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How has eCommerce altered the way we do business?

Ecommerce has changed the face of consumerism. It is one of the most talked about topics today, whether it's for its impact on brick-and-mortar stores or how it provides a platform to sell any service or product. Its influence can be seen everywhere from online banks offering digital products to fashion brands that are now doubling up as eCommerce websites.

The rise of mobile shopping has made single platforms like Flipkart, Amazon, and eBay the new spot for buying anything under the sun. Ecommerce sales are estimated to cross $16 billion this year , projected to grow at an annual rate of 15%. Thanks to digital marketing, it is now easier than ever to make a living online selling products or services.

Ecommerce has changed the way we shop, sell and advertise our products . It's a platform where one can choose from millions of options from all over the world. And more importantly, it enables us to get what we want at any time - thanks to 24/7 availability! Case in point: During the Chennai floods , entrepreneurs set up ecommerce sites to sell relief goods online.

A few years ago, if you wanted to buy something expensive like a car or refrigerator, you had to wait for months before it could reach your doorstep. Today, one can choose their desired product and get it delivered in just 48 hours.

How has the growth of eCommerce impacted brick and mortar stores?

Since the inception of ecommerce, it has been predicted that online retail would destroy brick and mortar stores. But this hasn't exactly happened . There is a new breed of shoppers who love shopping from malls or physical stores and also shop online for convenience and better deals. The emergence of omni-channel retailing proves that traditional players can co-exist with ecommerce. It has made shopping a whole new experience where one can get anything from the comfort of their homes or while on the move on mobile or tablet. According to studies , 77% of online shoppers make purchases on their smartphones.

In fact, ecommerce has led to a revamp in traditional retailing strategies and helped companies to innovate and grow. It has created a vast channel of distribution for traditional retailers to sell additional products, offer exclusive product sets or launch new brands under their umbrella .  As a shopper , it's easy to be spoilt for choice with the numerous online stores offering the same product line. Why would someone go out of their way to visit a physical store and make a purchase, when they can order online and get it delivered at their doorstep?

Social media has worked as the catalyst in building trust among shoppers. According to a Deloitte survey , 79% of consumers trust influencers . This is one reason why some traditional retailers such as Shoppers Stop and Westside have adopted social media influencers to make their presence felt in the virtual world.

Companies are also investing in omni-channel marketing strategies to expand their reach and engage with customers directly through multiple touch points. Along with shopping, shoppers today want information about the product they're interested in - which type of fabric or design suits them best? This has led to a surge in demand for advance analytics and personalization .

In fact, 90% of big retail companies have integrated online and offline services as a part of their omni-channel strategy. According to a Deloitte report , 30% of retail firms have felt the need to expand because of ecommerce.

Online retailers have also started providing additional benefits such as express check in and allowing customers to add products to their wish list. Ecommerce websites have begun offering loyalty points, cash on delivery and discounts that encourage shoppers to visit physical stores . The success of Flipkart's Big Bazaar partnership is a testimony to the fact that these two platforms can indeed coexist.

What challenges does eCommerce present for business owners?

According to a Morgan Stanley Study , among 40 emerging economies, India is expected to see the most rapid ecommerce growth in the next 5 years . A massive consumer base and growing internet penetration is expected to catapult India onto the global map as an ecommerce giant.

However, with such an exponential rise in demand for online stores across sectors, there is a big question mark on the supply side. Ecommerce has led to an increasing number of startup ventures and competition is growing at an exponential rate. According to an Indian Express report , there are around 16,000 ecommerce portals in India as of now and this number would increase further.

Ecommerce brings with it its own set of challenges for businesses as well as consumers. While it provides a vast platform for shoppers to choose from, there is a dire need to build trust and credibility. This is where marketing and communication strategies come into play.

With online retailers offering great discounts and cash backs, traditional stores are finding it difficult to keep up with the competition . While many companies have adopted omni-channel marketing strategies, there are still many who haven't yet. This poses a challenge for them to make their presence felt in the virtual world and attract customers.

How can we make sure that our businesses stay competitive in this changing marketplace?

With online retail continuing to grow at a rapid pace, it is essential for traditional retailers to leverage their physical presence and diversify into the virtual world using innovative marketing tools. While marketers have been successful in creating a loyal customer base by offering exclusive products, discounts and cash backs, there's a dire need to go beyond this. One way to do this is by engaging with customers directly through multiple touch points such as social media, websites and apps.

It is also important to ensure that customer experiences are consistent across touch points. For example, when someone makes an online purchase, they should be able to conveniently track the status of their order in real time via emails or SMS updates. They should also be able to return the product without incurring any extra costs.

Another effective strategy would be to invest in analytics tools that provide advance insights into customer behavior, preferences and trends . With the help of these tools, marketers are better equipped to create customized offers for their customers to encourage brand loyalty. Personalization has always been one of the biggest advantages of omni-channel marketing as it enables marketers to provide customers with a more personalized experience.

Why is it important for small business owners to keep up with new technologies and advancements in the industry?

While the Indian retail industry is facing challenges in the face of ecommerce , there are plenty of opportunities that can be leveraged by SMEs to stay ahead of the competition. One way in which they can do this is by leveraging analytics tools for business insights . These tools provide valuable information about customer behavior, preferences and trends. With these insights, marketers can create customized campaigns and offers to encourage brand loyalty.

Personalization is another effective strategy that has been used by small businesses with great success. This allows them to provide customers with a more personalized shopping experience and engage them on personal level.

In this rapidly changing retail industry, it's important for SMEs to keep up with the advancements in the industry. With so many new marketing channels being introduced, it can be a challenge to keep up with them all at once . This is where a good marketing partner comes into play. A consultant or marketer can help SMEs find which strategies work best for them and provide guidance on the best way to implement these strategies. Over time, marketers can work closely with small businesses to help them devise a successful omni-channel marketing plan that will help them make their presence felt in the virtual world.

As you can see, the rise of eCommerce has had a significant impact on how we do business and must be taken into account. There are many challenges that come with this new way to buy and sell goods online, but there is also much opportunity for those who keep up with the latest technology and advancements in our industry. It's important for small businesses owners to stay informed so they don't fall behind as time goes by - or else they may find themselves out of business!

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