Our tenuous grasp of the outside world was strengthened by the world of e-commerce during the time of COVID-19. Consumer behavior during this time has shifted online due to the easy accessibility, safety, and ease of business it provides. Now more than ever is the right time for small businesses to understand the effects and benefits of e-Commerce, and take their business to the online space!
The way we interact and engage with businesses has changed completely with the advent of the internet. The experience of walking into storefronts to spend a whole day shopping has been replaced with casual bed browsing for specific products. The search filter has armed all of us with the power to look for exactly what we want.
The World Wide Web was created only 20 years ago – in 1991. Pizza Hut officially became the first major business in 1994 to offer online purchasing. eBay and Amazon were founded one year later. We can consider this event as the start of e-commerce as we know it today.
Online sales surpassed $1 billion by 1996 – when the internet was only 5 years old. This cemented the fact that the internet was here to stay. Regardless, no one could’ve predicted that online sales would hit the $25 billion mark by the year 2000.
E-commerce solidified its place in the retail industry with over 70% of Internet users making an online purchase during the holiday season by 2001.
The biggest online shopping day of the year was the Monday after Thanksgiving. The term “Cyber Monday” was coined in 2005.
The online e-commerce industry in India has grown from $18.2 billion in 2017 to $55.1 billion in 2021. It is expected to reach $79.5. billion by 2024 and is set to overtake the US to become the second-largest e-commerce market in the world by 2034!
E-commerce has directly impacted the micro, small & medium enterprises (MSME) in India. It has provided means of financing, technology, and training. The Indian e-commerce industry has been on an upward growth trajectory. It has given support in the form of digital payments, hyper-local logistics, analytics-driven customer engagement, and digital advertisements. The growth in the e-Commerce sector has boosted employment, increased revenues from export, increased tax collection by exchequers and provided better products and services to customers in the long term.
Let us now look at the benefits of an e-commerce platform for a small business.
Only those people who can drive to the store, or walk-in, or come across it while they’re in the same locality can access a physical store. A website or an app for your business ensures that your product can reach people across the country. A website for your business is like a virtual store where you need not be physically present.
It is easy to deduce that when you reach a wider audience, you will also see an increase in customers, which would mean more sales. This increase in sales will lead your revenue and profits to grow. Expanding the business, the product line and further investments are just some uses of the increased revenue.
Technologically savvy individuals take to the internet to look for products that they need. By ranking well in search engines, you can attract more potential customers to your business! You just need to make sure that your website is SEO-friendly to rank well and make the best out of the search engine traffic.
The low cost of operation is one of primary benefits of e-commerce. Running an online store involves way less money than running a physical store. A physical store requires money for rent or buying a piece of property, electricity bills, maintenance, employee salaries, and more. On the contrary online stores do not come with overhead costs. They require little capital investment. Even hiring the best website developers/agencies does not take up as much money as the cost of maintaining a store.
An online store is economical and works in favor of small businesses who struggle to grow with limited finances.
One of the limitations of running a physical store is timings since it is only feasible for a physical store to be open for a limited time. An online store simultaneously offers a huge advantage for taking in new customer orders any time during the day and reduces the cost of paying employees.
The ability for satisfied customers to leave reviews and ratings is one of the highly beneficial perks of an e-commerce website. All of us look to reviews to guide us when we’re buying a product and studies show that customer reviews can actually sway the decision-making process for potential customers. For a traditional store, good word of mouth would serve as the key for reputation building. Online storefronts can retain reviews and this works to the benefit of small businesses as they can build a community of people who love and recommend their service/product.
E-commerce websites have equalized the playing field for small businesses. It has given them an alternative way to increase their reach, revenue, and business within a budget! It makes sense for small business owners to capitalize on this cost-effective way to get their business off the ground!
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