Is e-commerce for everyone – should Grandma shop online?

Feb 1

Is e-commerce for everyone – should Grandma shop online?

As Kenneth Laudon and Carol Guercio Traver highlights, electronic commerce has grown in the United States from a still start to a 310 billion dollar retail, travel and media business, and a 3.3 trillion dollar business-to-business platform since its beginning in 1995. This growth has brought about an enormous change in business firms, the market and consumer behavior; global electronic commerce revenue has surged after the global economic crunch, serving as a platform to broaden online retail sales.

E-commerce has become a platform for new unique services ranging from retail of goods and services to social networking, with the likes of Amazon, eBay, Facebook and a host of others.  The use of the internet and the web to transact business – using digital technology for commercial transactions that involves the exchange of value between organizations and or individuals.

E-commerce websites are viewed globally by anyone who has access to the internet, it addresses the global economy as the web is not just for the technology savvy or a specific demography. Although some products or service can be targeted at a specific demography.

There are some features that are unique to e-commerce and favours shopping online: its ubiquitous nature which allows for shopping everywhere and at all times. The global reach of the internet allows commercial transaction across cultural and national boundaries making life a lot easier for the buyer and seller, and more cost effective than traditional commerce. Its universal standards that sits on the global standards of the internet and web technology; it enables for online merchants to deliver rich message content – as in text, video and audio – to specific audience in a way not possible in traditional commerce, it allows for a two-way communication between a merchant and a consumer, it accommodates a high information density and good quality of information available to all market participants; because of enhanced information density, online merchants can personalize and customize marketing messages to specific consumers based on their past transactions. It provides a model of mass communication where millions of users are able to create content that are consumed by millions of other users, the result of this is the formation of social network platforms.

It is also important to highlight the factors that favours shopping online: it allows consumers to shop from anywhere even in the comfort of their homes, no closing hours – consumers can shop anytime, there is more detailed product information and a broader selection of products online, it is a lot easy to compare price online which gives price advantage, consumers can take as much time they want to make their decision.

Although technological infrastructures and components drive e-commerce, from the display of products to check-out, to a payment system, order tracking system and post-sales management. The issue of information and systems security, with payment systems in particular, is however critical and of major concern to the current and future state of e-commerce and stand as barriers preventing its wider use.

The internet broadband becomes stronger and cheaper as Internet Service Providers slash prices expanding their capacities with new technologies, also the price of computing and networking components continue to fall which makes technology reach everyone at a very affordable price, and making it possible for all to shop online.

According to the info-graphic statistics created by Super Monitoring, 56% out of 91% of mobile phone users all around the world owns a smartphone as at May 2013, and predicted that by the end of 2013 there would be more mobile devices on Earth than people because of the increasing growth; it also shows that 50% of mobile phone users use mobile as their primary internet source and 72% of tablet owners purchase online from their tablets each week. This statistics indicates that more people are using non-traditional computing devices to shop online and transact business, and even more people will; a lot of new and existing e-commerce website now targets the mobile platform first when developing an online campaign (Infographic, 2013).

There are societal issues that put pressure on global e-commerce which is critical to its success, such as intellectual property, individual privacy and public privacy. The impact of the internet and e-commerce on the society therefore is significant and global; it has become subject to laws and legislations of nations and union of nations, just as laws in the European Union are slightly different from American laws and the rest of the world.

How to find a product? What are the variations and how many is available? How do consumers buy an item and what are the payment methods? How and when do they get the item? These are the problems that needs to be solved using technology and also affects a consumer’s decision to shop online.

The factors that prevent a wider use of online shopping are the consumer behaviour on websites, the financial risks, product risks, convenience risk, non-delivery risk, international delivery of products, and the knowledge of how to use the technology.

Consumers fear that their card details may be compromised or overcharged when they shop online, or their personal information may be compromised to a third party. Also, the feeling that they might not get what they ordered for or get a malfunctioning item because it is hard to know the quality of an item over the internet. Convenience is another thing, finding the right product and being able to cancel orders when shopping online, and the fear of not receiving the item ordered online. According to (Demery, 2013), online retailers lost to online fraud an estimate of $3.5 billion over the past two years and up 3% from $3.4 billion in 2011.

With people’s religious usage of social media platforms, it is a lot easier to track identity and behavior of individuals online; it becomes really difficult to preserve user’s privacy and e-commerce takes a hit on this as people want to know if their personal information is secure when they are shopping online. But successful e-commerce companies assure consumers of personal information privacy restoring and confirming consumer confidence online.

There are quite a number of factors that favour online shopping over traditional shopping; with the flexibility and variety in the payment systems, the consumer power, and the use of technology for organisations to improve sales and service delivery.

Though technological factors and consumer’s behaviour affects online shopping, but there have been technological innovations, laws and legislations, like the consumer protection (Distance Selling) legislation 2000, and policies that have provided a cushion for e-commerce making it successful over the years; with new technologies, return policy, cyber laws, post sales service, e-commerce has become successful over the years and shows that it is ready for all stakeholders (either companies or consumers) and there is room for improvements for the issues of security, consumer protection, global delivery of items, and technological simplicity for the future (UK Statutory Instruments, 2000).

Finally, the major risks associated with e-commerce and the barriers preventing its wider use are issues of technological advancement, global reach, knowledge of how to use technology, and security. After all is said, the business, technological, and societal elements of electronic commerce are ready for everyone, and anyone even grandma irrespective of their demography, as long as they are ready to shop online and have the basic knowledge of how to use the technology.

It is therefore not a question of whether grandma should shop online but can grandma shop online; with the evidence provided, it would suggest that yes grandma can shop online and should.


Demery, P. (2013) ‘Online fraud costs e-retailers $3.5 billion in 2012’.28 March.  [20 February 2014]

Digital Buzz (2013) ‘Infographic: 2013 Mobile Growth Statistics’.1 October. [13 February 2014]

Internet Retailer (2011) ‘Credit card makes a comeback’.29 November. [13 February 2014]

Korper, S., Ellis, J. (2001) The E-commerce Book. Building the E-Empire. 2nd Edition. USA: Academic Press.

Laudon, K.C., Traver, C.G. (2012) E-commerce 2012. society.International Edition. 8th Edition. USA: Pearson Education Limited.

Moshref Javadi, M.H., Et al (2012) ‘An Analysis of Factors Affecting on Online Shopping Behavior of Consumers ’ International Journal of Marketing Studies. Vol. 4, No. 5. [13 February 2014]

UK Legislation (2000) ‘The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000’ Statutory Instruments 2000 No. 2334. [26 February 2014]