At it's most simplistic level; eCommerce is simply the buying and selling of goods, services or information via the World Wide Web, email or other pathways on the Internet. It is here to stay and will play a bigger role in our lives over the years ahead. Ecommerce and Ebusiness are interchangeable terms. eCommerce can be broken down into the following sections:
- eTailing. These are mainly "virtual" storefronts which act as a catalogue of products of merchants and usually include a "shopping cart" system to enable consumers to purchase online with the use of credit cards. Today's Internet climate dictates that if you can't buy what you see online while you are online; you will probably lose the sale. The great advantage of etailing is international coverage at minimum cost and the ability to trade 24 hours a day with minimum staffing levels. The benefits to consumers are shopping from home and a wide range of choice. This range of choice can sometimes be a downfall as it confuses some consumers who in frustration may give up on buying the product at all!
- EDI (Electronic Data exchange). This is the business to business (b2b) flow of information between companies or within a company itself. The 90's saw the concept information equalling power. Whatever creates power also generates money and therefore creates new enterprises to supply this information. EDI is being replaced with XML. He with the most relevant data on his hard drive wins!
- Email and faxing. Direct marketing through email. Unfortunately, it also creates the equivalent of what we find in our physical mailboxes every day; junk mail - electronic junk mail is known as spam. Terrabytes of spam is circulating around the Internet at any given time, which slows down our global network. While this is one of the negative aspects of eCommerce, direct marketing ploys, if carried out properly are a very successful and acceptable way of generating income for a business
- Security services. The broad exposure of (and sometimes hyped) dangers of credit card and direct debit transactions via the Internet has rocketed the growth of many companies who provide security services to protect consumer & business transactions. This can include authorisation/encryption technologies and creating secure areas on web sites. This will be a growth area for as long as eCommerce is with us because you can guarantee that as soon as a new "unhackable" technology is introduced - someone has hacked it. Some hackers view themselves as rebels, antiestablishment and "socialists"; but in reality they actually fuel the security services market and provide huge dividends for shareholders in successful security services firms. Good one guys... you won't change the world for the better by sniffing around bank accounts!
- Statistics. Demographics and survey results regarding Internet habits is a huge industry. Web planners rely on information from these sources in planning web sites and justifying marketing and promotional expenediture.
- B2B (Business to Business). When I began in Computer Hardware sales some years ago, I spent a great deal of time and money on national and international phone calls to locate components. In 2001, if contacting a supplier meant having to pick up a telephone; I wouldn't bother doing business with them. The B2B world of today means that wholesalers and retailers have a means of fast and efficient communications and transactions; the Internet.
Bill Gates is reported to have said something along the lines of: "In a few years, there will only be 2 types of businesses, those that are online and those that are out of business." You may not buy anything online yourself, but I'll guarantee that most of the companies that supply you with goods and services do - knowingly or not we all have our role in this brave new world......
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