What is eCommerce?
eCommerce, or electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of products or services on the internet. These transactions usually involve an exchange of money and data between the seller and the customer, and happen over platforms like online stores, marketplaces or social media.
The benefits of eCommerce
With a projected 1.92 billion digital buyers worldwide in 2019, the eCommerce industry holds outsize buying power (Statista). As a business owner, there are many benefits to expanding into eCommerce:
Global reach: Basing your business online, or accompanying your brick-and-mortar store with a website, opens up your wares to a wider audience. With the right target marketing and strategic advertising, you can spread your name across the internet, thus growing your popularity and your sales.
Cost effective: Hosting your business exclusively online eliminates the need to pay rent for retail space, to invest in expensive displays, or to hire in-store employees. Many business owners find this model to be more profitable for them.
Open 24/7: Unlike a physical shop, a website doesn’t close at night or on weekends. Customers are always able to reach you and make a purchase, no matter if their time zone aligns with your waking hours, or not.
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eCommerce platform types
As eCommerce rises in popularity, the number of online arenas that support this type of transaction is growing, too. These are some of the most common eCommerce platforms:
Online store or eCommerce website: In this traditional eCommerce setup, goods and services are sold via the checkout area of a website. Many major retail brands today have an eCommerce website in addition to their brick-and-mortar locations (e.g. Zara, Asos, and GlassesUSA). You can easily create your own eCommerce store to sell your products online.
Online marketplaces: Products and services are sold through a platform that displays goods and services from many businesses and individuals (e.g. Amazon, eBay, and Etsy). The competition between listed companies can result in more favorable prices for the consumer.
Social media: The method of selling products and services on social media platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram. Merchants can offer their goods right from their business pages and tag their products in social media posts. Social media eCommerce can also be used to direct visitors to the seller’s website.
eCommerce business model types
There are four main types of eCommerce business models:
Business-to-Consumer (B2C): A business sells goods and services to an individual buyer. For example, a student buys a coffee mug from an online store.
Business-to-Business (B2B): A business sells goods and services to another business. For example, a clothing label purchases rolls of fabric by the bulk from a factory.
Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C): An individual sells goods or services to another individual buyer. For example, a new homeowner buys a second-hand couch from a neighbor who posted on a local sales listing group.
Consumer-to-Business (C2B): An individual sells goods or services - or offers a commission - to a business. For example, a writer sells their freelance services to a company.