What is ecommerce?

What is ecommerce?

E-commerce definition“Ecommerce,” also known as “electronic commerce,” is the digital platform where goods and services are bought and sold over the internet.

It’s like having a bustling city center or brick-and-mortar store translated into the virtual world of zeroes and ones on the internet superhighway.

With an astonishing 2.14 billion people worldwide engaging in online shopping, and over 200 million Prime members on Amazon stores, ecommerce has become a dominant force in the retail industry. It provides businesses, regardless of their size, with the opportunity to reach a global audience and

effectively sell products at scale. Whether companies exclusively operate online or use ecommerce as part of a broader retail strategy, it has revolutionized the way we shop and connect with customers worldwide

E-commerce definition

E-commerce, short for electronic commerce, is the practice of conducting commercial transactions over the internet. It involves the buying and selling of goods, services, or information online, facilitated through digital platforms and electronic payment systems. E-commerce has revolutionized the way businesses operate and consumers shop, offering unparalleled convenience and global reach.

From large corporations to individual entrepreneurs, e-commerce provides a diverse range of opportunities for businesses to establish their digital presence and tap into a vast and ever-expanding market.

With continuous advancements in technology and changing consumer behaviors, e-commerce remains a dynamic and integral part of modern commerce, shaping the future of retail and shaping the way people interact with businesses worldwide.

What is an ecommerce website?

An ecommerce website is an online platform that facilitates the buying and selling of products and services over the internet. It allows businesses to showcase their offerings to a wide audience, giving customers the convenience of browsing and purchasing from the comfort of their own homes. Ecommerce websites typically feature user-friendly interfaces with product catalogs, shopping carts, and secure payment gateways that enable smooth transactions.

These platforms have revolutionized the way businesses operate and have become a crucial component of modern retail. By providing a seamless shopping experience, personalized recommendations, and various payment options, ecommerce websites have significantly transformed the consumer landscape, empowering businesses to reach a global audience and customers to access a vast array of products and services with just a few clicks.

What is an ecommerce business?

An ecommerce business refers to a commercial venture that operates primarily online, buying and selling products or services through electronic means. Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar stores, an ecommerce business relies on digital platforms, websites, and mobile applications to connect with customers.

These businesses offer a wide range of products, from physical goods like clothing, electronics, and household items, to digital products such as software, e-books, and online courses. Ecommerce businesses have gained immense popularity due to their convenience, accessibility, and global reach, allowing customers to shop from anywhere at any time.

They employ various strategies, such as digital marketing, search engine optimization, and social media engagement, to attract and retain customers in the highly competitive online marketplace.

Additionally, ecommerce businesses often utilize advanced analytics and data-driven insights to enhance customer experiences, tailor product recommendations, and optimize their overall operations, ultimately contributing to the ever-evolving landscape of modern commerce

How does e-commerce work?

E-commerce operates through a series of interconnected steps that facilitate online transactions between buyers and sellers. Here’s a breakdown of how e-commerce works:

  1. Online Presence and Catalog:
    • Sellers establish their online presence by creating an e-commerce website or setting up a store on an existing platform like Shopify, WooCommerce, or Amazon.
    • They develop a digital product catalog, showcasing various items with detailed descriptions, images, and prices.
    • The website provides a user-friendly interface that allows customers to browse products and find relevant information easily.
  2. Order Placement and Processing:
    • Customers visit the e-commerce website and browse the product catalog.
    • Once they find the desired item, they add it to their virtual shopping cart.
    • After finalizing their selections, customers proceed to checkout where they enter their shipping address and payment details.
    • The website’s secure payment gateway processes the transaction, ensuring the confidentiality of financial information.
    • Upon successful payment, the e-commerce platform sends an order confirmation to the customer’s email and notifies the seller of the purchase.
  3. Fulfillment and Shipping:
    • The seller receives the order details and prepares the package for shipping.
    • Depending on the seller’s fulfillment model, they may handle the shipping themselves or outsource it to a third-party logistics provider.
    • Customers receive shipping updates and tracking information to monitor the delivery status of their orders.
  4. Customer Support and Returns:
    • E-commerce businesses provide customer support through various channels like email, chat, or phone to address inquiries and concerns.
    • In case of product issues or dissatisfaction, customers may initiate a return or exchange process, following the seller’s return policy.
  5. Feedback and Reviews:
    • After receiving the product, customers may leave feedback and reviews on the e-commerce platform, contributing to the seller’s reputation and assisting other potential buyers in making informed decisions.

E-commerce relies on seamless integration of these steps to provide a smooth and efficient shopping experience for customers while enabling sellers to manage their inventory, process transactions securely, and build lasting relationships with their clientele.

Steps to starting an ecommerce business

Starting an ecommerce business involves a series of steps tailored to the specific nature of your venture, whether you’re selling products or services. Depending on your focus, the process may differ, with services requiring no inventory or fulfillment management, while product-oriented businesses will need to emphasize these aspects.

Here are essential steps to embark on your ecommerce journey:

  • Conduct thorough research to explore potential business ideas and identify viable opportunities.
  • Ensure there is sufficient demand for the products you intend to sell to validate your market.
  • Determine your sales and shipping strategies to efficiently handle customer orders and deliveries.
  • Establish connections with reliable suppliers and manufacturers to source your products.
  • Select the online channels through which you’ll sell, such as setting up an Amazon store or utilizing other platforms.
  • Develop a website or online storefront where you can showcase and list your products for customers to explore.
  • Craft a well-thought-out fulfillment plan to ensure timely and accurate order processing.
  • Initiate promotional efforts to attract and engage potential customers, kickstarting your brand presence in the market.

For more comprehensive guidance on commencing your ecommerce venture, explore this comprehensive guide to starting an ecommerce business. The process may differ depending on your unique circumstances, but these steps serve as a solid foundation to pave the way for your online business success

What are the types of ecommerce?

Ecommerce manifests in diverse forms, reflecting the myriad ways people shop through various online channels. This dynamic landscape encompasses several common business models that shape the world of online commerce:

  • B2C (Business-to-Consumer): This prevalent model involves businesses directly selling products to individual consumers, catering to end-users’ needs and preferences. It is the most widespread form of ecommerce with numerous variations.
  • B2B (Business-to-Business): In this model, businesses engage in transactions with other businesses as their customers. Often, the buyers in this context may resell the acquired products to the end consumers, making it a critical component of the supply chain.
  • C2B (Consumer-to-Business): C2B businesses enable consumers to sell products or services to businesses. This unique model empowers individual customers to offer their products or services to companies seeking specific solutions.
  • C2C (Consumer-to-Consumer): This model facilitates consumers selling products or services to fellow consumers. Businesses often establish online marketplaces that serve as platforms connecting individual buyers and sellers, fostering a peer-to-peer exchange.
  • B2G (Business-to-Government): Businesses engage in ecommerce transactions with government entities or agencies, providing goods or services to meet their requirements.
  • C2G (Consumer-to-Government): In this model, consumers sell products or services directly to governments or government agencies, participating in business interactions with the public sector.
  • G2B (Government-to-Business): In G2B transactions, governments or government agencies sell products or services to businesses, fostering collaboration between the public sector and commercial entities.
  • G2C (Government-to-Consumer): This model involves governments or government agencies selling products or services directly to individual consumers, offering various public services through digital platforms.

In essence, ecommerce thrives on these diverse business models, adapting to the ever-evolving demands and preferences of the global digital marketplace

Where and how does ecommerce take place?

The landscape of online shopping undergoes constant evolution and transformation, with people embracing a multitude of devices like computers, phones, tablets, and other gadgets to fulfill their shopping needs. Engaging with a wide array of digital platforms, consumers patronize websites, explore social media pages, and actively participate in vibrant virtual channels. Let’s delve into an overview of three distinct and prevailing methods that define the realm of ecommerce today.


Transactions conducted on mobile devices fall under the category of mobile commerce, commonly referred to as “m-commerce.” With the widespread availability of portable devices in the hands of consumers globally, the rise of m-commerce is expected, projecting to contribute to over 43% of the total retail ecommerce sales in 2023, reflecting a notable increase of nearly two percent from the previous year (2022).

An increasing number of individuals now prefer to conduct product research and complete online purchases directly through their smartphones. As this trend continues to gain momentum, there are no indications of its deceleration. Consequently, it becomes imperative for businesses to optimize their online stores to cater to the growing mobile-centric customer base, ensuring seamless and user-friendly experiences on mobile platforms.

Enterprise ecommerce

Enterprise ecommerce revolves around the exchange of products tailored to meet the needs of large corporations or organizations. When a sizable business deals in a diverse range of products or operates multiple brand lines and decides to venture into the realm of online selling, it becomes an active participant in enterprise ecommerce.

Social media ecommerc

Leveraging social media opens up vast marketing possibilities, enabling ecommerce stores to reach a wide and diverse audience. Just as social media connects individuals with friends and family, it equally possesses the power to captivate potential customers for businesses. When executed skillfully, social media marketing establishes an engaging and casual atmosphere, drawing in customers and fostering meaningful interactions.

By utilizing social media effectively, you can achieve several significant advantages:

  • Attract New Customers: Through strategic campaigns and captivating content, social media platforms serve as fertile grounds to attract and entice potential customers to discover your ecommerce offerings.
  • Build Brand Awareness: By establishing a consistent and compelling brand presence across social media channels, you can significantly enhance brand visibility and recognition, thus reinforcing your position in the market.
  • Generate Online Sales: The dynamic and interactive nature of social media allows you to showcase products creatively and create persuasive calls-to-action, effectively driving online sales and conversion rates.

Embracing social media as a marketing tool unlocks a wealth of opportunities for ecommerce businesses, enabling them to connect, engage, and thrive in the digital landscape.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ecommerce?

Benefits of e-commerce are abundant and significantly impact the way consumers shop and businesses operate. Let’s highlight these advantages along with the perceived disadvantages to provide a comprehensive view of the e-commerce landscape:


  1. Around-the-Clock Availability: E-commerce sites are accessible 24/7, allowing customers to browse and make purchases at their convenience, regardless of the time zone or physical store hours.
  2. Speed of Access: E-commerce transactions are quick and efficient, enabling customers to complete purchases with just a few clicks, saving time and effort.
  3. Wide Availability: E-commerce platforms offer a vast array of products without the limitations of physical shelf space, ensuring customers have access to a diverse range of goods and services.
  4. Easy Accessibility: Online shopping provides effortless navigation and real-time browsing, allowing customers to find desired products quickly and efficiently.
  5. International Reach: E-commerce transcends geographical boundaries, granting businesses the potential to reach customers worldwide, expanding their customer base.


  1. Limited Customer Service: Some e-commerce platforms may have restricted customer service hours or challenging online service options, leading to potential difficulties in addressing customer queries or issues.
  2. Limited Product Experience: Customers miss the tactile experience of examining products firsthand, which can lead to differences between expectations and reality when purchasing online.
  3. Wait Time: Unlike instant gratification in physical stores, e-commerce customers must wait for product delivery, though shipping windows are becoming faster.
  4. Security Concerns: E-commerce faces security risks, such as the potential for phishing scams or data breaches, impacting customer trust and retailer reputation.

Despite the challenges, the benefits of e-commerce continue to outweigh the drawbacks, driving its widespread adoption and reshaping the retail landscape. Businesses and consumers alike embrace e-commerce for its convenience, accessibility, and global reach, making it an indispensable part of modern commerce

E-commerce applications

Retail e-commerce apps have embraced a range of online marketing techniques to attract customers and drive platform usage. These strategies encompass various digital tools, including email marketing, online catalogs, shopping carts, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), file transfer protocol, web services, and mobile applications.

These marketing approaches are versatile and find application in both B2C and B2B activities, extending their reach to various outreach endeavors. For instance, companies engage in targeted advertising through email campaigns and e-newsletters sent to subscribed users. While SMS texts to mobile devices are also utilized, it’s crucial to avoid unsolicited messages, as they are generally regarded as spam. In response to the growing digital landscape, businesses increasingly leverage enticing tools like digital coupons, social media marketing, and targeted advertisements to engage consumers and drive online sales.

Security represents a paramount concern for e-commerce companies, given the sensitive nature of customer data. Developers and administrators need to prioritize consumer data privacy and security while complying with data governance-related regulatory mandates. Safeguarding personally identifiable information and implementing robust information protection protocols is essential when developing e-commerce systems and applications. This involves incorporating security features during the application’s design phase and continually updating them to stay ahead of evolving threats and vulnerabilities.

By employing these effective online marketing techniques and addressing security considerations diligently, e-commerce companies can create a seamless and secure shopping experience, fostering customer trust and loyalty in an increasingly competitive digital marketplace

E-commerce platforms and vendors

An e-commerce platform functions as a crucial instrument for effectively managing online businesses, offering a wide array of options catering to businesses of varying scales. From small startups to large enterprises, diverse e-commerce platform choices accommodate specific needs and aspirations. Some platforms, such as Amazon and eBay, serve as online marketplaces, simplifying user onboarding through straightforward account sign-ups and minimal IT implementation.

Another prominent e-commerce platform model is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where store owners subscribe to cloud-hosted services, essentially renting space without the need for in-house development or on-premises infrastructure. Additionally, other e-commerce platforms fall under the open-source category, offering greater flexibility but requiring hosting environments, either on the cloud or on premises, and involving manual implementation and maintenance efforts.

A few prime examples of e-commerce marketplace platforms encompass reputable names like Alibaba, Amazon, Chewy, eBay, Etsy, Overstock, Newegg, Rakuten, Walmart Marketplace, and Wayfair. Meanwhile, vendors specializing in providing e-commerce platform services for clients hosting their own online store sites include industry leaders like BigCommerce, Ecwid, Magento, Oracle NetSuite Commerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud (with both B2B and B2C options), Shopify, Squarespace, and WooCommerce.

Amidst the diverse e-commerce platform offerings, businesses can strategically select the most suitable solution to establish their digital presence and flourish in the ever-evolving landscape of online commerce. These platforms play an instrumental role in enabling businesses to provide seamless and rewarding shopping experiences for their customers, driving growth and success in the dynamic world of digital retail.

5 ecommerce revenue models

When establishing an e-commerce business, choosing a suitable revenue model is crucial for its financial sustainability and growth. There are at least five distinct revenue models commonly used by online businesses:

  1. Sales Model: The most prevalent revenue model involves selling products and services directly to customers for a profit. This model is adopted by both online brands and traditional physical stores, generating revenue through individual transactions.
  2. Subscription Model: Increasingly popular among consumers and direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce brands, the subscription model relies on recurring revenue obtained from subscriptions to products or services. Customers pay a regular fee to access goods or services on an ongoing basis, ensuring predictable revenue for the business.
  3. Advertising Model: Widely used by online creators and influencers who have cultivated personal brands, the advertising model involves generating revenue through advertising deals and promoted content collaborations with other businesses. Creators with large followings monetize their influence by featuring advertisements on their platforms.
  4. Affiliate Model: This model is favored by creators and influencers who possess substantial followings and may or may not sell their own products. By participating in affiliate programs, they earn commission when customers purchase products through their unique affiliate links, effectively driving sales for partner businesses.
  5. Transaction Fee Model: E-commerce companies that facilitate financial transactions, such as payment gateways or online marketplaces, adopt the transaction fee model. These businesses earn revenue by charging a fee on each sale or financial transaction processed through their platform, making it a profitable revenue source.

Carefully selecting the appropriate revenue model aligns the e-commerce companies with its objectives and target audience, ensuring a sustainable and profitable venture in the competitive digital marketplace.

Government regulations for e-commerce

In the United Kingdom, e-commerce operations are subject to a comprehensive set of government regulations to ensure consumer protection, data privacy, and fair business practices.

Key regulations governing e-commerce in the UK include the Consumer Rights Act, which outlines consumers’ rights when purchasing goods and services online, including the right to return products within a specified timeframe.

The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations require e-commerce businesses to provide essential information to consumers, such as contact details, pricing, and delivery terms. Additionally, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates stringent data protection and privacy measures, safeguarding consumers’ personal information.

E-commerce businesses operating in the UK must also adhere to the Competition Act, ensuring fair competition and preventing anticompetitive practices. Adhering to these regulations is essential for e-commerce businesses to build trust with consumers and operate ethically and transparently in the digital marketplace

History of e-commerce

The history of e-commerce dates back to the early 1970s when the concept of electronic data interchange (EDI) emerged. EDI facilitated electronic transactions between businesses, allowing them to exchange documents and conduct business electronically. However, it was not until the 1990s that e-commerce truly began to take off with the advent of the World Wide Web.

In 1991, the internet became accessible to the public, and the first e-commerce transactions started to occur. One of the earliest examples was the online bookstore “Book Stacks Unlimited,” launched by Charles M. Stack. Following this, in 1994, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, an online bookstore that later expanded into one of the largest e-commerce giants worldwide.

Throughout the 1990s, the e-commerce industry experienced significant growth, with the introduction of secure online payment systems like PayPal in 1998, making online transactions more reliable and convenient. As the new millennium approached, companies like eBay, Alibaba, and other e-commerce pioneers continued to shape the landscape, enabling individuals and businesses to buy and sell goods and services online.

With the evolution of technology and the widespread adoption of smartphones and mobile devices, the 2000s saw an exponential surge in mobile e-commerce or m-commerce, revolutionizing the way people shop. Today, e-commerce continues to evolve, driven by advancements in technology, logistics, and customer expectations, shaping the modern retail landscape and transforming the way consumers interact with businesses worldwide.

Read more: eCommerce Small Business Loans

Frequently asked questions

What is ecommerce in simple terms?

In simple terms e-commerce is the trading of goods and services on the internet. It is your bustling city center or brick-and-mortar shop translated into zeroes and ones on the internet superhighway.

Which ecommerce type is the most successful?

The most successful e-commerce type is Business to Consumer (B2C). This is the most popular e-commerce business model, and it typically requires the least amount of time to make a sale.


In conclusion, e-commerce has revolutionized the way businesses operate and consumers shop in the digital age. It refers to the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet, providing unparalleled convenience and accessibility to customers worldwide.

E-commerce platforms have diversified revenue models, allowing businesses to choose the most suitable approach for their unique offerings and target audience. Through seamless online transactions, extensive product choices, and global market reach, e-commerce has opened up a wealth of opportunities for businesses to thrive and expand beyond geographical boundaries.

As technology continues to advance and consumer preferences evolve, e-commerce is poised to continue shaping the future of commerce, offering boundless potential for innovation, growth, and customer-centric experiences in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Business Finance Expert at PDQ Funding | + posts

Lee Jones is a seasoned Business Finance Specialist with over two decades of invaluable experience in the financial sector. With a keen eye for market trends and a passion for helping businesses thrive, Lee has become a trusted advisor to countless organizations seeking to navigate the complexities of finance.