The rise of online retailing
While online shopping started in 1979 with Michael Aldrich’s use of Videotex, that later on became known as Redifon’s Office Revolution, it was not until the advent of better and more user friendly browsers and faster internet speeds in the mid to late 2000s that the revolution started.
Ebay started online auctions, connecting sellers and buyers from all across the globe, followed by Alibaba for the massive Chinese market.
Amazon did away with the traditional bricks and mortar way of selling products, eschewing a physical presence for an online footprint that covered more ground than Walmart.
These business models were later copied by electronics seller Lazada and fashion products Zalora, all of which are now billion dollar businesses.
From business to business sales and business to consumer sales, as of 2015, online sales have accounted for 8% of global purchases (http://www.strategyand.pwc.com/perspectives/2015-retail-trends), reaching a record US$80B in revenues for the first quarter of 2015 (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-15/e-commerce-sales-are-surging).
Ease of use and convenience.
Online shopping provides a more convenient way to purchase products aside from physically visiting a brick and mortar store.
For the online retailer, this means a huge savings in the cost and expenses of building, operating, and maintaining a physical presence in several locations. For the online purchaser, it means a wider range of of products and services to choose from, all from the comfort of their own homes. Online retailers provide an easy way of choosing products and services based on their prices and specifications and payment via electronic means and, for some retailers, cash on delivery.
Merchandise can not be inspected by the purchaser before purchase, thus putting consumers at a higher risk of fraud as compared to personal transactions, not to mention the risk of credit card fraud when paying online with a credit card. This also means that sellers risk fraudulent purchases using stolen credit cards or fraudulent repudiation of an online purchase, resulting in additional cost for shipping, handling, and transactions.
While most of these risks have been addressed by SSL encryption and other security measures set forth by the Payment card Industry Data Security Standard, identity theft is still a big problem for online sales.
Third party product testing and verifiers have been used by online sellers to ensure the quality of their products before being shippined. Lazada and other retailers have also allowed inspection prior to acceptance by purchasers to address the issue of defective products.
Products easily bought online
Generic and homogeneous products like books, medicine, and electronics that require no special fitting and customization can be bought more easily online. These are products that can be used immediately and do not need to fit a specific person.
Products one should never buy online
Customized products like articles of clothing that may require personal fitting to determine suitability, short shelf life items like groceries that can no longer be returned, and expensive products like cars that require a test drive should not be purchased online.
While Zalora and a plethora of small independent clothing and fashion sellers sell clothes and other fashion accessories online, there is no guarantee that these will fit the purchaser without a physical fitting prior to purchase.