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Work And Shopping In The Post Internet Era
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Work And Shopping In the Post Internet Era

As the internet continues to become more and more an integral part of peoples daily lives, the phenomenon of people being able to and even encouraged to work from home seems to be becoming more and more popular and a very viable option to increase productivity. Video conferencing and instant messaging are just two of the numerous services available to use on line that make it possible to work from home and still be instantly contactable. The increasing trend of home based workers really started to take off in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Contrary to the misplaced belief that people working from home would just slack off and do less work ,employers were actually surprised to discover home workers were actually more productive and efficient than they were at a designated place of employment such as an office.

The argument for working from home is becoming increasingly compelling for both employees and employers. Labour Force stated that in the Summer of 2009 there were approximately 691,000 home workers in the United Kingdom, this was up from 582,000 in the summer of 2006. It is widely accepted that these figures are not entirely correct but a survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry revealed that 46% of businesses were allowing staff to work at home, compare this to the results of the same study conducted by the CBI in 2004 where only 11% of businesses allowed people to work from home.

The daily commute to work for many people is just not necessary any more and can even be argued to simply be counter -productive and even a waste of time. The time spent travelling to and from a place of work could be used more constructively to simply get on with some work without the necessity of having to go to the office. A prime example of this in the UK is the increasing demand being reported by log cabin companies for home office buildings or garden offices as they are commonly being referred to. A detached building and designated place of work at the home is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people choose to work from home.

Home based workers are good for employers

The internet and the ease of communication that it allows are definitely a contributory factor for the increase in businesses allowing people to work from home. British Telecom is one of the largest employers of home based workers in the UK and was the company which set the trend for the rest to follow. British Telecom has around 10,000 workers who do not come in to the office on a regular basis. Employers started to see the benefits were stacked nicely in their favour when the auto mobile association started to experiment with initiatives to encourage call centre staff to work from home and witnessed productivity rise by around 33%.

Internet growing faster than traditional store based retail.

The internet has initiated many changes since it was launched way back in 1996 but perhaps one of the biggest changes I have noticed is that the internet is responsible for changing consumer habits. Just about anything can be bought on line from toothbrushes to tree houses, even black market organs, consumers are able to literally check 100s of prices for any product in real time. It has been predicted that worldwide e-commerce sales will pass $963.0 billion by 2013, with an annual growth of around 19.4% according to figures from Goldman Sachs. The US market alone will be worth around $235.3 billion with growth coming in at around 12.4% over the next 3 years. As broadband usage continues to rise so too does the amount of consumers purchasing on line. Goldman Sachs predicts that on line consumers will rise from 170 million in 2010 to 189 million in 2013, a 3.6% compound annual growth rate. That is a lot of people buying on line and with the amount of people on line increasing faster than any other previous medium the growth of on line sales shows little signs of slowing down any time soon.

David versus Goliath all over again

The increasing popularity of on line shopping and the convenience of shopping from the comfort of your own home has led to what can be described as a levelling of the field for the retail sector. Some of the once household names and giant brands of the high street that dominated in the past and always enjoyed a large proportion of the market share have been slain by much smaller and more nimble competitors. I think of it as the difference between a slow moving oil tanker and a much more manoeuvrable speedboat. Smaller businesses can adapt quickly and implement changes much more quickly generally than a larger company is often able to. Some of the smaller on line retailers are even able to operate in some cases as a home based business with minimal running costs and their principal retail outlet is simply a well ranked and highly visible website.

New support industries boomed on the back of ecommerce growth

This change in the way that businesses are now able to operate has created numerous on line support industries that never existed before such as internet marketing, conversion specialists and search engine optimisation companies. Search engines are the most predominant method used by consumers to find what they want on line. Increasing visibility on line in the search engines has become a necessity for most businesses that wants to remain competitive on line. Ask any on line marketer and 99% will agree it does not matter if you have the greatest products and the best designed website because if it is not visible in the search engines then the chances of making a sale are very low.

With so much increased effort going into actually selling services and physical products on line it is no surprise to see increased growth in consignment services. Consignment services are basically an intermediary that a company can engage to have all of its stock delivered to a warehouse and the warehouse company deals with all packing and shipping of the business owners items, Amazon is perhaps one of the biggest companies offering consignment services. Another industry that has benefited from internet retailing is the courier industry, it has seen a huge increase in the number of items now requiring home delivery, as opposed to the old style method of the customer collecting their items from the store after they had purchased them.

The arrival of ecommerce has forced some of the United Kingdom’s largest retail companies to seriously assess and examine the way that they conduct business. A good example is Barratts, a UK based company selling shoes and footwear, Barratts went into administration in late 2011 and re launched in early January 2012, the company stated that they would now be concentrating their efforts primarily on web generated sales from the existing collection of ecommerce sites. It is worth noting that Barratts closed over four hundred retail premises during its time in administration but not a single web channel was either reduced or closed.

As more and more people are able to get on line with the growth of smart phones, and the imminent arrival of smart phone enabled payment technologies such as Google wallet, traditional retail businesses based only in physical location stores will continue to find it difficult to trade on an equal par with on line retailers. The internet is still an infant in terms of maturity and as a communication medium. The rate at which technology is continuing to be developed promises to take the internet far beyond its current model and the only certainty is that it will continue to grow and evolve.

The internet is the modern day gold rush, considering that the internet is only around sixteen years old there is still lots and lots of room for growth and development. If you haven't already jumped on the bandwagon , now maybe a good time to do that learn coding course or open that eBay shop you have been talking about doing.


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