It's hard to believe that not all that long ago - in the distant past - there was no such thing as e-commerce. There was no place to sell goods to an international audience via the World Wide Web. All the consumer goods that are marketed and sold online today could only be purchased through a catalog, strictly to local consumers, or perhaps not at all.
But advances in technology changed all that. Electronic commerce, or e-commerce, emerged through the technology of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), which enabled businesses to send commercial documents, such as invoices or purchase orders, electronically. With the growth in the use of telephone banking, credit cards and ATMs, e-commerce began to evolve in the 1990s.
Commerce Takes on the World
It was during this decade that the Internet went worldwide, although it took the rest of the decade to create secure connections, as well as a digital subscriber line (DSL), allowing people to access the Web 24/7. By the new millennium, companies in the United States and Europe developed a presence on the Internet, offering their services or goods to an international audience. As a result, the term e-commerce has come to define the capability to purchase goods securely on the Internet via an electronic payment.
Business on the Internet has also given way to virtual commerce, or that which is conducted exclusively electronically for items deemed virtual. For instance, consumers might pay for access to what is considered premium information on a website. The concept of e-commerce has also opened the door to additional electronic terminology such as e-tailers which are online retailers, or e-tail, indicating retail sold online.
The act of companies who conduct business to business transactions via electronic commerce is termed Business-to-Business, or B2B. B2B transactions may involve a commodity exchange for any interested party, or a private electronic market (PEM), which connects a limited group of buyers or sellers in one market.
The Consumer and Business Advantage
This ability to conduct business to a worldwide audience has provided individuals with a whole new method of shopping. For the first time ever, customers could shop 24/7 from the comfort of their home. Instead of driving from one business to another in order to compare prices, it could be done online. And orders could be customized in a way specified by the buyer.
E-commerce also represented a revolutionary way for companies to conduct businesses - opening the door to a global marketplace. The system makes good sense for businesses on so many levels. For instance, the costs associated with processing orders and customer service is less through an automated process. Automated tools make it possible to communicate with online customers via e-mail regarding the status of their orders with virtually no additional cost to the business. And who can imagine an international online vendor squeezing their million-item inventory into one single catalog? Thanks to the Internet, companies can now create online catalogs that would never fit in an ordinary mailbox.
Other advantages of e-commerce have been realized, for instance, in staffing differences. Without having to pay the high cost for staffing the order processing department, businesses have been able to pass the savings onto their customers. Once a business website is established effectively, the costs for order taking fall to nearly nothing.
E-commerce has also grown the way financial institutions do business. For example, online banking allows customers to shop for the best interest rates, mortgages, and customer amenities from their home computers. Managing finances can be handled from nearly anywhere in the world - monthly payments can be made, monies can be transferred, and payroll deposits can be made without ever setting foot in a brick-and-mortar bank.