“I like your shirt”, my boss commented the other day. “Thanks, I got it from LL Bean, it’s so easy; I love on-line shopping”. We then had a quick conversation about on-line shopping, which site is the best for shoes, casual or work clothes etc. “It’s just so easy”.
The Online Marketplace
Amazon is the leading e-retailer in the United States and reported more than 74.45 billion dollars in 2013 net sales and 237 million active customer accounts worldwide. Amazing Amazon!
Like millions of others, over the past few years I have significantly changed the way I shop, not just for clothes but also for household goods, like vacuum cleaners, bed-linens even large ticket items like houses on sites like Zillow. In fact, there is probably nothing you can’t buy on-line. On-line shopping has been available for a long time, however, I really started using it over the last few years. Which got me thinking about why that is. There are several factors that contributed to changing my shopping habits, listed below are some of them:
• Accessibility - cloud environments, make it easy to access sites
• Increased speed and mobility of transactions and secure payment methods
• Access via multiple devices (mobile phones, laptops, tablets, desktops)
• Targeted markets (specific to my requirements)
• Attractive cool website designs
• Picture galleries to view products
• EBay and Craig’s List have created new markets for used and overstock goods
• Logistics – improved shipping, tracking and return services
• Browsing shopping sites is more convenient than going to the shopping mall
• Convenience – saves time, although this is debatable – I can spend a long time browsing a good site!
What makes it all possible?
None of this happens without a myriad of complex processes happening both before and after you click submit. I don’t think many of us really think about the complexity of getting your new T-Shirt delivered in a box to your door.
Products typically are shipped by air or sea, from the dock to a distribution center and forwarded to the shops, now they also go to fulfillment centers which send items or products that have been received and ordered on-line, packaged and shipped. Pioneers in this business, like Apple have completely eliminated the need for distribution centers and ship direct from their manufacturing facilities in China to your door – Factory, FedEx, Me.
Then you have the website designers and marketers who have excelled in the art of displaying products and analyzing statistics to market their merchandise more effectively to the consumer. Not to mention the payment processes behind the billions of transactions handled every day and the security teams that work endlessly to keep our personal data safe and secure. Of course delivery is key with the army of shipping companies – FedEx, UPS, DHL to name but a few.
None of this would be possible without cloud providers providing strategies for computing power and solutions to support and satisfy this market. Cloud computing has allowed retailers and e-retailers to understand trends in clients shopping habits by analyzing data and enabling them to expand product and service offerings while reducing costs to serve to consumers. Cloud provides greater access to global markets with limited investment. For retailers, smartphones and tablets can now serve as Point of Sale (POS) Systems, processing payments, tracking inventory and location information via cloud portals, as of 2012 over 25% of retailers had made the move to cloud based POS systems and the trend isn’t slowing down. Cloud allows you to dynamically provision computer services wherever and whenever you need them, allowing businesses to respond instantly to the ever changing needs of the market place.
Personally, I hope to be able to continue to go shopping with a friend once or twice a year without the assistance of a virtual or social networking site to enjoy the spontaneity of buying something you like off the hanger. In reality, I wonder how long we will be able to have this opportunity as the future for retailers becomes ever more complex and competitive.
Written By: Hazel Watkinson
Senior Executive Assistant, TOSS C3