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Over the past several years, e-commerce has exploded due to the demand by consumers for a faster, more convenient shopping experience. With our busy lives, the high price of gas to drive to and from stores and the increase in technology in our lives, you can buy almost anything online; and it seems that people WILL buy anything online.

My husband and I were laughing just the other day, thinking about what eBay business he could start to make more money. Lately we seem to have an over-abundance of cat fur at our house – since we have two cats that aren’t taking too well to this Nebraska heat and humidity – and thought there just might be an online market for cat fur. Seriously, you can sell cat fur!!

So while your business is probably more legitimate than cat fur, if you are a business owner, you probably have a product or service to sell. Why not sell it online?

If you think an e-commerce site is too expensive or too much work to maintain, you probably have the wrong idea. What if you could triple your sales? What if you could offer more to your customers? What if you found an efficient and cost-effective way to service your clients? Sure, the investment up-front might be a little more, but the results can be limitless.

E-commerce sites began to surface in the 1990’s after the National Science Foundation lifted a ban on commercial businesses operating over the Internet, and in the mid-1990’s, Amazon and eBay paved the way for the future of e-commerce. The eBay mobile app for iPhone was downloaded seven million times by January 2010 and more than $600 million worth of sales were transacted through mobile applications in 2009.

In 2009, Walgreen’s total web sales reached $242 million, up 9.8 percent from $220.5 million in 2008, according to Internet Retailer (http://www.internetretailer.com/2010/06/15/walgreens-prescribes-next-generation-mobile-program) estimates. Walgreens has also recently enhanced the features and functions of its mobile-commerce site and iPhone app, launched mobile apps for Android and BlackBerry users and introduced text messaging.

Online sales are also increasing for department stores; like Neiman Marcus whose e-commerce sales for the third quarter in 2010 increased 15.4 percent to $130.9 million from $113.4 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2009.

While researchers expect an increase in online sales, the huge increases we’ve seen in previous years will most likely turn into a steady increase. Forester Research (https://go.forrester.com) recently released a graph of expected e-commerce increases until 2014.

Techcrunch (http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/08/forrester-forecast-online-retail-sales-will-grow-to-250-billion-by-2014/ ), a network of technology-focused sites, states that e-commerce grew 11 percent in 2009 and the graph above concludes that total e-commerce sales covered 6 percent of the total sales in the United States.

Forester Research also released a study that shows people are dissatisfied with their in-store shopping experience after their on-line shopping experience. If this continues, it is likely that retailers will not find the brick and mortar of their business on the street anymore, but rather online.

When considering selling your product or service online you must weigh the pros and cons by looking at the latest research of e-commerce growth and demand. Living in the Omaha-metro area, small and large businesses will need to service the needs of consumers in a growing metropolitan area. Businesses will likely need to provide an e-commerce experience in the next several years to meet the demands of a changing market.

The growth of e-commerce shows that the needs of our society are changing and businesses have to make major changes to adapt. Can you afford to not change with the market?

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