Since the invention of the World Wide Web, e-commerce has been the most forward looking innovation issues among consumers and business persons. E-commerce otherwise referred to as electronic commerce has in the past five years grown tremendously and analysts in this sector project a continuity of growth at this rate or even higher. Analysts further predict that in the next few years, more and more businesses are going to use e-commerce to conduct their businesses. In the light of this, City Book Retailers have no other option, but to embrace the use of technology as they conduct their trading activities. The following discussion will therefore revolve around e-commerce and its business models including B2B and B2C, the challenges and opportunities presented by the use of e-commerce and whether the use of e-commerce through the social media would helpful in achieving customer satisfaction.
The term e-commerce is used to denote a transaction or a business activity that entails the passage of information via the internet (Chaffey, 2007). It is a methodology of contemporary businesses which seeks to address the requirements of trading organisations, sellers and their buyers by reducing the costs of operations, improving the quality of goods and services produced as well as enhancing the pace of delivery. Using a paperless system to facilitate the transfer of business related information, e-commerce uses the following tools: electronic data exchange, electronic mailing, electronic funds transfer, electronic boards and other internet based technologies (O'Brien & Marakas, 2005).
E-commerce therefore uses the above mentioned tools to facilitate the easy conduct of trade and business around the world. Electronic commerce has some salient features using which it can be easily identified. First, it provides a cashless system of payment which entails the use of credit cards, smartcards among other modes of electronic payment. Second, the services of e-commerce are available 24/7 meaning that services provided by the business can be accessed by the customer at any time of the day. Third, the use of e-commerce enables a business owner reach more customers as compared to the conventional advertising methods such as the newspapers and television because of the easy accessibility of the internet. Fourth, e-commerce also facilitates the generation of orders without human intervention and in this way it improves the company’s sales. Fifth, it provides quicker, more efficient and reliable communication with fellow business cohorts as well as consumers of products. Lastly e-commerce aids in the automation of inventory management. It facilitates the generation of instant reports and therefore the management of stock becomes very easy (Rayport & Jaworski, 2002).
Business to Business
This is a business form of the electronic commerce used to describe a business organisation that merchandises its goods and services to other business entities. It can also be used to describe websites selling their goods to an intermediary who in turn sells it to the final consumer (Raisch, Milley, & Gartner, 2000). A good illustration of B2B is the case when a merchant makes an order from a producing organisation’s website and after getting the consignment, sells the final good to the final consumer who has to make his or her purchases from the merchandiser’s retail outlet.
B2B organisation most often deals with very many other business entities either as purchasers or suppliers. By conducting their business using the internet, a B2B company is able to reap the benefits of competitive advantage as opposed to doing business conventionally.
Business to Customer
This refers to a business form of e-commerce that merchandises its goods and services to final customers thus it is called business-to-consumer. Websites following this mode of operation, sell their goods to the final consumers directly. A consumer willing to purchase a product from a company can view them on the organisation’s website, select the ones they want andthen place an order. This information will be sent as a notification to the company through electronic mail and the organisation will release the goods or goods to the consumer depending on the terms of agreement.
Opportunities of E-Commerce
A business that is capable of fulfilling the technological requirements of e-commerce can draw major benefits from its use. For instance, internet machineries have promoted “navigation” which is a procedure that assists consumers to find relevant goods and services. This allows a business to enter other markets very quickly. An ideal example in this case is Amazon which initially focused on books but now deals with music, videos and auctions that occur over the internet (Warren, n.d.).
The internet has also facilitated the conveyance of rich and detailed information to customers as well as enabled organisations to acquire as much information as possible from the customers. For example, a business retailing on a CD site can post profiles of artists and their recording samples in order to assist customers in deciding what they would like to purchase. Similarly, the customer’s information can be captured in order to suggest recordings which people with popular biographies have already bought.
The change in affiliation can also be attributed to the internet. Organisations in the non-technological world producing a limited range of goods will have to shove those products with great efforts. In extreme cases, the consumers will be motivated to buy such goods despite the fact that they are not of good quality and fail to meet their needs. On the contrary, the aspirations of pure navigation companies conform to the customer’s interests. They aim at attracting customers by receiving the best contracts or finding the correct answer for each buyer. Letsbuyit.com is an example of a business which aims at bringing consumers together to enable them to take advantage of their joint procuring power to lower costs of production (Warren, n.d.). Using the internet for business may however bring certain challenges as will be discussed below.
Challenges of E–Commerce Strategy
Although the use of internet has rapidly increased, it has been forecasted that about 75% of electronic businesses may be unsuccessful due to the magnitude of the responsibility that it places on the directors and the business as a whole. Generally, a business which intends to explore an e-commerce strategy has an obligation to avail the necessary infrastructure and technologies that will support the automated business (Warren, n.d.). Gartner who is an industry analyst argues that this is a tall order since many organisations are likely to be unable to provide the expected business help due to the cost implications.
One of the challenges in the infrastructure sector is the need for an underlying infrastructural set up that needs to be up to scratch. For most businesses, there are certain important principles that are applicable including the existence of a system that guarantees high accessibility, provides suitable response times, reliable and correct handling of information and allows the refreshing of contents effortlessly and as many times as possible (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).
The increased complexity in the e- commerce set-up also calls for investment in the sector of security. Matt Cohan, who is Web Solutions Consultancy Training Technology’s manager, calls on directors to be careful not to overlook the issue of security because bad correspondents about a single breach can cause irreparable harm to the brand. Companies must publish their security strategy on their site in order to reassure customers and ensure their accreditation by schemes.
Above all, a System for Consumer Relationship Management is also a vital investment area. This is an aspect that has been highly misused or not appropriately exploited, resulting in the hostility of clients. It requires the organisation to develop a strategy that informs the customer on how their business will use any information obtained from them; otherwise an organisation should do away with suuch data collection processes.
Current Consumer Behaviour
In trying to comprehend the dynamic nature of consumer behaviour, many companies have established that new avenues may arise or it may result in the loss of clientele while others can experience both results. Some people argue that the increase in competition and the diminished economy can be attributed to failure or inadequate venturing in e- commerce, the increased cost of infrastructure, huge salary amounts and rigid labour markets. Businesses however forget that the customer is positioned at the heart of the organisation and that it is important to pay attention to their behaviour and trends.
Many research outcomes establish that today, clients are constantly looking for information in the internet to inform about the decisions of buying a product. More specifically, a study conducted by SN4 in 2013 revealed that out of every group of five customers, 3 customers turn to internet resources or online stores as their primary source of data. The number of clients who visit physical stores or branches to make enquiries amounted to 17% of the entire number of customers. It can therefore be concluded that online buying is likely to grow and physical stores are on the verge of failure (Hyttinen, 2014).
Another emerging trend is that customers tend to depend less on material provided by organisations than they used to do before. This does not depend on whether the information is availed through digital means or through a sales person. Customers tend to believe more of what other customers tell them. Clients are also in the position to establish the market price for products effortlessly and hence organisations should be keen on their costs. Such changes can be attributed to social media as well as digital services which assist in sharing information swiftly and easily among consumers (Hyttinen, 2014).
Social media is one of the sectors that can be used to satisfy customer preferences because currently, many people are increasingly turning towards online shopping. Numerous sites such as Facebook and Twitter have provided forums where customers engage in discussions concerning goods and products that they find interesting to find more information on different products or even purchase them. In addition, since such media has provided a platform where customers can purchase items online in the comfort of their homes, it has created an opportunity for companies to deal with their customers satisfactorily.
Every customer’s desire is to acquire goods and services using convenient and speedy means. This is one of the advantages that the use of internet has facilitated. It has eliminated the need for customers to travel long distances to brick-and-mortar businesses in order to buy the desired goods. A large number of stores have created virtual shopping portals over the internet that provides the same goods and services online. An added advantage is that consumers can also access items that are difficult to find physically in stores on top of other products available online. This provides a wide variety of goods from which the customer can select according to his or her specifications and interests.
The above discussion has outlined some of the benefits that may accrue to a business organisation by embracing e-commerce. The discussion first explains what e-commerce is. It also highlights the various methods that facilitate the conduct of business through the internet such as electronic data exchange, electronic mailing, electronic funds transfer, electronic boards and other internet based technologies. It goes ahead and explains what B2B and B2C models are as well as what they entail. The paper further presents the opportunities and challenges among City Book Retailers that are caused by incorporation of e-commerce which generally revolve around costs of setting up the necessary infrastructure and the technological implications. Therefore, City Book Retailers nowadays cannot afford remaining bricks-and-mortar. They have to incorporate the use of internet and use the opportunities presented by social media to achieve customer satisfaction.