By Alex Evans, Editorial Director Of The National Business Awards

As a month of record ‘Cyber Mondays’ puts greater focus on the challenge facing the High Street, it’s too easy to attribute the success of e-commerce to convenience and cost. It’s not just about a new way of buying or selling, it’s about a new culture of business – and the Brits have become very good at it.

According to research from e-retail trade body IMRG, British retailers already account for a third of cross-border trade within the EU27 and domestic e-retail is currently growing at 18% year-on-year. It also claims that over the past 11 years consumers in Britain have spent an estimated total of £300bn shopping on the internet, rising from a yearly total of £0.8bn in 2000 to a forecasted £69bn by the end of 2011.

“A third of the UK’s adult population are yet to even begin shopping online, so the growth of e-retail is set to continue for years to come as consumers decide to take advantage of the unparalleled convenience, choice and value offered by the channel,” says David Smith, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at IMRG. “The e-retail industry is thriving amid a declining global economy, so it’s great to see the National Business Awards recognising the sector with its first Online Business of the Year categories.”

Closer to the customer

Trading almost exclusively over the web, finalists for two new Online Business of the Year categories demonstrated the importance of customer experience and the value of a good CRM system. Combining ease of navigation and speed of transaction with engaging content and feedback mechanisms, these champions of ecommerce are building and managing very large client bases with very few people in many cases.

Emerging triumphant as Advansys Small Online Business of the Year, Econsultancy fended off serious challenges from a diverse group of finalists ranging from Pressloft to Lovestruck who have all used customer data to market intelligently through a more collaborative, community-oriented proposition. By aligning automated processes with sophisticated CRM systems, these businesses are punching well above their weight.

After years of looking at what competitors are doing instead of finding out what the customer wants, businesses can learn from the leaders in e-commerce. “The confrontational ways of doing business are being overtaken by a more collaborative and more friendly model,” says Rowan Gormley, CEO and founder of Naked Wine; named WorldPay Online Business of the Year for “using the internet to revolutionise a tried and tested model and bring extra value to all stakeholders – from buyers to sellers” according to judges.

Joined up services, supported by CRM systems and a collaborative culture are helping small web-based businesses to level the playing field - investing in PR to gain the vital visibility they need to engage new customers and reassure existing ones. By creating a customer community, constantly inviting feedback through social media, their customers have become active brand advocates – enlarging that community through virtual and viral word of mouth.

Growing quickly around innovative technology and disruptive business models, e-commerce is not only creating new jobs and new opportunities for UK economic growth – it’s creating a new paradigm for business.

If you have achieved excellence in ecommerce, find out if it’s worthy of national recognition in 2012 by submitting an entry for one of our Online categories. Find out more at www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk