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Technology

Online Shopping

Introduction:

Online shopping is an example of e-commerce where services and products are purchased on the internet using a web browser; the process is called business-to-business (B2B) online shopping. Customers can use different shopping search engines to search different vendors or they can directly visit the retailer’s website and find their product of interest. Different electronic devices such as smartphone, laptop, desktop computers, smart speaker and tablet computers can be used to make an online purchase.

An online shopping experience is the same as that of a regular conventional shopping experience from a brick and mortar shopping center or retailer. Customer can visit the online retail store and browse the firm’s various services and products, view product images or photos, along with details about product price, features and, specifications.

Shoppers can find specific brands, items or models on an online shopping store by using its “search” feature. To make a purchase, the shopper must have an internet access and a valid payment method, like an interac-enabled debit card, a credit card, or PayPal service. After a successful purchase the physical good is shipped to the customer by the e-tailer, whereas a digital product, like an audio file, a text document, an image file, or software is sent to the customer over the internet. Amazon.com, Alibaba, and e-Bay are the largest online retailing corporations

Online customer buying behavior:

Shoppers buying behavior is not controlled and influenced by the firm and brand, whenever they make a decision that involves interactions with recommendation, search engine and, online reviews. Consumer’s buying behavior is affected to a large extent by the digital environment. Online shopping is becoming more interactive with each passing day, as buyers online reviews can potentially influence buying behaviors of other potential customers.

In digital environment, trust and risk factors also affect online shoppers buying decisions to a large extent. Many customers perceive online shopping to be more risky than traditional offline shopping at a retail store. This is because of different reasons. For example, people cannot fully determine the quality, features and specification of the product until they receive the product and physically examine it. Additionally, after-sale concern is also a big issue for the customers. Lastly, online customers sometimes cannot fully understand the e-sales language. All these aspects make online shopping a riskier choice than offline shopping from a brick and mortar retail store or shopping center.

 Selection of Products:

Online buyers search a particular service or product of their interest by visiting the website of an online retailer store. Majority of online retail stores use shopping cart software, which allows the shopper to add multiple items in their shopping list, much like adding physical goods on a shopping basket in a conventional store. Delivery and payment information are collected in a “checkout” process, which follows afterwards. After completing a successful transaction, an email notification is sent to the customer.

Payment method:

Online customers use PayPal account or credit cards to make their payments. However, some online retail stores give customers the option to use alternate payment methods, such as:

  • Cryptocurrencies or bitcoins
  • Delivery on payment/Wire transfer
  • Gift cards
  • Billing to landlines and mobile phones
  • Electronic money
  • Cash on delivery (C.O.D)
  • Cheque
  • Postal money order
  • Debit card
  • Invoice

International credit cards are not accepted by some online stores. Others require the shipping address and purchaser’s billing to be in the same country where the store’s operation base is located. A few online stores allow customers to shop from any country they desire. The financial transaction during a purchase can take place in real time or they may be delayed.

Product delivery method:

After completing the payment method, the product is delivered to the customer by a variety of methods. For physical goods:

  • Shipping: Using a retail courier such as UPS, TNT, Fedex, DHL or public portal system, the product is shipped to the customer-designated address.
  • Drop shipping: Third party distributors or manufacturers directly ship the goods to the customer, saving money, space and time, as the retailer’s physical location is bypassed.
  • In-store pick-up: Customer by using local software selects a store location where their product is dropped off. The package can then be picked up from the dropped of location. Bricks and clicks business model use this method to operate.

For digital tickets and items:

  • Digital distribution/Downloading: Most digital media products, such as music, images, movies and software are obtained using this method.
  • COBO (In Care of Box Office), Will call, or “at the door” pickup: Tickets for a sporting event, concert or a play are pre-purchased by the patron in advance of the event or function. Now-a-days, customers can buy tickets online through e-commerce websites and internet, and this trend has been becoming increasingly popular.
  • E-mailing, provision of code, or printing out of items such as scrip (coupons and gift certificates) and admission tickets. The coupons, tickets or codes are verified for their content eligibility at the appropriate online or physical premise.

Shopping cart system:

Categories and products can be administered off-line using shopping cart systems. The shop can be uploaded on the web as graphics and HTML files. Online database is not used in the systems. Stand-alone programs can be rented or bought to enhance the functionality of the online retail store. These programs integrate into the existing supply chain of the online store, so that order placement, delivery, payment, warehousing and accounting can be automated. Portals which host multiple shops simultaneously from a single back office, give its user the option to create and register an online shop on its domain. FlickRocket, Shopify and BigCommerce are the examples. Magento, Zen Cart, WooCommerce, Prestashop and osCommerce are some other example of advanced shopping cart platforms. Commercial systems provide a readymade template for creating an online shop, although this may require a little bit of customization.

Online shopping appeal:

Different factors like competitive lower pricing, greater information access and product detail, better convenience and a broader item selection are the main reason why customers are attracted to online shopping. Businesses also prefer to market and sell their product online, as this is very cheaper than operating a brick and mortar store. Also, online shopping provides businesses with a worldwide customer reach, better sustainable capabilities and increased customer value.

Information load:

Effects of information load are a major concern for online shop designers. Online shopping experience is more engaging and dynamic than conventional retail shopping because of additional product information like comparative services and products and various alternates and attributes. Novelty and complexity are the two major dimensions of information load. Increased information about a sites feature and elements increase a sites complexity. On the other hand, novelty involves new, unexpected or, unfamiliar aspects of the site. Complexity of a website causes a shopper to make impulsive purchases, while the novelty of a website hook the shoppers attention cause him/her to further explore the website.

User interface:

User-friendly features and ease of use of a site are the two most important factors which determine whether a customer will revisit the website or not. Problems are identified for better site performance using usability testing. Usability can be evaluated using different methods such as, user testing, heuristic evaluation and cognitive walkthrough. Every technique has its own unique feature and different aspects of user experience are emphasized in it.

Market share:

The emerging online shopping trend is the major cause of decline in conventional retail store sales.  The largest electronic retail store in the United States, Best Buy, in 2014 reported its declining quarterly sales due to the rising online shopping trend. In the United States, Amazon.com has the biggest market share. Two-thirds of Americans have made a purchase at least once from Amazon, whereas 40% of online buyers make a purchase at least once a month from Amazon. In 2012, 242 million people made online purchases in China.

It is difficult to adopt e-commerce trends in addition to conventional retailing in developing countries or low-income households in developed countries due to lack of internet facility and lack of awareness.

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