Is eCommerce Overtaking Traditional Retail?


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As technology develops, the traditional way of commerce changes and eCommerce is becoming more popular. It’s also known as electronic commerce or internet commerce. Ecommerce refers to the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet.

🚀Read Ecommerce Guide – Introduction & How to Start an Ecommerce Business? 🚀

The digital transformation had an impact on many industries, including the commerce industry. Nowadays, people are more likely to make a purchase over Amazon or similar sites, rather than in a classic store.

According to Statista, the number of dollars spent on eCommerce sites are growing every year. In the last year only, it reached $3.45 billion. By 2021, that number will hit $4.88 billion. According to a global survey across 11 markets by Shopify, 84% of consumers shopped online during the pandemic.

Amount of money spent on e-commerce sites by year

Picture 1. Amount of money spent on eCommerce sites by year

Although eCommerce and traditional commerce have the same purpose and goal, there is a big difference between them. We’re going to explain their similarities and differences in this article.

Traditional Commerce vs eCommerce

Commerce is industry from the very beginning of the world. It is the key point of almost every other industry. The world simply cannot function without it.

So, traditional commerce is when you buy or sell face-to-face with the potential buyer. It is usually made in stores, or on the markets.

Ecommerce, on the other hand, refers to buying and selling goods on the internet — through websites. Hence prefix “e” stands for “electric”, just like in an e-mail, e-banking, e-business, etc.

This type of commerce is developed to simplify the buying process itself. There’s no need to leave the home, or more importantly, to wait in the queues. All of the purchases are done through the websites, outside the physical store.

Similarities Between Traditional Commerce and eCommerce

First of all, both of them have the same goal. That’s buying and selling products or services. Also, the key to their success is the customer. No commerce business can succeed without customers. So, for success, you need to attract customers and then keep them loyal to you. How to attract them, find in attracting your customers guidelines article.

Differences Between Traditional Commerce and eCommerce

Now when you know what traditional commerce and eCommerce look like, it’s time to point out the differences between them. It’s necessary to know the other side of the story to be able to understand it or, in this case, to manage it successfully.

The biggest difference between these two is accessibility. For instance, if you want to buy something at the store, you have to visit it during their working hours. To be able to do that, you have to first leave the house. If you’re tight with time, it’s possible you won’t make it.

Unlike traditional commerce, eCommerce is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter if a holiday or working day, you can buy whatever you want, whenever you want. Moreover, your target audience is no more just regional, it becomes national or even international.

To establish a successful business that can handle all the requirements like shipping, return processes, or sales, you need a quality infrastructure. It includes good strategy, organization, and technologies.

Besides accessibility, the difference is in employees and the ability to see and touch the product. In stores, you can always check your item right away or ask someone to help you out with it. Most important, when you make a purchase, you have it immediately, without having to wait for it to be shipped.

When you look at the eCommerce site, customers lose both factors. They can always ask a question via live chat or in Q&A. The problem is they have to wait for a response unless they have a chatbot.  Also, eCommerce sites need detailed descriptions and specs of the product, but that still doesn’t provide the right security in buying a particular product.

Read Omnichannel Retailing: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

E-commerce Marketing

Picture 2. eCommerce Marketing

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Traditional Commerce

The biggest advantage of traditional commerce is the greatest disadvantage of eCommerce. That’s face-to-face communication. You’re in a better position to use your selling techniques and make a customer buy the product.

With eCommerce, it’s all on customer’s decision to click on your product and further desire to make a purchase.

Like it’s been already told, customers are leaving the store with their product in the bag. They don’t have to wait for it. That’s one of the factors why customers decide on buying something from the store.

Disadvantages of Traditional Commerce

The main disadvantage is right there in the title. Tradition! It’s very often considered as a contrast to modernity. And eCommerce is all about being trendy.

Digitalization is something very popular today and businesses are mostly trying to have online stores. Even next to their traditional stores. It is cheaper after all!

So, it makes sense that the transition to eCommerce will bring new values for the company. As the number of internet users is growing, so is the eCommerce business.

Unlike eCommerce, the costs of opening brick-and-mortar stores are still high. You need to invest a lot just to open it. Then there are extra costs for the equipment, accommodation, goods, insurance, and other utensils.

Advantages of eCommerce

As previously mentioned, the biggest advantage is its accessibility. There is no dependency on the location, so customers can access the site from around the world.

With eCommerce, the costs of establishing a business is no longer a problem. You don’t need big investments for that kind of business. In fact, plenty of business start their eCommerce business then move to traditional commerce in stores.

Related: How to Turn Visitors into Buyers?

Disadvantages of eCommerce

The main disadvantage is that you cannot apply your sales methods and skills. There’s no face-to-face communication when you can explain to the customer why they should buy your product.

Also, the problem might occur with the terms and conditions which customers have to read before making a purchase. It’s always easier to listen for half a minute than reading 300 words.

At least to a certain extent, this is reduced with implementing a live chat into your sales funnel.

Every business should have live chat on their websites with kind and fairly informed agents. This is also applicable through social media. That’s where customers spend their time the most. Thus it’s good to keep them informed.

Lastly, the most important disadvantage is waiting for the product. When customers purchase something online it takes days, even weeks before they receive it.

No one likes to wait, neither do I, or you. Thus try to offer discounts or upgrades in shipping to retain your customers.


Obviously, both types have their pros and cons. However, with the technology development and face-paced world we live in, it makes more sense to start eCommerce rather than traditional commerce.

Ecommerce brings much more benefits, it’s easier and cheaper to implement. It’s growing every day in both – demand and supply. It’s easily accessible 24/7. A customer can decide when to enter your store and it’s worldwide.

If I were in your shoes, I’d start an eCommerce business. If you already have one, but is not being very successful, I suggest you to follow these steps: 5 Ways How To Improve Your eCommerce Site.

Finally, to answer the main question — Will eCommerce overtake traditional retail?

Well, “to overtake” is a strong expression so it’s hard to tell. Imagine if you need bread for lunch, you won’t order it online for sure. Even though we all imagined that at some point.

Something must remain on the shelves in the stores.

So, the number of eCommerce websites will grow each year, but traditional commerce will still remain to keep the other side of the business running.

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Is eCommerce Overtaking Traditional Retail? was last modified: May 31st, 2021 by Milica Vujasin
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