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The internet has brought about many changes in our daily lives. The advent of online shopping has been a significant change for many people. It has meant that people can shop at any time of day. It has also meant that people aren’t confined to purchasing from stores within their local area – people can now shop anywhere, anytime, globally.

As well as changing people’s ability to shop at a specific time or place, online shopping also provides for greater ease in comparison of products. People can visit multiple websites with ease, comparing the range of prices and services, with access to detailed information about those goods or services. But the way that people purchase online, and the demographics of online shoppers do not necessarily align with historical behaviors. The size of the online shopping market and the resulting opportunity is huge. It has been estimated that online purchasing accounts for over $300 billion of sales in the USA, accounting for 10%of all sales, and growing at nearly 10% a year. If online sellers understand the changes in buyer behavior; they can maximize their opportunity to create an effective market for their products.

The market for online customers does not reflect the overall population. Women are more likely than men to make online purchases. The most common age of online customers is in the 25-45 age group and sales are strongly weighted to those with higher incomes. When people purchase online, the behaviour doesn’t necessarily parallel ‘traditional’ shopping behaviour. For one thing, people research their purchase online before committing to a purchase. Retailers need to make sure that their website appears on the first page of common searches, as most consumers won’t go to the second page of an online search.

In some ways, online selling levels the playing field – large retailers and small businesses can compete effectively. Online shopping may provide huge opportunities for small businesses. Irrespective of how large your business is, if you don’t provider an effective online experience, you risk a long-term loss of sales and/or customers. When designing your site, remember that ‘shopping around’ is very simple online. You will need to ensure you have enough information to address the ‘research’ that people take part in. Another issue is ensuring the online checkout works effectively. Research suggests that nearly three in four online shopping carts are abandoned. In other words, people are almost committing to their purchase on your site, but backing out for some reason. Inevitably, the reasons for abandoning a shopping cart will vary. You will need to ensure your website provides an effective checkout structure or risk losings sales.

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