What is the impact of the internet on business? The business world looked quite different without the advantage of immediate communication, online banking, and instant access to knowledge. Without the internet, entrepreneurs could only collaborate with business owners in their immediate areas. They could only pay in cash or via mail. And hiring employees was restricted to “help wanted” posters and newspaper advertisements. But now, a majority of financial transactions occur online, and business owners can hire people through job platforms as well as collaborate with others around the world thanks to the internet.
It’s difficult to encapsulate how the internet has changed the business world—especially since it’s still in its early stages. However, we can take a look at a few of its primary influences:
One of the internet’s most significant impacts on the world has been how it has improved the flow of information and communication. People once had to rely exclusively on hand-written letters to communicate with one another; then came email, cordless phones, and text messaging. And now, live streaming, social media, and video chat dominate the way people keep in contact.
So, how has the internet changed the business world? One of the most prominent ways is that it enables the sharing of ideas. What once required in-person meetings can now be communicated in a simple email. Personnel can use tools like Asana and Trello to streamline operations. Many companies even use online “offices” like Slack to foster interaction and organize projects. Processes that once required manual labor can now be performed digitally, reducing both time and cost while enhancing productivity.
Another example of how the internet has changed the business world is that it enabled remote work, making it easier for individuals to collaborate. Companies can hire freelance designers, programmers, and writers that live thousands of miles away, but the internet allows them to remain in constant communication. The internet has significantly broadened the talent pool that companies have access to. Therefore, through the internet, businesses and professionals are likely to find projects suited to their needs instead of being limited to the opportunities available in their local areas.
The internet has also altered the business world by enabling retailers to sell their products online. Instead of making a trip to a brick-and-mortar store, consumers can visit e-commerce websites, place orders, and pay with their credit cards from their computers or mobile devices. Afterward, their packages are delivered right to their doorsteps. Large payments can also be made via processing platforms like Automated Clearing House and CurrencyPay.
In addition, customers are not limited to what businesses have in their local retailer’s inventory when they shop online. From the merchant’s end, they no longer need to worry about wasting money shipping a product from a warehouse to a store only for it not to sell. Only sold items need to be sent to customers—significantly reducing holding and shipping costs—and companies only need to produce what there is demand for.
In addition, e-commerce allows shoppers to easily compare products from an array of different sellers. The impact of the internet on business gives customers a broader range of options than they’ve ever had before. If consumers want a product but do not know which brand to choose, they can easily search the internet and choose from any of the brands available opposed to limiting themselves with the brands provided at their nearest retailer.
Customers can also leave reviews telling other consumers about their experiences, which is crucial in a world where individuals tend to value the opinions of other people more than they trust targeted advertisements. Marketers and retail employees are required to sell a product and have the company’s interests at heart, but fellow consumers are far more likely to honestly tell a shopper if a product is not worth their money. People are wary of buyer’s regret, so reviews from people who have used a product before can paint a better picture of how it would fit into their lives.
Before the internet, a friend could recommend a product, however, we would need to go to the nearest store, search for it, and decide if it was worth buying. Now, consumers have quick and easy access to information–we can read about something online or search for the product’s details, prices, varieties, and reviews as long as we have a device that can connect to the internet.
The internet has significantly expanded our social circles. The internet has made it possible for us to connect, and be influenced/impacted by individuals that live all around the world. That being said, the internet can influence popular opinion on an unprecedented scale. And if consumers see that a good or service that they’ve stumbled upon via the internet is being endorsed by internet users whose opinions they trust, they might start to ask themselves, “If all of these people like it, is it possible that I will, too?”
Not to mention, when popular accounts with a large number of followers create a social media post mentioning a good or service, it can be thought of like that brand giving that good or service its stamp of approval. When word spreads to all of their followers, it becomes possible that a new trend begins, or that their audience takes interest and buys the good or service that was mentioned.
We can’t overstate the internet’s impact on business’ marketing. The days of print advertisements are almost gone, with Out Of Home ads like billboards and posters having a much more limited reach. Online ads, however, still have the potential to reach billions of people, dramatically expanding a businesses’ potential audiences. A mom-and-pop shop that sells health products is no longer limited to people in their immediate area if they sell online; instead, they can sell to customers in other countries because said customers have an avenue to learn about their company via the internet.
The internet has not only affected the types of ads businesses can use. It has elevated the necessity for businesses to be present online in an organic way via digital storefronts. Almost every industry is saturated with competitors, though, so businesses now have to figure out how to stand out and make the customer’s online experience similar – if not better – than their in-person customer experience. Thanks to the internet’s presence on the business landscape, search engines like Google and Bing are acting as online doorways for so many consumers that visibility on these platforms is paramount. This need to have an online presence has given rise to jobs such as search engine optimizers, digital strategists, social media managers, and more. Thus, not only has the internet shaped how we think of business marketing, it’s created a whole new advertising industry.
Another impact of the internet on business lies in investing. Entrepreneurs have a much broader reach when it comes to asking for funds, and investors have access to real-time data about different companies’ value propositions. Before the internet, investors would have to contact businesses directly and ask for their latest financial reports, which could be costly and result in long waiting periods. Now, investors can search online for industries they are interested in and download relevant documents within seconds. They can even see past investment records if companies keep investor relations pages online.
Before the internet, investing was considered an expensive venture. Brokers could charge expensive commission fees, which gave them control over the market. But now that the internet makes stock data accessible to anyone and easier to trade, full-service brokers are much rarer, and commission rates are dramatically reduced thanks to newfound transparency. With the internet at work in the business sphere, hopeful investors can make informed decisions with ease.
How the internet has impacted business is impossible to describe in its entirety. From mass communication to digitizing operations to bringing people together and granting access to a seemingly infinite amount of information, the internet’s influences are vast and undeniable. However, the World Wide Web is only 29 years old (1990), so we have not seen its full potential just yet. The business landscape has already experienced multiple major paradigm shifts since the internet entered the scene, but it will be interesting to see how the internet continues to impact businesses and consumers in the future.