What are online retailers?

If you have an online store, that is, a shop on the Internet, you are an Online Retailer. Online retailers have become a staple of our modern world, specifically, since the advent of the internet towards the end of the last century.

They are essentially businesses that sell goods and services via the Internet. Unlike their offline brick-and-mortar counterparts (physical stores), online stores are accessible 24/7. Consumers can shop at them at any time that suits them.

Online retailers are the key players in the online retail sector.

WIX Encyclopedia has the following definition of the term “online retail”:

“Online retail is a type of eCommerce whereby a business sells goods or services directly to consumers from a website. The website may be their own, or it may be owned by a larger retailer or marketplace like Amazon.”

Online retailers – breaking down the two words

Let’s break down the term’s two words and look at their meanings:

  • Online

An online entity is one that is available or operates via the Internet. The terms online banking and online courses, for example, refer to banking activities that we can perform and courses we can attend on the Internet, respectively.

  • Retailer

A retailer is a business that sells goods to the public. It is a business-to-consumer or B2C operator. Walmart, Tesco, Loblaws, and Woolworths are major retailers in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, respectively. The term “retailer” may refer to a business or a person. If you are a supermarket manager, you could say, “I am a retailer” in the same way a bank manager could say, “I am a banker.”

If you place the two words together – online retailer – the meaning becomes “An Internet business that sells goods to the general public.”

A man shopping online and internet stores, plus a definition of ONLINE RETAILERS
Image created by Market Business News.

Famous online retailers

As mentioned earlier, we can use the term “online retailer” when referring to a business or a person. Below, is a list of eight famous online retailers:

  • Jeff Bezos – Founder of Amazon, a leading global online retailer. He is one of the richest people in the world today. It is amazing to think that Amazon has only been around since 1994. Today, it is one of the most influential companies in the world, with global sales of between $700 billion and $750 billion in 20243, according to forbes.com.
  • Jack Ma – Co-founder of Alibaba, a major Chinese e-commerce conglomerate.
  • Pierre Omidyar – Founder of eBay, an online marketplace for consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales.
  • Marc Lore – Co-founder of Jet.com, an e-commerce startup acquired by Walmart.
  • Tony Hsieh – Former CEO of Zappos, known for exceptional online shoe and clothing retail customer service.
  • Reed Hastings – Co-founder and CEO of Netflix, which started as an online DVD rental service.
  • Michael Dubin – Founder of Dollar Shave Club, delivering personal grooming products by mail.
  • Nick Swinmurn – Founder of Zappos, started as an online shoe store before expanding into clothing.

How we shop has changed

The advent of online retail has dramatically changed how we think about shopping. We used to leave the house and enter a physical store to buy things. Today, with a few clicks or taps on a device, we can browse through endless online stores and catalogs of items ranging from daily staples to high-end electronics.

The shopping process is now a simple one. We visit a website or app, select what we want, and proceed to checkout. We pay using secure online methods, and then wait for our purchase to be shipped directly to our doors.

We do all this from the comfort of our home, on a train or bus, sitting in a park, or anywhere we want, day or night.

Online retailers – advantages

  • Range of products

Online retailers are not limited by physical space, which means that they can stock a much more extensive range of products. This means that we, as consumers, have more options to choose from. This makes it easier to find specific items that may not be available locally.

If you live in Los Angeles, and what you want is only available in New York, you can buy it from an online retailer located anywhere in the country (or the world) and wait for it to be delivered to your home within a couple of days. In fact, if you pay an extra fee, you might even be able to receive it the next day.

Put simply, since online retailers came onto the scene, we can purchase what we want, whenever we like, from anywhere.

  • Better prices

There is much more competition today than there was before the Internet. We can visit multiple retailers within minutes, compare prices, and find the best deals.

Online retailers are aware of this increased competition and offer discounts and promotional codes, which can lead to further savings.

  • Convenience

We can shop online from home, the office, during our commute, in an airport waiting for a plane, or in a taxi, to name a few places.

There is no need to travel to a store, find a parking space, and deal with crowds of other shoppers.

Search functionalities have improved significantly over the past couple of decades. We can find what we want quickly by typing in keywords or using filters.

  • Customer reviews

Customer reviews can be a valuable resource when deciding whether to purchase something. Consumers who have bought a specific product can leave feedback on its quality, accuracy of description, and overall satisfaction with the service.

Apart from helping us choose the right product, this transparency also builds trust.

Some tips

Despite the many benefits that online retailers offer, there are some considerations that we should be mindful of.

  • Personal information

It is important to make sure that the retailer is reputable and has secure methods of handling personal and payment information.

  • Delivery times

Some retailers have better delivery times than others. Check out customer service reviews before committing yourself.

  • Return policies

Familiarize yourself with the retailer’s return policy. If the business is abroad, their laws regarding consumer rights might not be the same.

Final thoughts

Online retailers are Internet businesses that sell products directly to individual consumers (to the public). They offer the advantages of competitive pricing, convenience, customer reviews, and a broad selection.