point of mainstream adoption. Now we are starting to see it emerge into the real world, with pretty exciting consequences.
We're seeing new apps being developed that completely reinvent the idea of payments, totally negating the need to carry a wallet at all. Take the taxi app Uber for example. Not only do you set it up with your credit card, so you need never have cash on you for a taxi again, but it's been developed in a way that's native to the iPhone. When it comes to setting up your account, all you need to do is take a picture of your card and it's done. No entering fiddly numbers on your keypad, simply scan the card and you're good to go. You never need a wallet or card in the whole process of ordering a taxi again.
And beyond this, the concept of contactless payments within stores is beginning to emerge. This is evidenced by Mastercard's recent foray into the world of contactless payments, showing that the space isn't just open for young upstarts, but that established financial players are adapting to meet consumer needs. Mastercard has partnered with the network Everything Everywhere in a five-year deal that will see contactless payments being introduced at over 100,000 stores in the UK, through your mobile. Mastercard is staking a claim in contactless payments here, getting ahead of their competitors and offering consumers a solution they don't even know they need yet.
Contactless payments are spreading fast, as Singapore has just unveiled a payment infrastructure across the country that will allow people to make 'one tap' payments when purchasing an NFC sim and the EZ payment app from Google Play. $40 million was pumped into the scheme, showing that the government is serious about overhauling the current payment system to allow people to top up their phone and pay as they go.
Startups/Retailers To Watch
Stripe is a web app, founded in 2010, that allows companies to easily accept credit cards through their website. Its strength lies in how malleable it is for web designers, making it easy to implement in a variety of ways as well as simple to customise to specific, unique specifications.
There is next to no financial impediment to using Stripe if you are part of a struggling business; there are no monthly or installation fees, and using Stripe will take 2.9 per cent plus $0.30 as a flat rate on every transaction it is used in. As for customer support, Stripe does not excel in that regard, but it is very simple to use and will surely ease web transaction for fledgling businesses, while remaining cost efficient.
Etsy is an online retail site that specialises in home-made gifts and vintage knick-knacks. It is similar to eBay in that it is a free online marketplace, but it is a niche forum with specifications on what can be bought and sold. Nothing is mass produced, so you can you can expect the quality of goods on offer to be high.
However, you would be guaranteed to find something unique to your tastes. Some will not like what is on offer, and the site obviously has a specific customer in mind, but Etsy presents a boutique, individual alternative to most shopping websites.
Being an independent boutique has its perks, but if your clientele is immediately limited to those nearby and those who can afford to visit your store on a regular basis; there isn't much latitude for a large customer base that stretches internationally.
Shoptiques was created to provide small boutiques worldwide with an international method of distribution, without curbing their individuality or charging extortionate rates. Shoptiques compiles the best that 50 boutiques shops have to offer, with reasonable rates on shipping and postage.
Fab raised a lot of eyebrows when it quickly reaching 2 million users earlier this year, becoming one of the most popular e-commerce sites going. It is different in that products sold on Fab are not decided on by market trends and potential popularity, but are purely the tastes of the website's founders.
They choose to sell what they like and hope that a strong base of consumers will adapt, as they have, rather than copy what is already out there. Fab pitches a lifestyle rather than individual items, and customers have clearly subscribed to Fab's taste. You won't go into Fab in search of what you already like, but in hopes of discovering something you will love.
Bombshell will provide a man with anew wardrobe and a fresh sense of style. Using real stylists as well as personal preferences ascertained from their algorithm, Bombshell will decide on a range of clothing that is both fashionable and comfortable.
Users are presented with a new item of clothing every month, and they can either ignore it or purchase it for $69, ensuring that their wardrobe is regularly updated without having to waste time and energy in the shops. It's a simple site with little financial commitment needed that will keep you up to date, fashion-wise, with a minimum of fuss.
Monograms congregates an iPad user's favourite brands into one app, and alerts them to when they are having sales. It's a personalised shopping experience that values tastes as well as being cost efficient.
It is well-designed and clearly has an aesthetic edge that will appeal to iPad users, but it is very much limited to the iOS tablet, so it will probably need to expand before it can become a hit among online shoppers, but it had the right idea. Everybody loves a bargain, and Monogram sets about finding them with reckless abandon and only in places that it knows you love.
You could say that Shopkick is anti e-commerce as its main aim is to drive consumers into actual stores in search of quality and value. Users download this app and select their favourite stores, while Shopkick sets about finding offers and discounts that match their preferences, before directing them to their local high streets to take advantage of the best offers.
Obviously, there is an online element and Shopkick will find online and social media deals as well, but it is intent is to benefit the retailers as much as it is the consumer, and by increasing foot traffic and advertising their deals, they are doing just that. Beneficial for all.
Created by 30 Second Software, Digby is a mobile software for businesses to push their deals and advertise to local users via Digby's location-based technology and analytics. Their aim is to engage retailers and local consumers online, in the hopes of creating brand loyalty in the real world, also.
This is proper software and not an easily downloaded app, so it will take some effort to implement, but it is sure to effectively increase business and find new customers for flagging businesses.
If you want to eat, but don't want to go out to do so (or, y'know, cook), Delivery Hero has a variety of dining options for you. This site, which works on a worldwide basis, has a variety of food delivery options on offer that are a cut above the usual take-away fare.
Delivery Hero is searchable by post code, but is limited to major cities mostly, and all the restaurants on-site are brimming with peer reviews and evaluations to make any potential tricky decisions easier. Pick your dish and it will be delivered. Delivery Hero is an efficient third-party app for food delivery services that will come in handy for hungry mobile users on a regular basis.
Shoplocket leverages social media to help amateur sellers in a bustling online retail marketplace. Users can simply sync their Shoplocket account to their social media profiles and then start uploading images of items they would like to sell. Payment is conducted through PayPal and Stripe, so as to make it setting up your own pop-up store as simple as possible.
Put down an asking price customise any additional fees that would be required and set about selling your unwanted possessions. You will soon develop a reputation through feedback and be able to share your products across all social media platforms. A simple and effective platform for the modern retailer.
Third-Party Service Providers
As more businesses want to offer consumers the option to purchase goods directly from their site, but mightn't have the time or resources to develop a solution itself, third-party providers will come into play, offering a simple way of setting up E-commerce functionality.
There are a number of startups and businesses which provide such services, the most popular would be Shopify, For retailers who don't have the technical know-how or the resources to properly implement such features onto their site, these services will only grow in popularity.
You know how certain sites track your cookies so they can see what sites you've visited and what pages you've looked at? This will become more prominent as retail sites optimize their sites so that you're being introduced to the products you're interested in. The more you visit a site, the more refined the suggestions become, but the only catch to this is that not all users will be willing to let you track your site activity, so sites will have to notify the user when they're doing this.
Real-Time Data Gathering
Seeing how consumers explore and view your site in real-time can produce a lot of useful data. By studying patterns and where consumers leave the site, retailers can test out different offers and methods to see what the best. So if you have a situation where consumers tend to leave halfway through the transaction process, you could optimise the site so that when this happens, a special offer appears convincing them to complete the transaction.
The one trend that is definitely going to happen, no matter what way you're phrase it. It's predicted that more than half of all handsets will be smartphones by 2013,
and with companies like Square, PayPal and Google pushing the boundaries of mobile payments, the next few months will be very exciting indeed. The biggest retailers have their own apps available, but medium to smaller businesses will optimize their sites to suit mobile users who will become more prominent as time goes on.
Opinions & Guides
- One Extra Pixel gives some practical and useful tips to make your e-commerce site more effective.
- eConsultancy explains why consumer reviews are essential and how best to use them.
- Forbes wonders whether Video will feature in the next generation of e-commerce product reviews.
- Inc. looks at how you can use social media to help your B2B marketing efforts.
- Practical ecommerce gives three ways you can drive affiliate marketing sales.
- Also Chief Marketer presents five strategies that will bring you better returns in B2B.
- Another Forbes post, this time a guest post from Will Hsu, co-founder of MuckerLab, look at a new generation of e-commerce startups and how they fit in.