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If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the various goings-on in the global retail industry over the last few years, you surely can’t have failed to notice that there has been a significant and sustained shift in the way many of us buy products. More and more people are choosing to buy goods and services online – and it isn’t hard to see why. For one thing, the internet has opened up a whole world of choice for consumers, enabling them to source products from all over the world at the click of a mouse or the touch of a button. The online retail revolution has completely changed the face of the worldwide retail industry, and it online shopping appears to be here to stay.
The sudden appearance and rapid growth of online retail has taken many bricks-and-mortar retail chains by surprise. The last few months have been dominated by reports of failing retail chains, hit hard by a combination of online retail and general weakness in consumer confidence. The Economist notes that some physical retailers have continued to perform reasonably well without establishing a major web presence – although it should be noted that these are generally prestigious retailers with an affluent clientele, leaving them well placed to weather the storm of e-commerce and sluggish consumer spending. Retailers and other businesses which are aiming at the lower end of the market often don’t have this kind of luxury.
Another major shift in consumer buying habits has come with the advent of mobile. A growing number of shoppers are using smartphone handsets and tablet computers not just to buy goods, but also to compare prices and conduct location-specific searches. In previous years, only a handful of consumers used mobile phones to make purchases, but the last couple of years have seen rapid growth in this area. It’s worth noting, then, that even retailers which do have a web presence may be missing out on sales if their website isn’t optimised for mobile. This is something which online retailers seriously need to be aware of, because those firms which adapt quickly to the needs of the mobile web could give themselves a crucial early-mover advantage over the competition.
While consumers have generally been more willing to buy online and via mobile in recent years, concerns about security still linger, particularly among older shoppers. It’s essential that if you’re running a business selling goods online, you make the effort to assuage consumers’ concerns. Of course, if you accept payment via debit or credit card, you’ll need an internet merchant account, so this is something else you’ll need to consider. As an article from eHow.com points out, it’s worth creating a shopping security plan so that consumers feel confident enough to purchase from your business. There are a number of different plans available, and thorough research can help you get a better idea of which one will be best for both your business and your consumers. Think about what sort of data you’ll be collecting from shoppers who buy goods using your website, and this should help you choose the appropriate security arrangements.