Ecommerce (or e-commerce) stands for Electronic Commerce. In other words, any form of commercial activity conducted electronically, usually on the Internet. When a company sells a product or service to customers online, that is a form of ecommerce. The term ecommerce covers a range of activities where an online financial transaction is involved, for example: retailing, wholesaling, online shopping, Internet banking, and online auctions to name but a few. Companies can sell products that may be physical or digital. Ecommerce also covers the sale of services, sometimes through subscription.
Ecommerce has been with us for quite a few years now, in fact since 1994, when the first online transaction was made using encryption technology. Since then, we have seen the rise of goliaths such as Amazon and Ebay. These companies took advantage of the dot com boom and the shift towards the digitalisation of banking, and secure payment gateways, which has subsequently led to the decline of traditional high street retail shopping.
Ecommerce sales globally are now estimated to be in the range of trillions of pounds a year. By 2040, it is estimated that approximately 95% of all retail will be via ecommerce. The advantages to the consumer are obvious: they can shop whenever they want 24/7. Many companies now offer next day or even same day delivery. So it looks like it’s here to stay.
Types of Ecommerce Business
They fall into several classifications, but there are three main types. These are:
- Shops that sell physical products online
- Shops that sell digital products online
- Companies that sell services online
Ecommerce businesses do not necessarily follow the Business to Consumer (B2C) model either. They can also be found engaged in Business to Business (B2B), Consumer to Consumer (C2C), or Consumer to Business (C2B) activity.
Ecommerce transactions take place on the web via a platform. There are a variety of platforms available. They all basically enable a seller to set up shop and sell their products or services online. They most often utilise a form of shopping ‘basket’ into which the buyer ‘virtually’ places the products they want to buy before paying for them at the ‘checkout’. Payment is then made, usually via a credit card or debit card and a secure payment gateway.
One of the most popular platforms is WooCommerce. It is an open-source platform specifically designed to interface with WordPress. It is very powerful and flexible, and comes with all the essential features needed for a professional e-commerce website, including unlimited products, order management system, and fully customisable shipping options. For this reason it is our platform of choice. Other popular platforms include: Salesforce; BigCommerce; Oracle Commerce; Shopify; Magneto and Drupal Commerce. They all have their own merits, and depending on the objectives and scale of a given e-commerce project they are all more or less suitable.
Marketplaces provide platforms that allow sellers to showcase their products or services to a truly global audience. Marketplace platforms are very popular with consumers because of the huge selection of products and services they can sell. The big players need no introduction, i.e. Amazon, Ebay and Itsy. They are very popular with big businesses and established brands that want to expand their market channels and reach new audiences.
Social Media and Ecommerce
Social media platforms can integrate very well with any company’s ecommerce activities. They help a business to increase brand awareness by cultivating a following, and reach a wider audience. They can be very useful in forming a bridge or link to a business’s ecommerce site. Most social media platforms are not used for selling directly but use appealing visuals to showcase products and services, to attract customers, and then redirect them to the actual shop. Social media platforms are now slowly moving towards allowing retailers to sell directly on the platform without leaving it.
Time for you to get a cut of the action?
So there you have it. We hope this has helped you learned it more about ecommerce. Now you’re a bit more clued-up on if you’d like a bit more help on deciding which might work platform is best for you, or you just need some advice about performance and analysis, product branding or search engine optimisation (SEO), here at Wessex digital HQ we are ready to listen and would be delighted to help you on your journey to commercial success.