Ecommerce is a huge field and in the digital age, the term eCommerce can mean different things in different things in different industries. To help you get your head around the basics, this article will be exploring what it is, how eCommerce differs from traditional commerce and the key features offered by most eCommerce platforms.
E-commerce is where business transactions are completed electronically over networks. These transactions may not necessarily be executed online – they can also happen via fax or telephone – but today most eCommerce happens in the form of online shopping on websites like Amazon.
The term “e-commerce” has come to have different meanings in different areas of business. Some people use it to describe the models of selling goods online that have grown in popularity in recent years – such as “e-commerce department stores” and “e-commerce boutiques” – products that sell goods through websites and allow customers to purchase them securely over the Internet. Others use eCommerce to describe any sale of goods to customers who access them using a computer.
For example, a building contractor could probably just as well afford to put a sign on his website advertising: “E-commerce Department Store: Coffee” without breaking any laws or raising any eyebrows; this is more like selling coffee at retail than it is like selling coffee online. The question of what is “online” and what is a “department store” seems to be irrelevant: what matters is that the contractor sells coffee to people over the Internet. This distinction, between eCommerce and non-eCommerce, can be very blurry, because not all eCommerce is “online.”
Let us consider a building contractor once again. He may choose to sell his coffee beans online on his own website through an online shopping cart: this is quite clearly e-commerce. He will, however, sell the building materials and property to new customers over the phone or by mail order. Or he may choose to sell his building materials and properties online on a specific website but then have people call him directly to buy the specific materials they are looking for. This is not e-commerce: it is old-fashioned commerce.
Many companies choose to operate more than one type of eCommerce site. For example, a company might have an online store on Amazon selling its own products as well as those of other suppliers – this is what we will call “traditional e-commerce” in this article. This company might also have a separate website where customers and clients can find information about the services it provides, as well as contact details – we will call this “traditional commerce” in this article.
These companies still usually maintain a physical store or offices, too, so in this sense, the definitions of “eCommerce” and “traditional commerce” don’t differ very much. What really defines eCommerce is that the business is selling something online – a web-based store. Ecommerce has become popular because it’s cheaper to run online stores than traditional stores and many people find that they are more convenient because they don’t have to get in their car and drive to a shop.
With e-commerce software, you can set up online stores quickly and easily without having to employ staff on the premises or hire expensive storefronts.
For some people, this kind of distinction is not so important. However, because we are talking here about technology and how it can help to improve the efficiency of business processes, it is important to understand the difference between “traditional e-commerce” and “traditional commerce.” This is because there are often major differences in how the two types of sites are built and managed. The features offered by e-commerce platforms such as Magento may differ from those provided by traditional commerce software like Salesforce.
Interested in learning more about eCommerce? Ecommerce – Tailoring the Perfect Fit for Every User goes further in-depth on how to set up an eCommerce website for any website.
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