E-commerce is the revolutionary buzz and talk of the town. Eliminating geographical gaps, it has brought buyers and sellers closer than expected. Facilitating networked transactions across the globe, e-commerce has redefined the conventional business models.
E-commerce is primarily driven by a website/portal where buyers and sellers interact together. Commercial transaction facilitated by internet is a great invention indeed, but it loses its sheen if the e-commerce site poses challenges in the inception phase itself.
An early start-up e-commerce site caught between niche segmentation and comprehensive assortment fights with website designing at the very onset. Complying with best practice and marketing protocols, it needs to be a search engine optimized equipped with proper Meta tags, keywords, merchant accounts to facilitate payments and Data Protection measures to secure the identity and personal details of registered users.
Sometimes, even if the website design is upto the mark, the customer conversion rate is lesser than expected. It might be due to a flaw in the logistics or technical infrastructure of the website. With increased cases of privacy and information breaches online, security has emerged as a major challenge to e-commerce sites. A big ‘trust’ factor goes into ordering a product online and paying in advance for it which is delivered to doorsteps a couple of days later. Buyers are disillusioned if the website doesn’t validate the security of customers and provide for value for money.
From micro perspective of customer service, an e-commerce site fares well if it uses quality and support as its service differentiators. Putting heavy amounts into promoting and advertising the site but not getting optimum sales creates sustainability challenges for the e-commerce set-up. Not only this, if the back-end logistics is unreliable and the customer is made to hold a faulty product for long, the reputation and goodwill of the set-up gets compromised.
In addition to the above micro aspects, what puts an e-commerce site prone to threats is the myriad of macro challenges under various domains. Credit cards and net banking are the biggest facilitators of an e-commerce set-up. Economically, if the country is naïve in the adoption of such advanced banking technology and credit availability, the e-commerce site will have to face serious effects. Since a website is globally accessible, it can offer its products to be shipped worldwide. In such cases, tariffs are applicable and if the cost of transaction through online means exceeds the cost of physical delivery, the purpose of an e-commerce set-up and website turns futile.
Culturally, an e-commerce website falls back if the literacy rate, computer usage and skill set, intellectual property protection, forms of payment modes and text and images used in the website are seen as derogatory to the prevailing customs and practices. Even on legal and institutional bases, some territories are still under authoritarian regime and e-commerce set-ups are considered possible means of fraud, identity thefts and phishing scams.
The ‘click-and-mortar’ medium is fast replacing its ‘brick-and-mortar’ counterparts, but it is not devoid of its own concerns and challenges. From technical to managerial and micro to macro, an e-commerce website is vulnerable to threats, irrespective of its placement in inception or maturity stage. However, with meticulous planning in advance and adoption of best practices from extant literature, one can avoid most, if not all of the challenges posed.