What is e-commerce?
Simple definition: The term "e-commerce" is the name given to online commerce in marketing vocabulary. It corresponds to all exchanges of services, products and information between a buyer and a seller throughout the world, carried out online thanks to information technology.
The Internet is the main intermediary for these exchanges. The universal accessibility of its networks has enabled e-commerce to flourish over the last few decades.
How does e-commerce work?
E-commerce companies each have a website that hosts their services. Search engines are a fast and efficient way to find the online shops that match your request, based on keywords.
The site is representative of the company: a good mail order site has an aesthetics and functionalities in line with the products offered. The products are offered in the form of a catalogue, divided into several sections when it is ergonomic. You will also often find a search bar or a filter system so that you can find what you are looking for more quickly.
Highlight products and prices
The products are generally presented with an image and/or a description as well as the prices. These two elements are crucial, as they allow the customer to see the product from his screen. Thus, the richer, more varied and complete they are, the more the customer will be able to know if the product corresponds to him.
A virtual shopping cart is often available to allow the customer to select several items before making a purchase. Finally, the online payment system, by credit card or via dedicated services must necessarily be secure to reassure the customer.
In general, a communication is established between the customer and the seller's site. It materializes by sending a digital invoice, order tracking, access to a refund if necessary, etc...
Sending an invoice
It is also very common for a seller site to offer you to create an account. Totally free, it is often mandatory to make a purchase. It can also allow you to benefit from advantages or to keep up to date with the latest news from the company's catalogue. This marketing technique helps to stabilize sales and build customer loyalty.
What is the difference between ecommerce and e-business?
Sometimes there is confusion between e-commerce and e-business. The difference is nice and good.
Indeed, the concept of e-business refers to all information and communication technologies used to create value. By extension, these technologies make it possible to manage an online business. As for e-commerce, it refers to this commerce: it is in a way the object of e-business.
The relationship between the two concepts
Thus, e-commerce is part of e-business, not the other way around. E-business concerns any electronic commercial activity. Its objective is to create value: it encompasses any IT process undertaken for this purpose.
E-business therefore takes many different forms. Among them: inventory management, integration of optimized systems, relations with suppliers or partners, etc.
E-business therefore requires a wide variety of skills, all related to e-commerce, but not necessarily to distance selling.
Be careful, however: e-commerce also involves activities that are parallel to sales. It corresponds to all exchanges between the merchant and the consumer: online quotes, advice, updating of stock levels, online payment procedures, delivery follow-up and after-sales service.
A spectrum of activities that extends
While these two terms were originally almost synonymous, they have tended to become increasingly detached from each other over the years. The difference is particularly noticeable in the labour market: the business world is increasingly declining specific responsibilities for its employees, and thus many of them are doing e-business without being directly linked to correspondent selling.
In short, e-business is evolving rapidly, as it must adapt to innovations in information and communication technology, as well as to advances in computing and commerce. It is therefore a professional sector in constant metamorphosis. It is also what makes it a sector of the future.
How is e-commerce changing consumer buying habits?
E-commerce is becoming more and more widespread: from small shops to large companies, it is more and more important to maintain an e-commerce in order to remain competitive.
This evolution follows the gradual adaptation of consumers to computer support and online shopping.
Why are there more and more consumers online?
One of the main features of e-commerce is that the market is exploding. Its system is revolutionising the way of doing business and, indeed, consumer habits and business services.
It is a virtuous circle. As computer and communication technologies advance, companies are able to provide faster, more efficient and less expensive sales services. The more businesses develop online, the more consumers will find it attractive to buy on the Internet. Stronger demand leads to a greater effort in the development of technologies and richer offers from businesses.
Distance selling by major market players
This boom is particularly driven by the giants of mass distribution: Amazon, Fnac, eBay, Le Bon Coin, AliExpress, etc. These companies are building their fortunes on online distribution. They also help finance technological, IT and economic development projects.
More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed online commerce to explode even further. Containment measures have forced consumers to take an interest in online sales. Many physical outlets had to be temporarily closed, if not limited to a restricted number of customers or limited time in the store.
Customers are changing their habits
As a result, millions of consumers not yet accustomed to online shopping have had to adapt their needs to the circumstances. This has led to a considerable acceleration in the development of e-commerce.
Many users, even when the measures are eased, continue to maintain online shopping habits, as they have realised the benefits and developed new habits.
Thus, cyber-consumers are becoming more and more numerous due to the development of information technology and the adaptation of commerce to the Internet. The current health situation is accelerating the growth of e-commerce.
Why prefer e-commerce to retail?
Originally, e-commerce was conceived as an alternative way of offering products or services to users. However, the development of information technology and the Internet have made it possible to extend the range of functionalities. Nowadays, e-commerce is no longer simply a means of complementing retail sales, but a means of replacing them.
However, this replacement is visible in some markets more than in others. For example, the vast majority of consumers prefer to buy their clothes in a physical store. Another market that is rather hostile to e-commerce is food. In fact, customers prefer the retail trade for products that are more likely to have production defects, to avoid ending up with a punctured T-shirt and a rotten apple delivered to their home.
The specificities of shopping at retail sites
Customers are also chilled by buying an overpriced product on the Internet. Some markets, such as the automobile market or, worse, the real estate market, are making little progress in the area of online sales. However, the Internet greatly increases their visibility and allows them to present their catalogue easily.
On the contrary, products that can be reproduced identically make a better impression in e-commerce. Among them: electronic products, tooling materials, decorations, office supplies, etc.
Many services are also benefiting from the rise of the Internet and its simplified communication. For example, the fields of online training, car, apartment or hotel room rental
Uncommon or hard-to-find products, limited editions and products offered for sale only in certain countries are also benefiting from the rise of the Internet.
Innovation in the transaction of goods
Secondly, e-commerce allows innovations to flourish. Startups around the world are using the advances of the Internet to promote their ideas.
The Internet allows for the establishment of barter or resale systems between consumers. This revolution is attracting many customers because it offers unprecedented opportunities. Companies such as Vinted or Momox offer a consumer-to-consumer exchange service.
Why do business online?
E-commerce offers many possibilities and frees you from just as many constraints. As a company, it has become almost essential to maintain at least part of your business online to remain competitive.
What are the advantages of e-commerce for entrepreneurs?
E-commerce has revolutionized marketing because selling online makes it easier and faster.
Already, an e-commerce is accessible and visible to many more users. Indeed, disconnected from a specific physical point of sale, online businesses are accessible from anywhere, as long as the quality of the Internet connection allows it. This allows the customer to access them very quickly, without having to travel.
E-commerce is also financially strategic because it reduces the maintenance costs of your business. It does not need staff, except for computer specialists to ensure its development and maintenance. Exchanges are automated and production costs are reduced.
Less limits for e-commerce customers
Please note also that the absence of staff allows for a freeing of the schedules: the online shops are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This makes it possible to optimise sales periods as much as possible.
An online shop is virtual: it has no spatial limits. This means that you will no longer have any limit on the number of products on display or on the number of simultaneous customers. The logistics are changed: your production limit and the capacity of your website server will be the new limits of your store.
E-commerce allows increased customization of specific products. For example, football jerseys on which the customer can choose his number and flock his first name. E-commerce is therefore a way to best adapt customizable products to customer requests.
In short, opening an online store offers visibility to customers all over the world, much more numerous, anytime and all for less.
What are the disadvantages of e-commerce?
Unfortunately, there are some quid pro quo for these revolutionary benefits.
For starters, understand that creating and managing a website is not at all the same task as running a business. They are two closely related processes in designing an online business, but each requires specific skills.
For example, designing an online store requires advanced computer and web development skills. You will probably need to call upon one or more experts in this field.
The human factor disappears
Secondly, e-commerce makes the human aspect of the sale disappear. Many customers prefer to go to a physical store to get an expert opinion face to face. Physical stores also allow you to actually see the products, and sometimes even touch or try them. All these elements allow the customer to have more confidence in the product.
On the other hand, online commerce is sometimes feared for its loopholes, scams or misunderstandings that it can create. You will therefore need to make sure that your online store is as reliable, descriptive and professional as possible.
An experience that depends on technical factors
Although e-commerce is accessible everywhere where an Internet connection is allowed, this advantage unfortunately makes it dependent on certain technical difficulties. You will never be completely safe from a network outage, power failure, bugs or, in an extreme case, hacking.
Again, we advise you to delegate these responsibilities to IT professionals on whom you can rely.
Finally, as a result of the ease of access, online commerce puts you in a much tougher competitive environment. It's harder to stand out. Profits may be slow to come in. You will therefore have to redouble your efforts to innovate, advertise and make yourself more visible and accessible than others.
In short, online business is complicated to set up, subject to extensive competition and dependent on a good computer system.
What are the jobs in e-commerce?
As we said, e-commerce has revolutionized international marketing. In fact, it is the source of a thriving job market as it flourishes. The e-commerce sector is a rapidly growing professional field.
What studies to make e-commerce?
In France, there are several higher education programs that allow you to specialize in e-commerce.
The first option is the Licence Professionnelle, obtained in Bac +3. As professional licenses, these courses take place in a public institution, in this case a high school, an IUT or a university. These diplomas are available in several cities scattered throughout metropolitan France. Among them:
- The Bachelor's degree in e-commerce and digital marketing
- The Licence commerce speciality Marketing of services and information and communication technologies (abbreviated to "ICT").
- The Bachelor web marketing
- The Bachelor e-commerce
- The Bachelor's degree in marketing and digital communication
- And others, as names and specifics may vary depending on the school.
Holders of a licence or bachelor's degree can pursue in-depth e-commerce studies by integrating a 5 or 6 year bac +5 or 6 year bac course. Again, there are several.
Among the public diplomas :
- The Master e-commerce
- The Master in web marketing and e-commerce, also called Master in digital marketing and e-commerce
- The Master's degree in digital marketing specializing in E-commerce or Sales
Among the private diplomas:
- Master's degree in digital marketing and e-commerce management
- The Master's degree in business, management and entrepreneurship
What are the opportunities for e-commerce studies?
The job market in e-commerce is booming. Many positions are available as e-commerce develops.
A distinction must be made between technical jobs in IT and the web and jobs in commerce and marketing.
Technical jobs such as web developers or web designers are related to the design and maintenance of a company's website. Marketing professions are responsible for everything else. Among them are:
- The web marketing manager. His role is to ensure the creation of value for the company. To do this, he seeks to increase site traffic, increase sales and customer loyalty.
- The brand content manager. His main role is to attract new customers. He implements advertising strategies and takes care of the site's content: writing, video content, site aesthetics, etc.
- The SEO manager. His role is to optimize the visibility of the site in search engines.
- The community manager. He is in charge of contact with the brand's loyal community: his role is to answer their questions and promote the company to potential future customers.
- The e-commerce analyst. He interprets market data to enable his team to establish the best possible strategies.
- The e-commerce project manager. He is responsible for ensuring the coordination of his team. He/she must also be able to advise them: versatile, this position requires experience. It is often perceived as a career development.
- And many others.
There is a wide range of jobs in e-commerce. Moreover, it is constantly evolving.
How to start selling online?
There will be many obstacles to overcome. Here are some keys to help you get started.
Many software programs exist to assist you in the creation of your e-commerce site. They can be divided into two categories:
- CMS ( Content Management System). They are free open source software, customizable, but without assistance: hosting and maintenance must be done by you.
- SaaS platforms ("Software as a Service"). These software offer maintenance solutions in exchange for a subscription. However, customization is limited.
What are the tools to develop your e-commerce site?
Below, some of the software used to create an e-commerce site:
- WordPress, the most common CMS. It is known for its ease of use.
- Magento, a very sober and difficult to access CMS. It is however known for its very complete parameters.
- Prestashop, the n°1 CMS on the French market. The versatility of its functionalities has made its success.
- Shopify, a SaaS platform known for its ease of use and its templates offered in exchange for a monthly subscription.
Other tools come to help you in the creation of your website. Here is a selection of them:
- Google Analytics, which provides detailed information about your site's traffic.
- SEMRush, an ideal assistant for SEO.
- Buffer, a tool to automate your publications on social networks.
- Pixabay, a provider of royalty-free images.
- Mailchimp, a complete and easy to use e-mailing tool.
You will have understood it, there is a very large quantity of tools to allow you to create an e-commerce site. Note that many of them are free.
How to choose your partners?
To start, you can call upon an e-commerce agency that will help you provide the expertise needed to develop your e-commerce. An agency can help you establish a communication strategy, develop your website, find its design, organize its referencing, etc. This can be an excellent return on investment.
Once your business is created, you should think about partnership. It's all about establishing "B2B" relationships: business to business. The world of e-commerce is very competitive: you will need to find allies, but you will have to find the right ones.
Partnership is a reciprocal exchange between two companies in order to improve their results. Usually, the best partners are companies that are similar to yours, both in terms of products offered and size.
The online partnership is based on visibility. By advertising each other to their customers, companies double their visibility. This powerful marketing strategy makes it possible to quickly find new customers, provided that they are not abused.
Otherwise, the partnership can consist of an exchange of services. For example, some companies decide to co-finance their costs in order to reduce their expenses.
We advise you to think about your partnership strategy as soon as you launch your e-commerce: it is a way to free yourself from the competition and to grow faster by increasing your conversion rate.
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