Electronic commerce and the world we want, by Oriol Amat

Until the nineties of the last century, most retail was done in physical storesand there was also sales by phone and mail. With the advent of the internet, the situation began to change. by the disruptive transformations caused by this new technology in all areas where it enters, and one of the most affected sectors is commerce. Both demand (consumer habits) and supply (new players, new marketing channels…) have changed substantially. Electronic commerce is growing steadily, as more people have access to the internet. According to Hootsuite, in 2021 in Europe 91% of people are Internet users and, of these, el 76% make purchases through ecommerce.

It is a logical evolution if we take into account the advantages of electronic commerce: avoid traveling, save queues, you can buy 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, the catalog of products is infinite, there are price comparators, you can find out the opinions of other consumers… But also has drawbacks: you cannot see, touch, or try the product, there is a lack of privacy since you have to give personal data, in many cases there is no contact or personal advice with the seller… And there are fraudsespecially with credit cards. According to the US Government, 15% of consumers have suffered some type of fraud with e-commerce.

AND the pandemic has accelerated the transformation. For example, according to the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, e-commerce represented 6% of all European retail in 2019. In 2021, the percentage has already reached 15% and the forecast is that in 2029 account for 33%. And in products such as electronics, books and clothing, the percentage will reach 50%. Faced with this unstoppable evolution, I would like to reflect on two specific side effects What is causing electronic commerce?

In the labor market, the closure of traditional businesses causes a substitution of store owners and clerks by a smaller number of entrepreneurs who create e-commerce companies and many delivery people. All this makes relative weight loss in the middle class. In the case of delivery people, according to CCOO data, they are often precarious jobs, with a lot of stress and danger, without stability and with low pay. Therefore, we are talking about an economic activity that generates little well-being for many of those who work.

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Another effect of the closure of local businesses is the change in the physiognomy of towns and neighborhoods. Undoubtedly, shops give life to cities, more lighting and security in the streets. But, if the process of business disappearance continues, our cities will change a lot and not for the better.

In view of this we can ask ourselves if we are going towards the world we want. Doors cannot be put in the field, since electronic commerce will continue to grow, but maybe we can improve the final result. On the one hand, traditional businesses have to accelerate your reconversion, innovating with the shopping experience and proposing hybrid formats (purchase online in the same physical store, buy online and pick up at the physical store…) that allow them to generate billing and reduce the number of delivery men. Comertia data indicates that online sales in January 2022 already represent 8.9% of the turnover of its associates, which are companies with more than 4,000 stores. It is also necessary for the administrations to advance further in the plans of measures for the protection of traditional trade and thus contribute to their reconversion. The new sales models must be well regulated (for example, the ‘dark stores’, physical warehouse spaces that customers cannot enter) and support for SMEs. And, on the other hand, consumers have to be aware of the power they have with their purchasing decisions. If they do this thinking about the world they want, perhaps they will be willing to pay more for the work that delivery men do and they will also tend to buy more in local stores. If we don’t do so, let’s not be sorry when we check the growing precariousness of millions of people or when the store that we would like to continue to be part of our lives closes.

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