Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is a type of a business model, or segment of a larger business model, that enables a firm or individual to conduct business over an electronic network, typically the internet. It can be thought of as a more advanced form of mail-order purchasing through a catalog. Almost any product or service can be offered via e-commerce, from books and music to financial services and plane tickets.
History of e-commerce
The beginnings of e-commerce can be traced to the 1960s, when businesses started using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to share business documents with other companies. In 1979, the American National Standards Institute developed ASC X12 as a universal standard for businesses to share documents through electronic networks. After the number of individual users sharing electronic documents with each other grew in the 1980s, in the 1990s the rise of eBay and Amazon revolutionized the e-commerce industry. Consumers can now purchase endless amounts of items online, both from typical brick and mortar stores with e-commerce capabilities and one another.
The benefits of e-commerce include:
- 24 hours a day, seven days a week availability
- the speed of access
- the wide availability of goods and services for the consumer
- easy accessibility
- and international reach.
Its perceived downsides include:
- sometimes limited customer service
- consumers not being able to see or touch a product prior to purchase
- and the needed wait time for product shipping.
The two most common participants in e-commerce are businesses and consumers. Based on this we can come up with four primary e-commerce types:
1. Business to Business E-commerce (B2B E-commerce)
In this type of e-commerce, both participants are businesses. As a result, the volume and value of B2B e-commerce can be huge. An example of business to business e-commerce could be a manufacturer of gadgets sourcing components online.
2. Business to Consumer E-commerce (B2C E-commerce)
When we hear the term e-commerce, most people think of B2C e-commerce. That is why a name like Amazon.com pops up in most discussions about e-commerce. Elimination of the need for physical stores is the biggest rationale for business to consumer e-commerce. But the complexity and cost of logistics can be a barrier to B2C e-commerce growth. Another example of B2C e-commerce is Just Eat.
3. Consumer to Business E-commerce (C2B E-commerce)
On the face of it, C2B e-commerce seems lop-sided. But online commerce has empowered consumers to originate requirements that businesses fulfill. An example of this could be a job board where a consumer places her requirements and multiple companies bid for winning the project. Another example would be a consumer posting his requirements of a holiday package, and various tour operators making offers.
4. Consumer to Consumer E-commerce (C2C E-commerce)
The moment you think of C2C e-commerce eBay.com comes to mind. That is because it is the most popular platform that enables consumers to sell to other consumers. Since eBay.com is a business, this form of e-commerce could also be called C2B2C e-commerce (consumer to business to consumer e-commerce).