E-commerce has various impacts, both positive and negative, on individuals. The following are its primary advantages to individual consumers.
Availability- e-commerce is readily and easily available to consumers. It presents them with a chance to make purchases at their most convenient times. For instance, some consumers are busy at work or in school during the day and may not get enough time to shop at traditional brick and mortar stores that may not operate throughout the day and night. Since e-commerce operates throughout the day and night, it presents such consumers to make their purchases when they are free.
Enhanced shopping experience- e-commerce makes it possible for consumers to place their orders from the comfort of their homes and workplaces. It eliminates the need for visiting physical stores, and, thereby, makes shopping easier. It also enhances the access of consumers to stores, especially for people who live far away from physical stores. Additionally, e-commerce reduces the time spent by buyers resolving invoice and order discrepancies.
Enhanced access to information and different products without restrictions- e-commerce makes it easy for consumers to access information and different products without a lot of restrictions. It also helps the consumers to make comparisons between the prices charged by various sellers for their products and services.
Reduced prices- the spread of e-commerce results in cost benefits for consumers. It empowers consumers by way of making it possible for them to compare the various prices charged by various sellers. It also results in increased competition among businesses. In most cases, businesses react by way of reducing their prices to attract as many customers as possible, thereby resulting in cost benefits to the consumers.
As stated above, e-commerce also has various negative impacts on consumers, as discussed in the following part.
Inaccessibility - as stated in its definition, e-commerce solely relies on technology, especially the internet and internet-enabled devices. However, not everybody around the world has access to the internet. For example, most consumers in the developing countries around the world do not have access to the internet. The lack of access to the internet makes it difficult for many consumers to enjoy the benefits of e-commerce.
Cybercrime- e-commerce exposes its users to cybercrime since involves the use of the internet. Some consumers shy away from its use as they are afraid of supplying information regarding their credit cards over the internet. It also exposes consumers to fake sellers who may end up taking the consumers money without any exchange of goods or services.
Privacy- e-commerce may put the privacy of its users and their information in jeopardy. Companies using e-commerce collect a lot of personal information about their customers. They may be tempted to use that information for wrongful purposes. Such information may also fall into the hands of the unintended persons, thereby increasing privacy concerns. Additionally, there is always the fear that hackers may gain access to such information and use it for wrongful purposes.
The absence of human contact - most virtual companies employ a lean staff as a cost-saving measure. They automate most of their processes to reduce the need for employees. Therefore, the selling functions of such most companies lack the human presence to which buyers can appeal in the case that they have any doubts. Despite the fact that some virtual companies still maintain some form of human presence in their sales functions, such a presence is not available throughout the day and night. For instance, Parcel2Go’s customer service is available only up to 11:00 PM, which means that their customers do not get help after that time. As such, many customers might end up making uninformed purchase decisions than would be the case if they shopped at traditional brick and mortar stores.