Since the inception of online business transactions, e-commerce has come a long way and continues to grow rapidly. Consumers’ online behaviour and interests create knowledge for e-commerce companies to analyze behaviour patterns and customize their online shopping experience. In a study done by Accel Partners in 2015, it is estimated that online shopping business in India is expected to grow at $8.5 billion in 2016 and beyond. This estimate is based on the number of growing online users which is already 300 million in 2015.
E-commerce business models focus on buyer-centric paradigms to provide an engaging online experience for customers to interact and perform transactions. Such an arrangement also helps manufacturers to minimize administrative cost, improve brand and increase sales. E-commerce solutions are dependent on facilitating the shopping process, improving consumer experience and uses latest trends and tools in its evolution. IT adoption in e-commerce is mainly driven by the following objectives:
- Improve interactions with existing customers and increase geographic reach
- Enhance sales and service to drive overall efficiency and visibility
- Automate order processing and improve brand awareness in markets
- Deliver real time information to customers thus ensuring transparency
- Facilitate decision making for customer by enabling easy to use web research methods and tools
- Minimize cycle times in ordering of goods and delivery
- Provide loyalty benefits and discounts
IT adoption in e-commerce can transform business operations into real-time transactions conducted worldwide with accuracy. In fact, IT adoption in e-commerce is acting as a catalyst in driving globalization. Using technology, e-commerce companies are able to measure the amount of transactions and make predictions for future transactions from available data. Globally, IT adoption rate shows that online sales is growing at a rate of 20% which is made possible by technology that enables social media platforms, online shopping and online marketing strategies.
E-commerce in particular makes use of the internet to create and manage markets digitally while offering a full range of products, services, technology and goods. There are a number of IT trends which are helping in the growth in this explosive sector by allowing customers to browse products, compare similar products or services, buy and pay for products more easily. Here are some trends shaping the e-commerce industry which is made possible mainly by IT adoption,
- Guided digital assets: IT enables the provision of how-to videos, manuals and step-by-step guidance on products and services. This is gaining more prominence and welcomed by customers. Customers are interested in getting complete details and higher level information while buying rather than reading generic information. High level content when combined with easy navigation and guidance in all the stages of transaction enable users to seek more online products or services.
- Marketing and personalization: IT is enabling customers to configure and personalize their product selection which is another trend. Marketing professionals use analytics to profile customer needs, suggest buying options. Digital marketers also target online users with products and services by using their browsing behaviour, demographics and browsing history. Personalized recommendations and ad retargeting is proving to be effective in creating an impression with online users. For instance a user after having browsed certain products will be able to see those product ads in subsequent websites as they continue their online journey. This marketing technique is used by e-commerce companies to gain new customers. IT offers the tools and applications to facilitate this trend.
- Mobility and mobile apps: As people seek more information on their smart phones, mobile marketing is also gaining prominence. Integration of transaction functionalities in mobile devices allows a user to make online transactions. The increasing proliferation of mobile users helps online business companies, but the e-commerce portal must have capacities to handle large volumes of data to perform transactions accurately. The adoption of cloud service models in e-commerce is ideal to handle transactions at scale.
- The role of social media platforms: A majority of e-commerce firms use popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, etc., to reach their potential customers. With social media it becomes easy to interact with customers and understand their interests. Social media is proving to be an effective digital marketing tool and widely integrated within the e-commerce industry because it becomes easy to reach large number of customers quickly. Further, product and service feedback in social media channels make an effective impression on the minds of social media users. The use of emerging technologies such as big data tools and analytics for gaining business value is easily facilitated by IT services namely, the cloud based SaaS model.
- Loyalty programs and support: IT adoption facilitates e-commerce firms to devise loyalty programs with rewards for partners and discounts for customers easily, because all of them are well connected. Further help desk and support are made more efficient for customers through IT. Customers expect a seamless shopping experience which is enabled by the integration of CRM systems with point of sale to complete a transaction.
As e-commerce businesses take advantage of these trends fostered by technology, choosing the right technologies is important to successfully gain business value. As new technologies are developed, agility is also crucial to make things work together by focusing more on sales and customers rather than focus on IT infrastructure. IT infrastructures for e-commerce are easily available from data centers offering cloud service models provide a variety of technology options for e-commerce businesses to reach customers globally.