net neutrality e-commerce

What net neutrality means for e-commerce

Plenty of conflicting headlines about the future of net neutrality and its impact on e-commerce have cropped up in the weeks since the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision on December 14 to scrap it.

And while many theories, mainly negative, have attempted to explain how the rules’ removal will affect online sellers, it’s still unclear how it will all pan out.

What is net neutrality?

Officially put in place in 2015, it’s the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all data in the same way and should not discriminate or favor specific websites or products over others.

The cost of doing business online could increase

Without net neutrality rules in place, the biggest ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc) in the U.S. could, in theory, pick and choose what websites they give full speed to. This would benefit those with big budgets and hurt ones with less cash to spend.

Put another way, a two-speed, pay-for-play internet would most likely emerge. ISPs could control traffic speeds, favoring the highest bidder and bumping those businesses without the big bucks into the slow lane.

E-commerce startups and small sellers need to have equal access to consumers in order to compete against big-name brands, so this would hurt in two ways: Not only will they lose out on revenue (impatient consumers tend to click off when a page takes a few seconds too long to load), Google could also penalize them with poor rankings in search results.

Cross-border e-commerce could be throttled

Cross-border e-commerce is one of the fastest growth opportunities in retail. But if it becomes more expensive for international companies to sell into the U.S. and compete for customers, they may avoid the country altogether. While that would mean even less competition at home for the U.S.-based seller that’s willing to pay more to get to the consumer faster and first, it also restricts options for shoppers.

E-commerce support will need to improve

Maintaining and growing a loyal and engaged audience is difficult enough as it is. But if the death of net neutrality causes an e-commerce site to slow down considerably, it would be harder for consumers to browse a site or complete a purchase, which could lead to a significant rise in support tickets.

That’s where an e-commerce help desk would make a big difference to your business. Put yourself in a shopper’s shoes: you can’t login to track the whereabouts of a delayed delivery because your connection keeps timing out; you want the seller to give you an answer quickly. The same goes for missing order confirmation emails: did the purchase go through or did the transaction time out?

xSellco Helpdesk connects to over 60 marketplaces, shopping carts and social channels and pulls all your support conversations and sales details into one dashboard. No need to switch between multiple users accounts or spend valuable time searching for an order number. Our connectivity and integration take the tedium out of e-commerce support, so you can resolve tickets quickly and get back to selling.

Final thoughts

While many are mourning the death of net neutrality, looming legal battles could lead to some kind of resurrection. Over 20 U.S. state attorneys filed a petition on January 16 to challenge the FCC’s decision to abolish the rules. In the meantime, online sellers should consider all outcomes and prepare for any eventuality. It’s all to play for.

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