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Shop with a click
Amazon has redefined shopping so much so that several me-too-Amazons have sprung up to tap the growing e-commerce market.

The early mom and pop stores saw close seller-buyer relationships, in which a seller typically knew the customer and her needs. Later, large chain stores came, resulting in the loss of these one-on-one relationships. And then, one fine day, arose Amazon. It not only surpassed the selection of products offered in brick and mortar stores but also targeted the right customers with the right products, endlessly tracking information about customer behavior.

If Amazon made customers happy, it made retailers happier. Perhaps just when the world thought Amazon couldn’t expand further, the company expanded its third-party marketplace, allowing merchants all over the world to set up their own virtual stores on Amazon.com to sell their products alongside Amazon’s. In short, Amazon disruptively re-wrote the rules of retailing both for consumers and retailers, resulting in the birth of e-commerce.

 

Variety and price

Growth of e-commerce has created a dynamic shift in shopping experience.  First, customers are exposed to choices like never before. By offering multifarious products of diverse brands, from table salt to television, e-commerce websites have become every shopaholic’s delight. Take the case of Chinese online giant Taobao. It trades almost 50,000 items of merchandise every minute on average. Other significant advantages that give e-commerce an upper hand are the low prices, offers and discounts, not to mention an ability to compare prices. The discounts offered by the e-commerce stores are so high that the low prices have pushed many brick –and- mortar stores to offer their products online in order to prevent the loss of sales. For instance, The Mobile Store and UniverCell in India are increasing their online presence with great deals to match the threat of e-commerce discounts.

Do you like a product while walking down the aisle of the supermarket? Just scan the product’s barcode and within seconds, an e-commerce app can display the product information, pricing and delivery options Last Christmas, Taobao offered boyfriends for sale, so that single ladies could find male partners for family gatherings. E- commerce certainly has something for everyone!

For the wary consumers who doubt the safety of online payment systems, many e-commerce sites offer cash on delivery methods. For those who are short of their finances there are attractive EMI options. Customers have the liberty of modifying orders, cancelling purchase and seeking refunds, all at the click of a mouse.

Highly differentiated shopping experience is another contributor to the growth of e-commerce. Customers can stay informed about products through ratings and reviews and also share their experiences to a fellow shopper. Companies are also stretching to do everything it takes to build loyalty -reward points, affiliation program, hour by hour status tracker of delivery, compensation for late deliveries, frequent product feeds and email inducements based on customers’ preferences.

 

Virtual trials…

For customers who worry that they might not be able to “touch and feel” the products they purchase, e-commerce has its own unique solution. Amazon, for example, has an app, which offers women a virtual dressing room. Ladies can upload a picture and try over 1 million pieces of clothing under one dressing room; one can enter body sizes and get personalised line of clothing according to one’s body type. The cosmetics brand Lakme has taken the virtual shopping concept even to cosmetics. Women can upload their picture in a virtual makeup room online and experiment with different varieties and shades of makeup!

With over 2.5 crore online buyers and more than 21.3 crore Internet users in India e-commerce has conferred consumer benefits that would have seemed like a dream a decade ago. For the retailers, e-commerce offers the advantages of avoiding high rent, labour and inventory costs. With the increasing penetration of Internet, smart phone, big data and sophisticated logistics systems, e-commerce is here to stay and rule.

And not far from today, Amazon’s recently developed aerial delivery drones will be dropping our grocery purchases from the skies onto our balconies!

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