E-commerce: where to buy and sell with just one click

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The Web has become a huge shopping centre, with all kinds of e-commerce sites. On the Internet, users have access to a wide range of products and benefit from inviting discounts, and they can also become sellers themselves, offering their creations to the whole world.

Some plane tickets, a household appliance and a board game. You can find almost anything on the Internet. Ecommerce sites are electronic businesses that sell online, enabling users to buy everything they want with a single click. Thanks to them, buying things today is easier and more convenient than ever: they deliver orders to you at home, they have improved their returns systems and they allow people to track their deliveries. But they have not only changed our buying habits, they have also given individuals the opportunity to put their own creations up for sale. Platforms that connect novice sellers with potential customers around the world have sprung up. Do you know all the different methods for buying online? And for selling?

“E-commerce is much more than an online shop window. It also represents a new logistics system that is able to offer everything that consumers want, and it has established different ways of paying to make shopping easier. In essence, it is a new kind of relationship between businesses and customers”, explains José Luis Montesino-Espartero, founding partner of Comefruta and director of the Higher Programme of Electronic Commerce at the Madrid-based Business Marketing School’s Institute of Digital Economics (ICEMD).

According to the Digital in 2017 Global Overview report, written by Hootsuite and We Are Social, 22% of the world’s population buys online. But what has happened to mean that we look to Amazon rather than go to a department store? “The main advantages of the online world are the ability to compare prices, having to hand an extremely broad inventory of specific products and being able to get well-informed before buying”, states Montesino-Espartero. “Travel, leisure and technology lead this world. Fashion, food and homewares are a second area of interest. Sales of digital content are also growing”, says Paco Anes, head of Mobile & New Media at IAB Spain, according to what is published in the Annual e-commerce Study 2017. These sectors are not only dominant in Spain, but also in the rest of the world.

Where can I buy?

The early stages, in which the majority of online businesses imitated traditional catalogue sales, are behind us. Ecommerce sites are constantly evolving. Increasingly, users navigate the Internet via their mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets. Because of this, these businesses are transforming. They no longer offer their services solely via their websites, but also through their own apps. It’s certainly true that the Web has become a kind of shopping centre where you can find all kinds of businesses:

Marketplaces. These constitute a sort of shop of shops. These platforms provide space to different brands so that they can put their products up for sale. Amazon, Ebay, Aliexpress and Rakuten are some of the largest. Although they work in a similar way, there are differences between them. For example, as well as selling products from other brands, Amazon also markets its own products. On ebay you can find both individuals and companies selling things, and as a user you have the option to bid for items as though it were an auction. Whereas on Aliexpress, from China, Chinese suppliers offer their items to consumers throughout the world, and the portal is known for the low prices of the products that are on offer.

Private sale clubs. These supply a limited number of items from a specific brand. They are a type of online outlet, because they sell products from past seasons. In order to become a member of these clubs you simply have to sign up on their website for free. The main advantage compared to other websites is that you will be able to access discounts of up to 80%.  It is common to see this formula used by fashion companies. Showroomprive, Dreivip, Vente-Privee, Privalia and Ofertix are a few examples.

Collective purchasing. Groupon, LetsBonus and Groupalia are some of the most popular websites within the collective selling or flash sales area. On these platforms, businesses create discounts based on the number of people who are interested in their products. The “bargains” can be allsorts: from laser hair removal sessions to holidays to special menus in a particular restaurant. 

E-commerce discovery. If you like surprises, you will be interested in the businesses that have adopted this model. Through a weekly or monthly subscription, users receive a package of samples from the brand, but they do not know what products their box contains. This format came about in 2012 at the hands of the beauty company Birchbox. For their customers it is a way of discovering bespoke products. This is still a fledgling model, but it is starting to seduce big players. This is the case with Adidas, which has followed this model to launch its Avenue A project, aimed at sporty women.

And if I want to sell online?

In the same way that you can be an expert buyer on the Internet, you can switch to the other side and enjoy the ease that some platforms offer to turn yourself into a seller and market your own creations. You don’t need to have a strong brand, nor do you have to have a presence on the large marketplaces. Here are some other options, which as above offer their services via their websites and their apps:

Giant markets. Websites such as Etsy came into being so that individuals could show their wares to the rest of the world. Within this site you can launch your own online shop and reach its 30.6 million active buyers around the globe. Etsy also offers training so that you can learn about how to market your goods and how best to send your products to buyers.

Second hand. All those unused items don’t need to languish forever in the junk room at your house. Buying and selling websites like Wallapop connect individuals who are selling belongings that they no longer use with users who are interested in them. All you need to do is upload a photo, a price estimate, a good heading and a good description of the product you want to sell. The order can be delivered in person or by sending it via Correos (the Spanish Post Office) with the “wallapop envíos” function. Since its creation in 2013, more than 1 million products have been put up for sale.

The variety of options for buying and selling through the Internet is infinite. Now the challenge is to know how to connect physical establishments and online businesses so that there are no differences between the two worlds. Perhaps we are not far off achieving this. The fashion and property sectors are starting to lead the pack. There are already digital changing rooms and simulators that allow us to know what furniture will look like in our homes via augmented reality. Within a few years we will not make a distinction between physical shops and e-commerce, they will simply be businesses”, notes Anes. The challenge is to create a world without limits, without barriers between the real world and the online one.

By Alba Casilda

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