E-commerce, as we know it, has been with us for a while; in fact, it’s in its 22nd year. Following the launch of Amazon and eBay in the UK in 1999, one year later only 1% of total UK retail sales were attributed to online purchases. 16 years later, it had increased to 15% and as online shopping became commonplace with dedicated online stores, online purchases have since skyrocketed in recent years. 
However, over the past two years it has seen significant growth, predominantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Four lockdowns meant that consumers had no choice but to rely on e-commerce stores, from supermarkets and clothing giants to local produce and gifts. 
 Types of e-commerce 
E-commerce has actually been around for more than 40 years; remember the days of teleshopping in the 1970s? Although not seen as e-commerce now, teleshopping paved the path for e-commerce as it is today. In fact, Michael Aldrich invented electronic shopping in 1979 and that same technology is the basis of e-commerce sites now. 
There are four principal e-commerce business models
Business-to-Consumer (B2C) – businesses sell products or services to the consumer. 
Business-to-Business (B2B) – businesses sell products or services to other businesses. 
Consumer-to-Business (C2B) – consumers selling products or exchanging their services with businesses. For example, consumers leaving a review or taking part in a company’s survey in exchange for a prize or reward. 
Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) – consumers selling products or services directly to other consumers, such as classified ads, eBay or Facebook Marketplace. 
There are other business models, like Direct-to-Consumer (D2C), which allows manufacturers to sell directly to consumers. 
Did you know that the UK has the most advanced e-commerce market in Europe? In 2021, online sales accounted for just over 30% of all retail spending. The good news for e-commerce ventures is that despite a return to the high street by consumers, online shopping isn’t likely to drop back that much with non-food sales expected to increase by as much as 10%. 

There are three key reasons why the rise of e-commerce is set to continue: 

Technology, like AI and machine learning, has enabled retailers to efficiently gather and analyse the masses of data they collect, which in turn, has allowed them to deliver a personalised shopping experience to consumers. 
Safe, secure payments 
Electronic fund transfer platforms, like PayPal, and digital wallets – Apple Pay and Google Wallet – have allowed consumers to pay for their purchases in a completely seamless, online, safe and secure way. 
Omnichannel options 
With more and more people using the internet, be it desktop or mobile devices – Google reports that nearly 85% of shoppers start their buying journey on one device and finish it on another – the way consumers shop has changed. Businesses need to sell on more than just one channel, combining their online website and social media channels with offline promotional activity. 

Creating an Online Business Profile 

Online business directories, like Google Business Profile, are becoming crucial for small businesses, particularly in terms of selling to their local customer base. Creating an online business profile that includes your business name, address, contact details, email and web address, opening hours and a description of the products or services you offer – you can even add your logo and product images – takes advantage of the local targeted business directory. 
There has been a significant rise in the use of search terms that include ‘near me’, ‘open now’ and ‘in my area’. With Google being the number one search engine worldwide, having a Google Business Profile will go a long way to getting your business on the first page of a potential customer’s local search results. Other benefits include: 
Improves local search visibility. 
Can be adapted and updated as often as necessary. 
Add posts and collect reviews for valuable feedback. 
Boosts Google ranking. 
Increases traffic to your website. 
Quicker connection with customers. 
Increases credibility. 
It’s free to create a business listing. 
In addition, Google’s algorithm specifically looks for relevant businesses that have a directory listing. 

Why local e-commerce? 

Local e-commerce is a ‘breath of fresh air’ for many small, local businesses. Whilst shoppers are returning to the high street, small businesses that were forced to sell online and struggled with the coordination of deliveries, consumers returning goods and also the high costs involved, are now able to sell online to their local market alone – they have the best of both worlds. 
By selling online to only their local audience seven days a week, 24 hours a day, they are no longer having to deal with high delivery or returns costs. In addition, it makes the management of deliveries and returns far easier; indeed, customers have the convenience of their goods being delivered, or they can collect and should they want to return the item, they can either send it or, as in most cases, take it back to the store. It really is convenience personified. 
When you add in the factor that more and more consumers would rather shop locally, backed up, of course, by Google taking the ‘local is better’ stance, it’s a path that many small, local businesses are starting to take. 

How can small businesses benefit from e-commerce? 

Whether you have a dedicated e-commerce site, offer e-commerce options on your existing website or are considering it for the future, there are plenty of benefits for small businesses, including: 
Greater reach for your business, worldwide. 
Better lead conversion and increased sales revenue. 
Higher search engine ranking leading to improved website traffic. 
Lower operational costs. 
Increased online visibility. 
Builds online reputation when linked with social media profiles. 
Flexible opening times and 24/7 online ordering. 
Easier stock management. 
Of course, one aspect that must be consistent across your e-commerce site, your online business directory listing, and social media channels is SEO (search engine optimisation). Get that right as well and your e-commerce will be your successful online shop. 
It’seeze Windsor is a website design company that delivers professional web design and e-commerce stores. Not sure if your website is working for you? We offer a free Website Health Check that will decipher the areas where improvements can be made. Call us today to create the website of your dreams and turn your business into a success. Contact us for more details.  
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