E-commerce refers to buying and selling over the Internet. According to a 2008 survey, nearly 78 percent of Americans find online shopping "convenient," and around 68 percent state that it "saves them time" [source: Pew Internet & American Life Project]. E-commerce succeeds by offering consumers several key advantages. First, there is the 24/7, 365 nature of online shopping. Shoppers have round-the-clock access. The consuming public can go online at any time of the day or night to buy, or sell, items. Next, there's simply more stuff to choose from. No brick-and-mortar retail store in existence can compete with the Internet for sheer variety of selections. Specialty items are easy to find and even easier to buy.
Another great advantage e-commerce customers have over their brick-and-mortar counterparts is access to the latest review from users about products. While it's true that people can, and do, read reviews online in preparation for an offline purchase, the real-time nature of online commerce ensures the more up-to-date information on a product. For example, if a product is found to have a defect, chances are the vast online consumer user base will have noticed it, complained about it and posted about it either on the site from which they bought the product or elsewhere. Search engines, too, can easily locate and collate this new information.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, online consumers have an edge on real-world shoppers because they can shop around for the best price in about the time it takes to click a mouse a few times between various sites. Related to pricing, we would be remiss if we didn't note that many people shopping online end up skirting local sales taxes they would otherwise pay in a local retail store. Some states have a "use tax" its citizens are supposed to pay on items purchased on which a state sales tax hasn't been collected. But it is an open secret that many people nationwide ignore this tax on their online purchases. Indeed the entire issue of taxation of Internet purchases is an ongoing concern at both the state and federal levels.
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