What is an eCommerce Website and How Does Online Shopping Compare to Traditional Stores?

The traditional definition of commerce means the buying and selling of goods and services.

In the 1990s, as the delivery of day-to-day paper communications turned into an electronic format, or email, the term eCommerce was conceived to describe the buying and selling of goods and services from an electronic storefront or website, rather than from a physical store.

There are lots of similarities between an eCommerce website and a retail store. A retail outlet uses tried and tested instore marketing techniques to highlight promotions and products they want their visitors to notice and purchase. In a supermarket, for example, products are organised into clearly marked aisles, while there may be tempting offers at customer eye level or displays stands to catch their attention at the checkout.

By comparison, eCommerce websites are very similar. A retail store will use aisles or departments to organise products and direct visitors, while eCommerce websites use categories and sub-categories, clearly marked using menu items or navigation. Offers and promotions are also displayed to visitors with animated banner adverts, related products and upsells.

As the retail industry continues to grow online, eCommerce websites are furiously competing for visitors and custom. As a result, eCommerce careers have surged, not only in popularity but in the range of skills and experience required to manage an online business, from design and development to customer relations and marketing. Up-to-date eCommerce skills are needed by site owners to keep on top of changes in technology, visitor behaviour and the devices and media that influence them. As the first mobile phones became popular, who could foresee the evolution of the smartphone, let alone its use for online shopping? Now social media, across its many emerging forms, is now home to the influencer, those online celebrities who promote your goods to their followers.

Building an eCommerce website used to be a mammoth task, custom-built and hardcoded by developers. A lengthy, expensive process that seemed impossible to complete at the same speed the technology progressed. Although eCommerce skills and the use of designers, developers and UX experts are all vital to creating an eCommerce website, today many sites are built on dedicated eCommerce platforms – specialist software ready to help you build your site. These cover all processes from categories, product types and pages to providing shopping carts, checkouts and secure payment gateways. They also include customer management and communication tools as well as invoicing systems.

If you are looking for eCommerce advice, look at what the big stores are building. Like the interior design of your favourite high street store, online the user interface and user journey feature a tried and tested design, using website conventions that are familiar to users as they browse different eCommerce sites across the internet. You don’t want visitors to have to relearn their shopping process just to use your website.

Photo: Free image by Pixabay