Advantages and disadvantages of eCommerce for businesses and Consumers
eCommerce has become an integral part of our lives, whether it is shopping for food, buying tickets online, getting the latest smartphone or researching, selecting, and ordering large items like white goods or furniture for our homes.
The relationship between buyers and sellers is becoming closer as the tools for enhancing the product and customer experiences become more widespread user-friendly and affordable. So, what exactly are the advantages and disadvantages of eCommerce? What makes it such an attractive option for retailers and brands? And for the customer, what benefits does it bring to their shopping experience?
The main advantages of eCommerce for businesses are that it:
- doesn’t need physical outlets, saving a huge amount of money on fixed costs
- provides access to a potentially enormous global market, with an easy to reach target audience if the marketing strategy is right
- tools let you scale the business rapidly, at the speed and to the size you need
- is open 24/7/365, expanding sales opportunities and giving time-poor consumers what they tend to value most – convenience
- enables automation of multiple procedures, meaning fewer staff to pay and supervise, while savings can be ploughed back into enhancing the flexibility of the customer experience and launching more products to attract more customers
- has no limitations on geographical reach – with software like a PIM solution, enabling translation, adaptation of content for local markets and unlimited sales channels, the sky’s the limit.
Cons (and challenges)
It sounds great. But…
- it can be difficult to keep track of stock, sales, and overall performance without using a dizzying array of tools and add-ons.
- competition in eCommerce is fierce, so your operations have to be agile, fast, and responsive to drive traffic to your channels and gain a competitive edge
- Customers have a wide choice of competing product offers and they won’t hesitate to click away to a competitor in the blink of an eye if they are not satisfied with the customer experience. What matters most? The quality of the information they get about products – visuals, specifications, ingredients, USP, main qualities, instructions, and examples of use, and so on. Using product information management software (PIM) is foundational in ensuring that information is as good as it should be.
Establishing a strong and positive relationship with customers is not easy – you do not meet them face to face, so if:
Ø your product searchability is not user-friendly
Ø your platform design is poor-quality
Ø your payment procedures are overcomplex
Ø product information is lacking or not reliable when trying to make an informed decision
Ø it isn’t easy to navigate to the desired product
…the chances are you will lose the sale: you lose a potentially loyal customer whose comment in a review, “It’s hard work finding what you want on this site”, is read by hundreds, and your brand suffers.
For eCommerce customers, they can find everything they want in one place and in a matter of minutes, with a product search, a click to your landing page and then a few clicks on their device without even having to leave the sofa (or bar or park)! For the time-poor, it’s invaluable.
eCommerce is open 24/7/365, so there’s no problem ordering outside shopping hours. The period required to choose, buy, and pay averages 15 minutes or less. When it comes to fulfilment of the order, what was called ‘the last mile problem’ no longer exists. In many cases nowadays, you can receive deliveries within a couple of hours, or next day.
Comprehensive, rich, and relevant information
Product information equips the customer with knowledge, just like a salesperson would. It’s also one of the final steps consumers take when making a purchase decision.
- An excellent product description reflects your brand and your target audience. It can really help bridge the gap between what your brand is and who your customers are.
- It improves the customer experience regardless of what sector you’re in. Buyers always want more information about your product, to answer any purchase objections.
Customers would typically expect the majority or all of the following:
- what and who it’s aimed at
- how to use it
- what features it offers
- its technical characteristics
- compliance with regulations
- sustainable sourcing
- list of ingredients, allergies and so on
- multi-angle photos of the product
- videos of how to use the product or of value-added features
potential buyers get a virtual feel for the product, and that information is consistent wherever you access it – in online stores, marketplaces, and even social media.
The power of a great customer experience
Years ago, it was claimed that people would never buy ‘high touch’ products (like footwear, fashion, and clothing) online because they couldn’t have a “hands-on” or personal experience. Nowadays, they are happy to buy clothes, shoes, and many other ‘touch’ products. Why? Because they have much, much more information than they used to have, and for today’s (and tomorrow’s) savvy, well-informed and discerning customer, that is a basic requirement. If you’re buying food for example, you want to know about factors like;
- Sustainable sourcing
- Fair trade
- Storage information
- Recipe ideas
Customers can use multiple channels to access information and buy the product, from large marketplaces, like Shopify, Magento or Amazon, or direct from the retailer, brand, or manufacturer.
They can use their laptops, desktops, tablets, or phones – mobile commerce is increasing exponentially – and with a finely-honed omnichannel-enabled customer experience, they can notice the product on their mobile Instagram app feed, research and compare on their tablet or laptop, and order and buy on their phone
The experience will always remember you; it will pick up where you left off on whatever channel you use to access it – you don’t notice the ‘join.’ It is a seamless, consistent, and straightforward process.
With the onset of cheaper fulfilment costs, many products are cheaper than the price in physical outlets and as D2C comes into its own, cutting out distributors allows eCommerce operators to be more dynamic and responsive in their pricing, offering more discounts and promotions.
Range of goods available
Customers can choose a product from any supplier, anywhere in the world. They have the freedom to browse a potentially enormous variety of products since there is no space limitation.
With product information management software, businesses can offer a potentially unlimited range of products in any part of the world. Unlike physical commerce, where there is finite space for stock, there’s no limit on the width and depth of product catalogs online.
The cons (and poterntial challenges)
Again, potential drawbacks can be seen through the prism of good and bad company practice in eCommerce.
Data Privacy and Online Security Risks
Hacks and hackers are getting smarter and can find their way find their way into systems, using a range of tricks. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it is a major risk for customers, as their personal data could be compromised, with the severe consequences that can bring.
No personal contact
Sometimes, you just want to look another person in the eye and get their help. The personalised service regarding your needs and queries can often be a lot more help than having to dig around online for information from comparison engines or reviews. But for millennials onwards, self-service is second nature. The key is to ensure your product information is relevant, reliable, up to date and comprehensive, that this notional disadvantage of no face-to-face contact is relegated to insignificance.
Limited customer service
When it comes to post-sales queries, problems, or product returns, using automated bots or phoning helplines rather than having a customer service representative in front of you can be a frustrating and lengthy experience. Product returns are expensive for businesses, and this part of the customer experience is still ironing out the creases. Of course, with the sufficient, accurate, and relevant product information, fewer customers will need to use this service.
Google’s first page of results captures over 90% of search traffic. Second-page results are at below 6%. Search Engine Optimisation is absolutely crucial in determining the success or otherwise of getting traffic to your landing pages. Keywords determine the results that appear from an online search, and those words must be based on the solid foundation of high-quality product data in its most accurate and updated form.
Product information management is ‘the key to the kingdom’
At Start with Data, we partner eCommerce businesses looking to optimise their performance, inside and customer-facing. We can help you to excel in your product information management. Get in touch with us, and let’s talk about your situation, your pain points, your needs and how we can help you achieve your strategic goals.
Ready to take the next step in your product data journey?
For retailers and distributors
We have a highly experienced team of PIM consultants ready to transform your product information challenges into business benefits – Ben Adams, CEO
For brands and manufacturers
We can your business compete and thrive on the digital shelf – Beth Parker, Lead Consultant