How does ecommerce work?

In short, eCommerce works by accepting orders and money over the internet from customers and then deliver the product or service. Ecommerce is possible through the help of an online platform or website. The eCommerce platform will handle the orders, transactions and exchange of information required for the process to work. The following are the pillars of eCommerce business and those who succeed or fail do so at these aspects.

Ecommerce Product and services.

At the centre of commerce are the products and services being sold. These are the first thing that eCommerce businesses have to focus on. The product or service for which people will be paying for is the centrepiece of any successful eCommerce business.

The commonest mistake at this stage is to think that people will buy convenience over a quality product or service. Amazon, the eCommerce giant, started their business selling books cheaper than book stores. The products sold were familiar with the market and the incentive for buying online was that it was cheaper than the bookstore closeby.

The products or service you are selling online has to be very good and there has to be a higher motivation that ‘just convenience’. This is especially true in Africa, where generally speaking, people have the time to visit the shops and do manual price checks.

Almost anything can be sold online but not to every market. The key to succeeding in eCommerce is to sell something to a market that loves the product, trusts the seller and enjoy the buying process. One of the mistakes by eCommerce business managers is the failure to identify the right audience for their product or service. Failure to generate a reasonable size audience in your target is an early indicator that the future is not bright.

Accepting Ecommerce orders.

Ecommerce works by accepting orders from people on the internet. This means people have to choose what they are buying and placing into a shopping cart. This stage is usually handled by the website or eCommerce platform which the business is using.

The easier the process of online shopping, viewing products, adding items to cart and placing orders, the higher the chances of people making payments.

At this stage, ecommerce businesses are advised not to make their customers think. The platform must be easy to use and people at all levels of being tech-savvy should find their way through the buying process without getting stuck. A very unique and complex process is discouraged. The easier the process, the higher the trust levels and the more orders will be completed,

Accepting Online payments.

Ecommerce platforms do accept payments from people when they place their order. For most of the platforms, orders will not be processed before the payments are made. This is where most website visitors end. They will do everything else but will be very careful about making the payment. The global average checkout rate is 2.5% of website visitors. 

Payment methods are critical for this stage. Knowing your audience and the payment options they have or are willing to use is critical. In Africa, one of the biggest challenges with ecommerce is that the platforms have unfamiliar payment methods.

People are wary of online fraud and other inconveniences that happen with online transactions. The process of making payments should be smooth, without any hiccups or errors. The design must also look trustworthy. The website page must look clean and not something put together in a few moments.

Processing orders

After payments have been made on the website or platform, orders will now be packed and labelled for delivery. This is the order processing stage. Usually, the ecommerce platforms do assist with this process too.

The number of orders and the number of people involved in the order processing determines how quick this can be done. Speed and accuracy are of high importance for this process not to become costly. Errors result in many returned orders, unhappy customers and lost platform love or recommendations. That’s something to avoid. 


The sold products or service has to be delivered to the buyers on time. This part can make or break the business. The delivery time promise has to be kept, if not, there should be a communication to that effect. 

Working with a delivery partner makes this part easier to handle. There are several ecommerce delivery services.

Returning products.

If the delivered products are not the ones they ordered due to some error during order processing, customers should be able to return it for a refund or correct product. One of the promises of ecommerce is that goods will be delivered on time. If the time is missed the use of the products may have expired as well e.g. bulky ice cream for a kids birthday party. This is why a good return promise is part of good customer experience for ecommerce businesses.