Internet Business and Electronic Commerce

Introduction

EBay.com

EBay.com is an internet auction and an online shopping website that is managed by eBay Inc, an American Online Company. The site is a global site that provides an assortment of goods and services. The company was opened in 1195 and has grown successfully to be a success story of the dot-com bubble. Presently, it is a multi-billion company that has its operations localized in over 30 countries. Originally, it was operated as a set-time auction store; however, it has grown to include various other services such as: online ticketing through Stub Hub, Buy It Now standard Shopping, online classified advertisements, and online money transfer among other services.

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Amazon.com

Amazon.com is a multinational e-commerce company that is based in the United States. The company’s head office is located in Seattle, Washington and prides itself as the major retailer in the United States. The company has almost tripled the internet sales revenue of Staples, Inc a major competitor in the retail market as of January 2010.

The online store was initially launched in 1994 under the name Cadabra.com that specialized as an online bookstore. However, the store diversified its sales to become a fully fledged competitor in the retail market including grocery that has been a preserve of Wal-Mart for years (Tedeschi, 2006). Presently, Amazon.com has established various other e-commerce sites in different countries such as in the United Kingdom and Canada and engages in international shipping to a selected number of countries for its products. An online survey that was conducted in 2009 revealed that Amazon.com was the most preferred music and video store in the United Kingdom and the 3rd among the global retailers.

Barnesandnoble.com

Barnes & Noble, Inc. is the largest book retailer in the United States; the company is mainly operated through the Barnes & Noble Booksellers, a sequence of chain stores that have their main office located in Lower Manhattan, New York. There are various features that have made Barnes & Noble, Inc., they include the huge retail stores that offer Starbucks coffee, and the competitive discounting approach. A significant number of the company’s outlets stock various products such as: magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, and music along with other digital products. In addition, Barnes & Noble is involved in the publication of some of the books it distributes, economically reprinting a number of the non-copyright designations, and acquiring the United States or English language rights from other publishers. Additionally, Barnes & Noble orders reprint analogies and compilation publications through its internal editors.

Ailife.com

American Income Life Insurance Company was founded in 1959. Presently, the company has grown into one of the United Sates major provider of supplementary insurance to labor unions, associations, and credit unions. The company has insured over 2 million policy holders and enjoys over $90 million in annual sales. The company’s growth has mainly been as a result of customer satisfaction, innovation, customer referrals, and lucrative agency compensation programs.

Amfam.com

American Family Insurance history dates back to 1927 to a company that was opened to provide auto insurance to farmers. However, the company has grown into a classified mutual company that has diversified into property, auto, and casualty insurance. Additionally, the company is involved in the provision of commercial, life, health, and homeowners insurance in addition to retirement and investment products. The company endeavors to make insurance an easy and convenient experience.

Main Body

Features of Good and Bad Website Design

Barnesandnoble.com is an example of a well designed web site; the web pages are characteristic of the recommended 800*600 pixels and contain numerous graphics that make the website attractive to the customers. The numerous graphics on the site are well arranged to avoid large volumes of text that would make the website to appear clumsy. All the pages that are contained in this site are easily down-loadable. The main product lines are displayed on the home page while the links to similar products are easily accessible and down-loadable. Furthermore, the pages are well blend and are majorly similar in such a way that all pages are recognizable with the site’s features. EBay.com is another example of an excellently designed online retail outlet. The site is characterized by excellent graphics and less text that makes navigation on the site easy and enjoyable. Furthermore, the graphics, subheadings, and pull out quotes are well used in the site to enhance navigation on the site. A comparison of Barnesandnoble.com with Amazon.com reveals that Amazon.com has fewer graphics and prefers the use of text to act as a link to the various pages on the site. The site contains scroll bars on the right hand side that are used to navigate up and down the site.

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A good website design is an excellent online investment by a business; an unattractive website is harmful to a business and may cause more harm than good to a business. Therefore, it is of critical importance that a company invests in good website with attractive features. Internet sites must be visually attractive, appealing and professional; the website reflects the company and its products and may act as the first and the only impression that a potential client may have of the company (Business Insights, 2001). Therefore, an attractive website may have a positive impression and maintain customers at the site once they access the site.

Among the features that have been highlighted by a significant number of contemporary websites is the minimalism of website design and configuration. Therefore, simplicity is a characteristic that is evident in a majority of websites; it refers to a simple single or double column structure with pages that are read from the top to the bottom. Furthermore, it is necessary to reduce the amount of scrolling that is done on a web page. The contemporary web design’s spotlight is chiefly centered on orientation as opposed to the conservative left aligned and preset width layouts. In line with simplicity of layout, there is a modern emphasis to focus on the design of the content rather than on the page. This implies that there is less emphasis that is laid on developing the web background; rather the major emphasis is laid on the way the content is presented on the website. Brisk a web designer argues that web designers are focusing more on the detail rather than paying attention on the way in which the content is displayed on the web (Articlebase, 2010). When the design of the web site is excellent and efforts and resources are concentrated in developing and perfecting the design elements, it is quite easy to forget to view their website from the customers’ perspective. Brisk continues to observe that, though a majority of successful websites have laid some emphasis on the creation of attractive designs that cause excitement on a site, they have endeavored to ensure that these contents have remained pertinent and appropriate and not to cause deviations from the clear and logical whole effect (Articlebase, 2010).

The two insurance companies’ web sites have laid a significant amount of efforts on designing the content rather than on developing the page. There is less effort that has been made in developing the web site backgrounds with the emphasis being laid on the way the content is presented on the page.

Differences between electronic selling and traditional department store

The popularity of online commerce has continued to grow more so among women and other target population (De Bretagne, 2004). Majority of retail outlets are adopting e-commerce in an effort to boost their sales in a medium that is increasingly attracting clients. The number of items transacted via online commerce is diversifying with a significant number of retailers opting from the conventional store to online stores due to the lower costs to both the stores and clients. However, despite the growth of online trade, not all products can be sold via the online stores. Therefore, it is critical that all the businesses that are venturing into online commerce or planning to incorporate e-commerce into their operations to understand the distinctions between e-commerce and the traditional department store.

One of the main distinguishing factors between e-commerce and the traditional department store is that clients have traditionally associated online commerce with lower prices because of auction sites and the ease of cross referencing between various online stores. Additionally, buying of goods or services encourages increased customer competition due to improved accessibility that is offered by the internet medium. Because of the large number of retailers that are available on the internet and the increased opportunities for bargaining, there is fierce competition on the internet. The transparency of price is the rule that is applied on online trade; thus, clients are able to access a larger number of online stores as compared to the traditional department stores.

Through the internet, consumers are able to access huge amounts of information in online commerce as opposed to traditional department store. The information is available from various sources and is not limited to online shops only; other sources of information include: online reviews that are written by previous clients, employees, and other organizations at a faster speed and more directly than it would be possible under traditional department store (De Bretagne, 2004).

In contrast to the physical person who acts as a middleman in traditional department store, information technology acts as the intermediary in electronic commerce and as a facilitating factor for integration and globalization (Kersten, n.d.). Additionally, the costs under the two methods differ substantially in that taxes and the face to face interaction between the seller and the client are often avoided in online commerce. Additionally, there are different promotional strategies that are employed by the two methods; while the traditional department store would rely on taste tests, e-commerce would use internet pop ups and email blasts that contain promotional messages to attract their clients.

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How the Internet as a distribution medium can be more conducive to selling certain types of products and less conducive to selling others and the measures that online e-retailers are employing to reduce the risk of shopping online:

A critical factor about electronic commerce that should be understood by all companies that are planning to venture into electronic commerce or to incorporate it into their operations is that not all products are appropriate for selling via the internet. In particular, food stuffs are products that are placed under extensive scrutiny in the market place, including the online market place (Fritz, 2007). Furthermore, there is a limitation of e-commerce in selling perishable goods (De Bretagne, 2008). Though refrigerated transport systems can be used, e-commerce has been appropriate for selling the durable and non perishable products.

Electronic commerce is growing in popularity and the number of clients shifting from the conventional retail stores is increasing daily. Thus the need to protect consumers from the risks of a medium that is increasingly becoming attractive to both clients and criminals due to the valuable information that is posted online is of vital importance. The protection of consumers can be achieved by developing payment systems that use data encryption mechanisms that efficiently combat the risk of fraud for online transactions. Furthermore, there are anti-virus applications that are critical in protecting their networks and information against online threats. Companies should also create a back up of all their information in order to reduce the impact of a virus attack. Firewall also acts as an effective protection for external unauthorized access to a computer network.

In addition to protecting their computer networks from any form of online security threat, e-commerce traders should also protect their clients from any malicious use of their information. If clients witness security threats on an online site, they may never trust the site again and they may use the online communication potential; to destroy the reputation of the company. Thus, a company should put measures in place to protect their clients. Businesses should be separated from the regular software; for example businesses may use stand alone computers to access the internet or may use a fire wall between the server computer and the company’s computer network. Additionally, a company should encourage its clients to use strong pass words that are hard to guess.

How the Internet can be used to boost levels of customer service on offer

There are large volumes of clients that are venturing into online commerce for their first time in addition to the large number of veteran clients online. To attract repeat business, clients should focus on creating a positive experience that is critical in attracting repeat business and avoiding the huge promotional costs. There are various methods that can be used to boost customer service:

Cost minimization is a measure that is applicable to both individuals and organization. This makes it unattractive to call when there is an email option for a client. Thus, businesses should provide alternative email that may be used by clients to post their queries or complaints.

Personalized responses; companies should endeavor to send personalized email responses, this acts to reassure clients that you are directly responding to their queries.

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Companies should appreciate that mistakes are bound to happen at one time or another; however, the response or the solution they offer, is of critical importance. In case of a failed delivery, the company may act and surpass the clients expectation by offering the product at a discount or freely.

Companies should develop online merchant accounts for their clients. This is a critical measure for assisting clients in remitting their payment to the company.

The impact of Internet on an organization

There are various impacts of the internet that can be traceable to an organization; these results are both positive and negative. Companies are utilizing the internet to make direct contacts with their clients, to secure their internet connections ant to intensify the links with their trading partners, and to access the markets for selling their perishable products (De Bretagne, 2008). Thus the internet has acted to broaden the opportunities that are available to businesses. Furthermore, new business models that are efficient in cost reduction have emerged with the onset of internet commerce; the internet has linked clients and sellers in a way that was never achievable historically. However, the internet has some adverse effects on any business; it has increased the amounts of security threats faced by companies and consequently the costs incurred in combating these threats have multiplied.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the internet is dominated by online retail outlets. The retail industry is characterized by an extensive use of the internet to transact their trades. This has led to some valuable investments by these retailers in creating excellent websites that are not only attractive but act to draw and retain clients. On the other hand, the insurance industry is slowly venturing into the internet; however, their websites are not extensively developed. Insurance companies are primarily focused on content presentation rather than on background development. Therefore, insurance websites are characterized averagely designed websites whose aim is to present the content of the website.

Reference List

Articlebase. (2010) What are the Characteristics of Good Web Site Design? Web.

Business Insights. (2001) Best practice B2C e-commerce in food and drink: Online strategies to meet the demand of your consumers. Web.

De Bretagne, R. (2008). Bad experiences with shopping grocery online. Web.

De Bretagne, R. (2004) Leaders: E-Commerce Takes Off. The Economist. 371(8375). 9.

Fritz, M. (2007) E-Commerce Partnering Due Diligence: A Methodology for Trust in E-Commerce in Food Networks. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica 4(1): 13-20.

Kersten, G.E. (n.d.). A Few Suggestions for the Canadian Agenda on E-Commerce. Department of Decision Sciences and MIS, Concordia University, Montreal. Web.

Tedeschi, B. 2006. E-Commerce Report; After Delving Into 32 Other Lines, Amazon Finally Gets Around To Food. The New York Times. Web.

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