The largest part of being successful in today’s retail marketplaces is understanding the role of e-commerce and the way it has changed over the course of the twenty years or so since online shopping became an accessible alternative for most internet users.
Since that time, the field has gone from a minor sliver of the market that provides access to goods that might not be available locally to the go-to destination for bargain hunters, no matter what they seek.
E-commerce has obliterated shoppers’ sense of distance as well, by providing them with access to goods, materials, and services that can be delivered quickly no matter where they originated.
Even the bargain-hunting phase of e-commerce has mostly passed now, though. With large platforms for small merchants and the online equivalent of big-box stores beginning to provide everyday bargains on top brands, the cutting edge in the industry is now in two areas: niche specialties and pop-up live events.
How Specialization Has Changed E-Commerce
Since large competitors have fundamentally monopolized the general shopping experience for common commodities, retailers are finding their most competitive positions in the market come from choosing not to compete on price but on selection. By offering products that are simply unavailable on other sites, or that are custom made, retailers can bring shoppers new styles and innovative goods without worrying about being undersold by a competitor with a larger warehouse and the ability to undercut prices.
Some merchants are taking things even further by bringing their unique wares to larger platforms where they can stand out among their competitors, but more often they are opting to set up independently. When that happens, they still need to acquire many of the same amenities as brick-and-mortar merchants, especially credit card processing services, and merchant accounts. By taking on this infrastructure for themselves, though, they not only retain their independence from platform sites (reducing their overhead), they also manage to provide a highly visible and branded alternative that helps them to stand out, providing for differentiation that can lead to growth and eventually, a solid and independent position in the market.
Live Events, Pop-Ups, and Short-Term Storefronts
The other major factor that has changed the landscape of e-commerce, and one that is likely to keep on shaping it for several years to come, is the advent of the portable card reader and smart device. By using mobile payment apps and portable credit card readers, retailers are able to turn their everyday devices into temporary terminals. This allows a company that operates almost exclusively online to choose to flex themselves by working live events like trade shows, local festivals, and conventions without incurring the kind of overhead they would face with a full brick-and-mortar business.
This last change might seem small, but it puts e-commerce merchants on an even playing field with traditional brick-and-mortar businesses when it comes to taking advantage of short-term opportunities and branding. That leads to several benefits, including:
- New income streams.
- Low-risk opportunities to increase sales
- Offline word of mouth advertising.
When it is time for your business to open up new frontiers, consider what e-commerce solutions can do to open up your company and make it more versatile. Even if your business model is not e-commerce only, adding a strong online presence is a low-cost way to increase your profits.