Electronic commerce, also known as e-commerce, is the buying, selling, and trading of products and/or services over an electronic platform such as the internet. In fact, electronic commerce is commonly used for things like internet banking and online shopping.
Small companies account for a surprising one-third of U.S. exports, which means the future of e-commerce looks promising for small companies. That being said, let’s take a closer look at how independent merchants can continue to sell more products and stand out in competition with retailers who also have also moved online.
According to the Pew Internet Research, consumers are adapting to new technologies quicker than ever. As proof of this, nearly half of all Americans now own a smartphone. That’s about a 28.5 percent increase versus 2011 — and the market still has room to grow. With 86 million Americans using smartphones to shop online, small business retailers are now starting to take note and are developing search apps that will deliver the competitive analysis shoppers need to compare prices and find the best deals.
The major drawback with online shopping, however, has been with the instant gratification that comes with in-store shopping and the ease of consumers getting their hands on products in real-time. As new online technology like Amazon and eBay emerges and improves, that advantage for traditional retailing may shift.
So where should small businesses be focusing their efforts so they’re not tripped up by the next disruptive piece of technology?
Invest in Mobile Technology: Ever since smartphones hit the market, consumers have relied on them to get through their lives. Consumers, for example, can now shop anywhere at any time, whether they’re on a PC, smartphone or tablet. An analysis by IBM recently showed that online shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday increased by 19 percent versus the previous years. It also showed that 44 percent of all consumers using mobile devices visited retailer sites at some point and time throughout the day.
On Cyber Monday alone in 2013, purchases made from mobile devices made up 13 percent of all online purchases. This led the International Data Corp. to conclude that by 2020, mobile web usage will actually outpace the PC web use. With the smartphones and tablet industry continuously growing, it’s safe to say that in order to be competitive in the online retail world, a mobile website is simply a must-have.
Social Advertising: Internet marketing is an extremely dynamic industry. This is why the majority of small businesses are still trying to understand how to deliver content to their customers through social media channels while also reaching new clientele. Advertising on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter can be that bridge to join different frontiers, giving business owners the best of both worlds. While there’s still some debate about the overall value of social advertising, it’s hard for companies to argue against it offering some of the best targeting available to business owners — especially when U.S. consumers spend a large amount of time on social media sites on a daily basis.
Digital Couponing: Honestly, it was only a matter of time before large stacks of cut-out coupons got replaced with something digital and more eco-friendly. A report was done by comScore recently found that digital coupons were essentially seen as the number one method of savings for consumers. The report also showed that 35 percent of all respondents found that digital coupons helped company brand new ideas, essentially discovering something they didn’t even know they wanted to purchase. Over one-third of the volunteers surveyed indicated that they, in fact, actually prefer receiving their coupons online as opposed to relying on other formats.
Social Media & Video Content: Trying to keep up with the day-to-day operations of your small business is hard enough without wondering about how to brand yourself using the social media market The impact of social media on a business is indisputable at this point. For retail companies, especially online retailers, an active social media presence is essential when it comes to maintaining a core consumer base. This will then increase more traffic towards your site.
Small online retailers need to take efforts a step further and start leveraging the power of online videos to sell more. Throughout the years, text updates and pictures were sufficient to drive traffic to your online store, but videos offer buyers a unique opportunity. After all, social media marketing gets the most attention.
There is considerable irony when it comes to e-commerce. Previous waves of globalization brought only a limited number of companies to developing areas because of the complexity and investment required. As e-commerce lowers barriers everywhere, the explosion of choice will put consumers everywhere in charge. So, what does the future have in store for small business using e-commerce? A smarter, faster, and more promising way to shop.
Thanks for the read! Did I miss anything? What are some other things small business owners should know about globalization? Feel free to leave a comment below.