Overview: What is ecommerce?

What is the definition of ecommerce?

Ecommerce stands for “electronic commerce” and refers to the process of conducting transactions through the internet. As such, ecommerce covers all activities related to buying and selling products or services online.


Much has changed since the first ecommerce transaction in 1994 — the purchase of a CD copy of "Ten Summoner’s Tales" by Sting. Over the course of the last two decades, almost every commercial industry has moved to embrace ecommerce. 


Now, nearly 10% of all retail sales occur online, and ecommerce will only become more popular from here on out — especially with mobile use on the rise, which accounts for 92% of ecommerce order growth. Relationships between many brands and customers are now deeply influenced by the quality of the brand’s ecommerce offerings. 


Ecommerce operations are run by individuals and businesses alike and may be hosted on websites or within online marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, Etsy). Ecommerce hosted on websites is powered by software called ecommerce platforms. Modern ecommerce platforms also include advanced functions to help sellers provide buyers with streamlined and personalized customer experiences.

What are the types of ecommerce?

The two primary types of ecommerce are B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business), although C2C (consumer-to-consumer) and C2B (consumer-to-business) models exist as well. 


B2C ecommerce is defined by online sales relationships between businesses and individual shoppers. Products purchased through B2C ecommerce might include personal items like clothing, electronics, and food, while services ordered might range from personal transportation to travel accommodations.

B2B ecommerce is defined by online sales relationships between businesses and other businesses. Products ordered through B2B ecommerce might include manufacturing materials or office equipment, while services ordered might range from financial auditing to SaaS (software as a service) solutions. 
Some businesses encompass both B2B and B2C models of ecommerce. Referred to as B2B2C companies, they support the entire value chain from manufacturing to distribution to end consumers. One example might be a major soft drink company selling to business clients as well as directly to consumers.
Today, 87% of shoppers begin their customer journeys through digital channels. Whether a given customer’s final purchase occurs online or in a physical retail store, it is absolutely vital for brands to have a well-stocked and well-designed ecommerce store. Providing innovative, personalized digital experiences is also key to ecommerce success, as 72% of consumers and 89% of business buyers say they expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.


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Whether they’re buying on behalf of themselves or on behalf of their businesses, customers are human beings. They’re people, and at least 70% of people appreciate seamless, connected online shopping experiences. In fact, 82% of business buyers want their B2B ecommerce experiences to feel like high-quality B2C ecommerce experiences.

What does an ecommerce platform do?

Ecommerce platforms provide the building blocks of the online shopping experience. At its core, an ecommerce platform is cloud-based or local software that hosts an online store — but a good ecommerce platform also includes advanced tools to help sellers create great shopping experiences across the entire customer lifecycle and keep pace with evolving customer expectations.


High-quality online stores are supported by powerful and flexible ecommerce platforms, which allow for a fast launch process and frequent innovation thereafter. The platform also needs to support equally robust shopping experiences on desktop and mobile, and must easily integrate with the rest of the brand’s online presence, including the ability to scale the brand’s online stores for new markets in different languages and currencies.



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The best modern ecommerce platforms include functionality for providing shoppers with engaging and personalized experiences that are unified across all channels. This often means extending digital shopping experiences into physical retail stores, as well as delivering the ability to buy, service, and fulfill anywhere. Artificial intelligence built into an ecommerce platform can also improve and streamline online shopping experiences with features like intelligent search and automated product recommendations. 

Why is ecommerce important?

Ecommerce is important because it empowers and connects. It harnesses the connective power of the internet to allow people to conveniently obtain items and services they might never otherwise have known about or had access to. 


Ecommerce has improved commerce for consumers and businesses alike by connecting the two like never before — giving consumers increased choice and value, and giving businesses increased reach and insight. Advances in digital technology have forever changed and connected the way the world shops, and will only continue to change and connect the world of shopping.




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What is ecommerce?