What is eCommerce, and how can it change the way one does business? For starters, the word eCommerce, or sometimes e-Commerce, is an abbreviation of the term electronic commerce. Commerce is simply another word for business – the buying and selling of stuff. Thus, electronic commerce is about doing business electronically.
However, there is a lot more to the story. So, to flesh out my answer, I will rely on the following comparison of the way I did business 25 years ago to the way I do business today.
My arcade video game business began like many other small businesses, in my garage. The year was 1984. Personal computers were around (remember the IBM PC Jr.), but there was no Internet, no World Wide Web, and no eCommerce. When I needed business supplies, I drove 20 miles to a distributor’s store in another city, wrote a check, and carried my merchandise another 20 miles back home.
To market my business, I bought annual Yellow Page telephone directory ads, and local daily and weekly newspaper classified ads. Regularly, I also waged direct snail mail campaigns. As my business grew, there were also some nice word-of-mouth referrals. Nothing fancy, I was just another small businessman serving a small, entirely local market.
Today, everything about how I do business has changed, except for two things. I am still a small businessman, and I still get nice word-of-mouth referrals.
But now, when I need supplies I sit down at my computer and perform a product search. Although, there are times when I remain standing up, or walk around, or stay seated while eating lunch, and just use my smart phone. After a few clicks, I have found, ordered, and paid for the highest quality merchandise, at the best price, with the cheapest delivery cost, and the fastest delivery time. That is one example of one aspect of eCommerce conducted over the World Wide Web. Oh yeah, perhaps best of all, my purchase arrives at my doorstep in a couple of days without me having to drive anywhere.
When it comes to marketing my business, things have really changed. Now, I can tell folks about my business, myself, and my products, literally, in thousands of ways. And, simply by using my computer – no driving required. My market area has grown, too. No longer are the physical boundaries of my business market defined by how far I am willing to drive. Instead, my marketplace is the entire world, thanks to eCommerce and the World Wide Web.
And, no longer am I restricted by a small budget to a few measly too small to read words in a couple of small expensive Yellow Page directory ads on a couple of pages in not quite right categories surrounded by bigger ads from my competitors in a book full of hundreds of categories, competitors, and pages. Now, with a few websites, storefronts, articles, and some other techniques, I can have what effectively amounts to the whole book – unlimited categories, unlimited number of full pages, and unlimited number of words. Plus, all the words are of the size, color, and font that are most effective for my business.
My marketing costs have changed, too. Yellow Page and newspaper classified ads were expensive (and still are), amounting to several $100 a month. Now, my monthly marketing expense is roughly one-third what it was previously. That is, if you count my Internet connections as a marketing expense. Plus, I reach the world, not just the folks within a limited driving distance.
So today, I am still a small businessman, but one who can electronically buy parts and supplies locally, nationally, and internationally. And, who can electronically sell his goods locally, nationally, and internationally. Whether I am buying or selling, and whether you are the one buying from me or selling to me, all that is required to complete our transaction are a few mouse clicks by either one of us. There are no printed advertisements to answer, no printed newspaper ads to read, no snail mail to open, no telephone calls to check inventory before making a long trip, no driving by you or me at all, and no paper bank account checks to write, mail or handle.
Further, if we need to communicate, that too, has changed. Telephone calls and snail mail have, at least in most ordinary day-to-day business transactions, been replaced by email (electronic mail), mobile text messaging, and online chat. If you do have to make or receive telephone calls, there have also been many big changes. Of course, there are now mobile phones. But, there have also been big changes for land line users. Now, we have VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). So, for about one-third the cost of regular phone service, you can have a local business line, a fax line, and an 800 number. Thanks to the Internet.
Indeed, if we so choose, all of our business marketing, communication, ordering and paying can be handled electronically over the Internet. And, that basically is what eCommerce is all about.