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Tech Tuesday: Online Shopping

<p>Photo Illustration | Nearly half of all sales on the nation’s largest shopping day occurred online, with 6 million more shopping in 2016 than 2015.</p>

Photo Illustration | Nearly half of all sales on the nation’s largest shopping day occurred online, with 6 million more shopping in 2016 than 2015.

This year, Black Friday saw an estimated 154 million shoppers nationwide, according to the  National Broadcasting Company. This number shows an increase from previous years.

These shoppers spent an average of $289 each, with about 44 percent buying their products online. Roughly 108 million people shopped online this year, compared to 102 million in 2015, according to CNBC.

From a retailer’s perspective, online stores must first have a website that consumers can reach them through. This interface should be reliable and capable of holding a high number of visitors when needed, according to the website for ShopSite, an e-commerce software for small businesses.

Retailers should also be able to control the various aspects of their online store, such as the products consumers see and how they are able to interact with the store.

Much like shopping in-store, e-commerce websites show the products they have. They update information from a database and show whether a product is sold out or if a specific size of clothing is running out, according to brighthub.com.

These products are maintained as a catalog, establishing how the customer views the retailer’s products and maintains their interest. The way a retailer presents their products is vital to influencing a shopper’s perception of the store, according to ShopSite.

Once customers find a product they like, they typically add it to a “Shopping Cart,” which holds their desired products for later purchase. Maintaining an interface that customers would want to use repeatedly is important when shaping a positive shopper experience, according to the site.

Some interfaces include features that present the total cost of products, shipping and handling and any additional fees that may be incurred. The cart is also where customers submit their order, according to the site.

Customers also typically choose their preferred shipping method through this interface, and retailers can either charge the customer for shipping or pay for it themselves, according to ShopSite.

When submitting an order, customers provide payment information that details where the money will be taken from by the retailer in exchange for the products.

This process is similar to the process that occurs in physical stores, where credit cards are processed and checked for sufficient funds in order to make the purchase. While physical stores use cash or credit cards, online stores can take either credit cards or online payment services, according to the site.

Online payment services, like PayPal, are alternatives to credit cards that simplify the payment process by storing customer billing information, but they can be confusing for customers who are new to online shopping, according to the website for the US Small Business Administration.

After all of this, the products are packaged and shipped to the customer, typically causing the customer to incur additional taxes depending on the locations of the products that are being sent and the customer who is receiving them, according to ShopSite.

Online shopping is rapidly growing as the preferred method of shopping for consumers. Through 2016, e-commerce has grown to occupy 8.4 percent of total retail sales, an increase of about 16 percent from one year ago, according to the US Census Bureau.

One such online retailer, Amazon, produced about 60 percent of all US online sales in 2015. It expanded its revenue by $23 billion between 2014 and 2015, according to MarketWatch.

Ralph Morin, a sophomore in the School of Engineering, said he believes that online shopping can offer better deals to consumers, but that it may offer mixed results when purchasing certain products.

“Black Friday is great because you can buy things that you have been eyeballing all year but never could justify the price,” he said. “It's also a great time to buy gifts for other people. The craziness is something I could do without, though.”

Harshel Patel is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry. He is the digital editor of The Daily Targum. He can be found on Twitter @harshel_p.

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