E-commerce -- buying and selling products over the Internet -- presents numerous advantages for consumers and businesses. Consumers benefit from increased competition and vast product selections, while businesses benefit from decreased operational costs. E-commerce is not going away; businesses are constantly looking for new ways to make buying easier and to help consumers locate products that might interest them. These are the e-commerce trends that are expected to have the largest impact in 2012.

Near Field Communication

Near Field Communication uses your smartphone's network connection to link to your bank or credit card account. A phone equipped with NFC has the ability to interface with a payment gateway when in close proximity, allowing you to pay for in-store purchases by simply waving your phone near the payment gateway and entering an access code on the touch screen or keypad. If the mobile phone providers have their way, NFC may pave the way for the eventual extinction of credit cards.

Product Recommendations

Intelligent product recommendations -- those suggesting a product you might like based on the purchases of other buyers with tastes similar to yours -- have emerged as a way to make it easier to browse large product selections. In addition, product suggestions can increase a merchant's revenue by tempting customers to place additional products in their shopping carts before checking out. Some of the merchants that use algorithms to suggest products to customers include Amazon, Netflix and Apple.

Social Shopping

Merchants and social networks are both looking for ways to integrate your online friends into the shopping experience. One example of social shopping is a news feed on a social network that notifies you when a friend has purchased a product. Another example is a service that allows you to instantly ask your friends for advice when you are having difficulty deciding on a product. Other services function as online wish lists, letting people compile and share lists of products they want.

Group Buying

Group buying websites such as Groupon, LivingSocial and BuyWithMe strike deals with local merchants around the world in which the merchants offer their services at greatly reduced rates in exchange for the ability to reach hundreds of new customers. A typical deal on a group buying website might be a $50 restaurant coupon on sale for $25 for the first 200 buyers. These services have become successful in the midst of an economic downturn; according to Reuters, Groupon earned $700 million from its IPO in 2011.

About Author / Additional Info:
Josh Phillips is an avid computer user and Web developer whose interests include monitoring and commenting on technology trends and geocaching. Josh administers the websites http://safecigreview.net and http://lavatubeelectroniccigarette.com.