What is ecommerce?


The way in which consumers shop is currently in what could be described as a transitional period. More and more people find themselves drawn to the convenience of online shopping, which is exactly what e-commerce is. When you buy or sell products online, you’re participating in the ever-growing industry known as e-commerce. The ‘e’ in e-commerce means electronic. E-commerce isn’t strictly restricted to the buying or selling of physical products and can include any kind of commercial transaction that is facilitated through the internet, such as subscription services or digital items like music and e-books.

The kinds of e-commerce models

You can break e-commerce down into four different sections. Essentially all online transactions will fall under one of the following:

  • Business to Business (B2B) – As the name suggests, this is a transaction between businesses, for which an example could be a business buying access to a piece of software or online service for work purposes.
  • Business to Consumer (B2C) – This is perhaps the most common form of e-commerce transaction and is simply when someone buys a product or service from an online retailer.
  • Consumer to Business (C2B) – Slightly more niche than other e-commerce sections, a consumer to business transaction could be something like a sponsorship in which a business pays an influencer to promote their brand.
  • Consumer to Consumer (C2C) – A consumer to consumer transaction is done on sites like eBay, where one user buys something from another user.

E-commerce examples

E-commerce transactions are typically one of the following:

  • Retail – your standard transaction between a business and consumer.
  • Wholesale – buying products in bulk.
  • Crowdfunding – the act of many consumers donating money to help bring a product to market, e.g. a Kickstarter project.
  • Subscriptions – a recurring automatic payment for a product or service on a regular basis that must be cancelled by the subscriber.
  • Digital products – products that are downloaded and aren’t a physical item.
  • Services – the hiring of someone or something to assist you with a task etc, can be digital or physical.

Is e-commerce making conventional shopping redundant?

In recent years, it has looked as if the old way of buying the things we want is slowly being pushed out by the rise of e-commerce. With many recognisable brands such as ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Phones4u’, and more recently ‘Toys R Us’ shutting down and the term ‘death of the high street’ being thrown around frequently, the situation certainly looks dire. It could be argued that there are other elements at work, such as rival stores or complications with Brexit, but it’s hard to ignore the growth of presence that online retailers have seen over time.

Why are more people shopping online?

Whilst we’ve established that physical retail sales are seeing troubles and e-commerce is growing, we haven’t looked at why this is. There are many reasons why e-commerce is an appealing option to consumers, with perhaps the biggest one being convenience. It’s more convenient to order something from home or work, and with companies like Amazon offering next-day or sometimes even same-day delivery, there isn’t long to wait before it arrives.
Not only that, but when you order something online, you’re avoiding the annoyances that come with going out and buying something physically. There’s no facing traffic and then having to find and pay for a parking spot, there’s no going from store to store amongst crowds of bustling people trying to find the product you’re looking for. There’s also the argument of pricing and how things are often cheaper online, along with having every product you could want at just a search away.

Will e-commerce eradicate the high street indefinitely?

As of 2019, the high street is still a viable option for people looking to go shopping, but will this always be the case? Nobody knows for certain, but there is a certain charm to being able to see what you’re about to buy in person before departing with your money. One thing we do know for certain is that the e-commerce industry will continue to grow, as it becomes increasingly normal for people to get the things they want and need online.