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E-COMMERCE AND MY BUYING PREFERENCES
E-Commerce is the buying of products and services over the Internet. This is an area that is gaining popularity extremely fast and is one that has tremendous potential. My project looks at e-commerce from my personal standpoint or a customer?s standpoint. I will basically be looking at how I, being the customer, view e-commerce and how I use it to my benefit.
In this project I will talk about some general criteria that I use to evaluate products when I purchase then. Then I will critique web sites of 2 merchandise groups, which are computers and music CD?s, based on that criteria. After looking at the pros and cons of these sites I will conclude as to how I evaluate the whole e-commerce process and what I think is the best way to use the web sites when I buy the products.
Before I purchase any product, regardless of how I make the purchase, I consider various aspects of the purchase and use these to conclude whether the transaction is worth my while. I will now outline these criteria in order of priority that I place on each.
The very first aspect of a purchase and the one that I consider as being the most important is that price of the product. I am a student who does not earn much and ultimately everything I can buy is restrained by my available budget. This means that I have to look at the cost of what I am buying and consider whether I can afford the product, keeping in mind all other necessary expenditures that I have to make.
The second most important criterion is the quality of the product itself. I define quality as fitness or appropriateness for use. I should be able to use the good for the purpose that I buy it for. After all, what good is a product that cannot even serve its intended application? Quality doesn?t necessarily mean that a good must last long. If I buy a product and have used it for what I needed then I don?t really care if it becomes unusable after that.
The next most important aspect of a purchase transaction, that I consider, is variety. The more products that are available in a product line the more I can compare between different products and see what is best for me. If I cannot find variety then I will have to do a lot of searching to find what I need and that will use up more of my precious time. Lower variety may also cause me to buy a product that wasn?t the best one for me as I may not be willing to spend the extra time in going to some other p lace looking for a wider selection of products.
The fourth element of a purchase, which I look at, is convenience. This is basically how easily I can obtain a product. If I can buy a good more conveniently then the whole purchasing transaction is not such a hassle and I don?t have to spend much time on it either. Saving time is very important for me as I am a student and my studies require a lot of time.
The fifth and last factor, which I use to evaluate a purchase, is the quality of the after sales service of the product. This is important because with certain products, especially expensive ones like computers I may need help with using the product. The more the seller helps me out with using the product, the more use I can make of the product and so I can get better value for the dollars I spend.
EVALUATION OF WEB SITES
The two merchandise groups that I chose to look at were computers and music CDs. First I?ll go over the music CD sites and then the computer sites
One web site for buying music CDs online is the Best Buy site. You can buy CDs from their site any time you want. The price of the CD?s here is about the same at the in store price. The quality and variety of CD?s are also the same. However, it is very convenient to just order a CD from the site rather then drive down to the store and get it.
The Best Buy web site allows its users to listen to samples of the songs in their CDs. The site also lists those CDs which are currently the most popular. Drawbacks of the site include the fact that you have to pay with a credit card as no other form of payment is accepted and you cannot search for CDs by music type or genre. That is to say that you cannot search for all rock CDs available. This feature is available in most other music CD sites.
One other music CD site that I evaluated was the Amazon.com site. This is an extremely well organized web site that sells a lot more than just music CDs. I was most impressed by this site and had a tough time looking for the shortfalls of the site.
Among the numerous advantages of the site were low prices and a large selection of CDs. I found nearly every CD I searched for on this site. The site also gives reviews on each CD and allows users to listen to samples of songs on the CDs. One unique quality of this site was the fact that it could gift-wrap the CD and sends it to whom ever you would request. The only drawback that I could find here was that some products were not immediately available in inventory so their shipping times were longer.
The third CD site I perused was Cdnow.com. This site was impressive as well. There are a lot of very useful links provided on this web page. It was also very colorful and eye-catching. News about events occurring in the music world was also available on the site.
The most impressive feature of this site was the fact that it allowed you to create your own custom CD. You could tell it exactly what songs you wanted on your CD and it would make it for you. This is an extremely good feature, as it becomes very convenient for me to get what I want and in a more cost-effective way. I may then have to buy less CDs to get all the songs I like. The site also allows me to search CDs by artist, song, actor, actress and movie. International shipping is also available. Drawbacks of the site included no listing of songs within CDs and the inability to listen to samples of the songs in CDs.
The next few web pages that I examined were the computer sites. These included sites of Compaq, Dell and IBM. All three of these companies are market leaders in the computer industry and are operating with tremendous success.
The first company I considered was Compaq. They have a very good home page, which has some really good links. Compaq is a very big brand name so I was expecting to find high priced products in their site but to my surprise I was able to find computers that were quite price competitive. The brand name itself certifies that the computers were of extremely high quality. A huge variety of all sorts of computers are offered on this site. Almost all computers also came with a minimum of a one-year warranty of which three months were on site service. This meant good after sales service too.
The Compaq site had a special feature called the Comparator, which allowed a direct feature to feature comparison of any two Compaq computers. The user of the site can input his or her geographical location and the site will also identify the closest retail outlet. Users can also configure their own PCs and order them online. The main drawback with purchasing from this site was that the buyer would have to pay both shipping and tax costs, which raises the total cost to the customer.
The next site was the Dell Computers Corp site. Another extremely impressive site this was. Dell sells refurbished PCs at low prices. The company also has a reputation for high quality products and is also known for having the best after sales service in the industry. The site also allows you to subscribe to a free monthly catalogue, which has all the information on the latest products. There is a section, which lets the user tour, the site and highlights the sites main features making the site a lot easier to use. The other main advantage is that there is no tax payable on the computers, which reduces their cost.
Just because of its reputation for high quality and service Dell demands a high price for its products. The other thing is that Dell only sells Intel chip based computers so that also reduces the variety of computers. Dell also only sells through catalogue or online so customers cannot go to any retail outlet to look at the final product before making the purchase.
The last computer site I looked at was the IBM site. This site was a good one too but not as good as the previous ones. The thing I liked most about this site was the fact that it gives a virtual and detailed tour of its products online. It feels like having an online salesman telling you everything about the product. The computers themselves were not too expensive or too cheap so the prices seem just right. There was a large selection of products. One other unique feature of the site is that it offers online documentation of manuals and references of various products. The site also has a questionnaire for users so that it can use the answers to it to show the user the ideal computer for him or her. This means good quality, as the product is more likely to be appropriate for its intended use.
The main drawbacks were that both shipping and tax charges must be paid raising the overall cost of the computer and only credit card payment is acceptable so you cannot mail checks.
After looking at the various web pages for the two merchandise groups I thought about how I would want to use e-commerce so that I can maximize the value I obtain from my purchases. To come up with a final decision I had to consider what benefits I get from buying goods directly from a store.
The best part of buying from a shop is that I have the opportunity to see and touch the actual product before I buy it so I know exactly what I?m getting. I can also usually ask a salesperson all the questions I need to about the product so I may be better acquainted with the good. One other obvious advantage is that I don?t have to wait for the good and I can start using it the instant I purchase it.
There are also many problems involved with shopping in a store, which are avoided by shopping online. I would have to drive down to the store and find parking before I can even start shopping. Once inside a store I would hope that it has the variety of products that I am interested in, otherwise I would have to go somewhere else. Web pages usually have a lot more variety than stores because their product lines have more depth rather than width.
After considering all these factors I have come up with two ways of using e-commerce for myself. The method I use largely depends on the price of the product. If I am buying a relatively low priced good such as a CD then I would just buy it online simply because it is very convenient and I can afford to take the hit with the money of something goes wrong. However, if the product is very expensive, then I may research the rood online but I would almost definitely want to go to a shop, ask a lot of questions about it and actually see it before I commit a huge amount of money to it. For example, if I were buying a computer I could research its variety in a store like Best Buy online. I could do all my research and then be well informed about the products available in the store so when I get there I?ll make a better decision as to which computer I want to buy.
I found this project to be quite an interesting one, as I haven?t really used the Internet a lot for my personal shopping. After doing this project I realized that it would be worth my while to buy inexpensive items online as not only can I afford to risk the loss of money if something goes wrong, but I can also save myself a lot of time and trouble.
I am also quite sure that as time goes by and more and more people start using e-commerce then I will also feel more comfortable with shopping online and more and more of my purchases will be online. As it is, a lot of companies are offering e-commerce options on their web sites now. It is very convenient as the customers can shop anytime they want with the comfort of sitting at home.
The project also made me think about what will happen to shopping malls as retail outlets as a result of this growing e-commerce field. Will they be wiped out because it will just be way too convenient to shop online or will they remain because some people just like the whole shopping experience and want to physically be able to see and touch the products they buy. Only time will tell.
Compaq Computers Corp. (1999). [Online].
(http://www.compaq.com) [1999, November 28th]
Dell Computers Corp. (1999). [Online]
(http://www.dell.com) [1999, November 28th]
IBM. (1999). [Online]
(http://ibm.com) [1999, November 28th]
Best Buy. (1999). [Online]
(http://www.bestbuy.com) [1999, November 28th]
CDNow. (1999). [Online]
(http://www.cdnow.com) [1999, November 28th]
Amazaon.com. (1999). [Online].
(http://www.amazon.com) [1999, November 28th]
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