E-commerce levels the playing field for retail businesses. Even if you're a small, home-based company, you can establish a global reach with a simple Web site. Anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection can read about your product, and even better, buy it! You don't have to set up physical locations in different cities. You just need to invest in a good Web site design and the right online advertising to catch the attention of potential online clients.
Once again, online shopping puts consumers in the driver's seat. In some ways, that's good for the vendor as well. The vendor's job is to put all the information on the Web site in a clear, compelling way. But then he or she can sit back and let the consumer do the rest of the work. The vendor doesn't have to hire and train salespeople to pitch the product or service. The Web site does it for the company. A well-designed, well-written Web site can do double (or triple) duty as a marketing and advertising tool, a salesperson and a cashier, all wrapped up in one.
Plus the Internet never closes. This means that your Web site is working for you 24/7. People can read your marketing materials, test drive your products and buy them outside of normal business hours.
This is all part of a larger concept called "customer outsourcing" [source: The Knowledge Exchange]. With an e-commerce Web site, anything that the customer does for himself -- like searching for airline flights, entering his billing information and signing up for an e-mail confirmation -- is work that paid customer service representatives don't have to do. That work, essentially, has been "outsourced" to the customer, saving the company money on employees and salaries.
With certain products and services, the Internet is not only the salesperson and the cashier, but the delivery guy as well. Think about digital downloads. You can go to iTunes or Amazon and download music, movies, TV shows and music videos. Those products are delivered to you within minutes. The company can save on shipping costs and related fees by delivering products directly to the consumer in electronic form.
We hope this has been an interesting look at the advantages of e-commerce. For more information on e-commerce, online business and related topics, check out the links on the next page.