Shopping Online – Panacea or Pandora

eCommerce is a large part of the online world and steadily growing stronger. Sixty percent of small merchant companies have an online presence and a huge number of websites are devoted to item sales. Online sales have grown in the United States from $12.3 million in 1999 to over $130 million in 2006. 2007 looks to be even greater.

The Evolution of eCommerce
Shopping online has grown considerably. At its inception, those comfortable with the internet were willing to spend money over the computer. But many were hesitant about using a credit card online or worried about the reputation and delivery options of online retailers.

Overtime, these fears were put to rest for many customers. Safe credit cards and bank accounts were developed and many websites became members of trusted organizations or affiliated with larger companies that inspire trust. Most traditional retailers have online presences and smaller niche stores have risen in popularity as well.

The internet has opened a new world of product reviews and hard-to-find options for discriminating shoppers. More people than ever are searching for new products, reading customer and professional reviews and then buying from trusted online vendors. Shopping online has become an accepted and commonplace mode of purchasing.

Pros and Cons of Online Shopping
Shopping online has tremendous advantages over regular retail shopping. Customers are able to read the reviews of others who have purchased items and items can be grouped online into sets that are harder to piece together in the store. There are rarely items out of stock online and hard-to-find specialty items are readily available.

Many items sold online are also discounted as there is reduced or no overhead for the merchant. An individual shopping online can visit many websites to read reviews and comparing prices before purchasing. To do the same in a traditional marketplace is challenging and extremely time consuming.

Of course, shopping online does have drawbacks. Items must be delivered which means anything needed in a day or two may not arrive in time. There is also the cost of shipping which can be considerable. A final complication for many is returning items purchased online. For some, sending an item back through the mail is a major deterrent.

Trends of Online Retailers
Most retailers are working to resolve any hesitation on the part of the buyer. They offer free or reduced shipping on all items or with a certain dollar amount spent. They also have simplified returns as much as possible. Most retailers with a traditional brick and mortar store accept returns or exchanges in the store or online. Others send packing and shipping slips with items in case of returns.

Online retailers will also begin to better target the demographic bringing the most money to the online marketplace- mothers. Seventy percent of mothers use the internet to research a purchase and sixty-four percent use search engines to find online retailers. Online reviews are extremely important to this demographic, any many websites are responding by adding reviews as part of the site.

Children and teen items are also increasing online such as toys and certain clothing items. Specialty items have always been popular online and will continue to be. Overall, online retailers will simply continue offering more of what people are looking for and making it even easier to research and buy those items.

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