Electronic commerce or e-commerce (sometimes written as eCommerce) is a business style that lets businesses and entities buy and sell items over the internet. E-commerce works in all four of the following major market segments:
- Business to business
- Business to consumer
- Consumer to consumer
- Consumer to business
E-commerce, which can be performed over computers, tablets, or smartphones may be thought of like a digital version of mail-order catalog shopping. Nearly every imaginable product and service is available through e-commerce transactions, including books, music, plane tickets, and financial services such as stock investing and online banking. As such, it is considered a very disruptive technology.
- E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet.
- E-commerce can be a substitute for brick-and-mortar stores, though some businesses choose to maintain both.
- Almost anything can be purchased through e-commerce today.
E-commerce has helped businesses set up a wider market existence by offering cheaper but more efficient supply channels for their products or services.
By contrast, Amazon launched its business with an e-commerce-based model of online sales and product delivery. Not to be outdone, individual sellers have increasingly engaged in e-commerce transactions via their own personal websites. Finally, digital marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy serve as exchanges where multitudes of buyers and sellers come together to conduct business.
E-commerce offers consumers the following advantages:
- Convenience. E-commerce can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Increased selection. Many stores offer a wider array of products online than they carry in their brick-and-mortar counterparts. And many stores that solely exist online may offer consumers exclusive inventory that is unavailable elsewhere.
E-commerce carries the following disadvantages:
- Limited customer service. If you are shopping online for a computer, you cannot simply ask an employee to demonstrate a model’s features in person. And although some websites let you chat online with a staff member; this is not a typical practice.
- Lack of instant gratification. When you buy an item online, you must wait for it to be shipped to your home or office. However, retailers like Amazon make the waiting game a little bit less painful by offering same-day delivery as a premium option for select products.
- Inability to touch products. Online images do not necessarily convey the whole story about an item, and so e-commerce purchases can be unsatisfying when the products received do not match consumer expectations. Case in point: an item of clothing may be made from shoddier fabric than its online image indicates.