Home Digital MarketingE-Commerce Understanding E-Commerce: What Is It Explained

Understanding E-Commerce: What Is It Explained

by Marcin Wieclaw
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e commerce what is it

E-commerce, short for electronic commerce, is the process of buying and selling goods and services over an electronic network, specifically the internet. It has become an integral part of our lives, transforming the way we shop and engage in business transactions.

Online retail sales have experienced tremendous growth in recent years, with e-commerce accounting for 16.5% of retail sales in 2020. This signifies its increasing importance in the global marketplace.

In this article, we will delve into the world of e-commerce, explore its various forms, and discuss its advantages and disadvantages. So, whether you are a business owner eager to harness the power of online sales or a consumer wanting to understand the mechanics behind your favorite online stores, this article is for you.

What is E-Commerce?

E-commerce, also known as electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods and services or the transmission of funds or data over an electronic network, primarily the internet. It encompasses various types of transactions, including business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) or consumer-to-business (C2B). The term e-tail is sometimes used to refer to the transactional processes involved in online retail shopping.

E-commerce platforms, such as Amazon and eBay, have played a significant role in the growth of online retail sales.

Type of E-Commerce Description
Business-to-Business (B2B) Transactions between businesses.
Business-to-Consumer (B2C) Businesses selling products or services to consumers.
Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) Online transactions between consumers, facilitated by third-party platforms.
Consumer-to-Business (C2B) Consumers making their products or services available for businesses to purchase.

Overall, e-commerce has revolutionized the way we buy and sell goods and services, transforming the retail landscape. With the convenience and accessibility it offers, e-commerce has become an integral part of modern-day business.

How Does E-Commerce Work?

E-commerce, driven by the internet, has revolutionized the way customers access online stores. Utilizing their own devices, customers can conveniently browse and shop for a wide range of products and services. Understanding the intricacies of how e-commerce works provides valuable insights into the behind-the-scenes processes that enable seamless online transactions.

The E-Commerce Workflow

The journey of an e-commerce transaction involves multiple components that work harmoniously to deliver a successful purchase experience. These components include:

  1. Web Browser: Customers use web browsers to access online stores and browse available products and services.
  2. Server: The e-commerce website is hosted on a server, which facilitates communication between the web browser and the various components of the e-commerce system.
  3. Order Manager: When a customer places an order, the web browser communicates with the server, and the order data is relayed to the order manager. The order manager serves as the central hub for processing and managing orders.
  4. Databases: The order manager forwards the order data to databases responsible for managing inventory levels, payment processing applications, and banking systems.
  5. Payment Processing: The payment processing application securely handles the customer’s payment information and facilitates the transfer of funds from the customer’s bank computer to the seller’s account.
  6. Order Validation: After the payment is processed, the order manager validates the order, ensuring all necessary information is accurate and complete.
  7. Warehouse/Fulfillment: Once the order is validated, the order data is sent to the warehouse or fulfillment department for product or service dispatch.

This complex workflow ensures the smooth execution of e-commerce transactions, whether involving tangible products or digital products.

“The successful operation of an e-commerce system relies on the effective integration of web browsers, servers, order managers, databases, and payment processing applications.”

Understanding how the different components interact with each other is crucial for e-commerce businesses to provide a seamless and satisfactory customer experience.

Component Function
Web Browser Enables customers to access online stores and browse products
Server Hosts the e-commerce website and facilitates communication with the web browser
Order Manager Processes and manages orders, relays data to databases
Databases Stores and manages inventory, payment, and banking data
Payment Processing Handles secure payment transactions between customers and sellers
Order Validation Verifies order information accuracy and completeness
Warehouse/Fulfillment Dispatches products or services to customers

By integrating these crucial components, e-commerce platforms are able to offer customers a seamless buying experience, from ordering to product delivery.

Types of E-Commerce

When it comes to e-commerce, there are various types of online transactions based on the parties involved. Understanding these different types can provide valuable insights into the diverse nature of e-commerce.

Business-to-Business (B2B)

B2B e-commerce refers to transactions between businesses. In this model, companies sell products, services, or information to other businesses. B2B e-commerce is commonly used for wholesale trade or procurement purposes. It facilitates efficient communication and collaboration between companies, allowing for streamlined procurement processes and cost savings.

Business-to-Consumer (B2C)

B2C e-commerce involves businesses selling products or services directly to consumers. This is the most common form of e-commerce that people encounter every day. B2C transactions occur on online retail platforms, where consumers can browse and purchase products from the comfort of their own homes. Well-known B2C e-commerce platforms include Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba.

Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C)

C2C e-commerce encompasses online transactions between consumers. It enables individuals to buy and sell products or services directly with each other through platforms that facilitate these exchanges. One of the most well-known examples of C2C e-commerce is eBay, where individuals can auction off their products to other consumers. C2C platforms provide opportunities for people to engage in peer-to-peer transactions and make money from their unused belongings.

Consumer-to-Business (C2B)

C2B e-commerce is the opposite of the traditional B2C model. In C2B transactions, consumers provide products or services that businesses purchase. This can include freelancers offering their skills or influencers promoting products and services to businesses. For example, a social media influencer may collaborate with a company to promote its products on their platforms. C2B e-commerce provides individuals with the opportunity to monetize their skills, expertise, or online presence.

Business-to-Administration (B2A)

In B2A e-commerce, transactions occur between businesses and government administrations. This type of e-commerce is commonly used for tax filing, license applications, permit requests, and other administrative purposes. B2A e-commerce streamlines administrative processes, making it more efficient for businesses to interact with government bodies.

Consumer-to-Administration (C2A)

C2A e-commerce involves transactions between individual consumers and government administrations. This type of e-commerce is commonly used for online services such as paying bills, renewing passports, or accessing government information. C2A e-commerce simplifies administrative procedures and provides individuals with convenient access to government services.

Mobile Commerce (m-commerce)

m-commerce, or mobile commerce, refers to online sales transactions conducted using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. With the widespread use of mobile devices, m-commerce has become increasingly popular. Consumers can shop, make payments, and access online services on the go, enhancing convenience and accessibility.

Understanding the different types of e-commerce allows businesses and consumers to identify the most suitable models for their needs. Whether it’s buying products from an online store, selling services to businesses, or engaging in peer-to-peer transactions, e-commerce offers a multitude of opportunities in today’s digital world.

Types of E-Commerce

Advantages of E-Commerce

E-commerce offers numerous advantages that have made it a preferred choice for businesses and consumers alike. The following are some key benefits of e-commerce:

1. Availability and Accessibility

One of the biggest advantages of e-commerce is its 24/7 availability, allowing customers to browse and shop at their convenience, regardless of time or location. With just an internet connection, customers can access online stores anytime, eliminating the need to adhere to traditional store hours.

2. Speed of Access and Wide Selection

E-commerce provides quick access to a vast range of products and services. Customers can easily search for specific items or explore various options without the constraints of physical store layouts. The wide selection available in e-commerce allows customers to find exactly what they’re looking for, often with more choices than brick-and-mortar stores can offer.

3. International Reach

E-commerce enables businesses to expand their customer base beyond geographical boundaries. With an internet connection, businesses can sell their products or services to customers anywhere in the world. This international reach opens up new markets and opportunities for growth.

4. Lower Cost

E-commerce often incurs lower costs compared to traditional physical stores. Businesses can eliminate expenses related to rent, utilities, and staffing, resulting in cost savings that can be passed on to customers. Additionally, e-commerce provides cost-effective marketing and advertising channels that can reach a wider audience at a fraction of the cost.

5. Personalization and Product Recommendations

E-commerce platforms leverage customer data to offer personalized experiences. Businesses can tailor recommendations and promotions based on customers’ preferences, purchase history, and browsing behavior. This personalization enhances the customer experience and increases the chances of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

“E-commerce platforms allow businesses to offer a personalized shopping experience, with product recommendations that entice customers to discover new items and make informed purchasing decisions.”

E-commerce’s advantages, such as availability, accessibility, speed of access, wide selection, international reach, lower cost, and personalization, have transformed the way businesses operate and how consumers shop. As e-commerce continues to evolve, businesses must harness its potential to deliver seamless online experiences and drive growth in the digital era.

Disadvantages of E-Commerce

E-commerce, despite its numerous advantages, also presents some disadvantages. It is essential to examine these drawbacks to make informed decisions when engaging in online shopping or business transactions.

Limited Customer Service

One of the downsides of e-commerce is the limited customer service compared to physical stores. In physical retail, customers have the opportunity to interact with staff in person, receive immediate assistance, and resolve queries or concerns face-to-face. In contrast, e-commerce relies heavily on digital communication channels and may lack the personalized touch that physical stores offer.

Inability to See or Touch Products

Another drawback of e-commerce is the customer’s inability to physically see or touch products before making a purchase. This limitation can lead to dissatisfaction or uncertainty since customers rely solely on product descriptions, images, and customer reviews. The inability to have a hands-on experience with the product may hinder the decision-making process, especially when it comes to items that require a personal touch or fit.

Wait Time for Shipping

When shopping online, customers usually must wait for the shipping process to receive their purchases. Although advancements in logistics and shipping technology have reduced delivery times, there can still be a delay between placing an order and receiving the product. This wait time may be inconvenient for customers who require immediate gratification or need the product urgently.

Security Issues

Security is a significant concern in e-commerce transactions. Customers risk exposing their personal and financial information when making online purchases. Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in online platforms and networks, leading to data breaches, identity theft, or unauthorized financial transactions. The prevalence of fake websites and hacking attempts further exacerbates these security issues, raising concerns about the safety and privacy of customers’ sensitive information.

Despite these disadvantages, e-commerce continues to thrive due to its convenience, accessibility, and extensive range of products and services. However, it is crucial for businesses and individuals to be aware of these drawbacks and take appropriate measures to mitigate the potential risks associated with online shopping and transactions.

Security issues


E-commerce has revolutionized the way we buy and sell goods and services, transforming the landscape of online retail. With its various types of transactions, e-commerce has provided convenience, accessibility, and a wide selection of products for businesses and consumers. However, it also comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages of e-commerce are evident in its 24/7 availability, allowing customers to shop at their own convenience. It offers quick access to products, a vast selection, and the ability to reach customers worldwide. Additionally, e-commerce often incurs lower costs compared to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and it enables personalization and product recommendations based on customer data.

On the other hand, e-commerce does have its limitations. It lacks the physical interaction and personalized customer service that physical stores provide. Additionally, customers are unable to see or touch products before making a purchase. There may also be a wait time for shipping, and security issues such as fake websites and hacking can pose risks.

Overall, e-commerce has reshaped the retail industry and continues to grow as technology advances. As businesses and consumers adapt to this digital landscape, e-commerce is expected to play an even larger role in the future of retail, offering endless possibilities for buying and selling goods and services online.


What is e-commerce?

E-commerce, or electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods and services or the transmission of funds or data over an electronic network, primarily the internet.

How does e-commerce work?

When a customer places an order on an e-commerce website, their web browser communicates with the server hosting the website. The order data is then relayed to an order manager, which forwards the data to databases for managing inventory, payment processing, and banking systems. After order validation, the order manager notifies the web server, which displays a message to the customer. Finally, the order data is sent to the warehouse or fulfillment department for product or service dispatch.

What are the types of e-commerce?

There are several types of e-commerce based on the parties involved in the online transactions. These include business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-consumer (C2C), consumer-to-business (C2B), business-to-administration (B2A), consumer-to-administration (C2A), and mobile commerce or m-commerce.

What are the advantages of e-commerce?

E-commerce offers 24/7 availability for customers to browse and shop at any time. It allows for quick access to products and services, with a wide selection available. E-commerce also has an international reach, enabling businesses to sell to customers anywhere with internet access. It often incurs lower costs compared to physical stores, and it allows for personalization and product recommendations based on customer data.

What are the disadvantages of e-commerce?

E-commerce has limited customer service compared to physical stores where customers can interact with staff in person. Customers also cannot physically see or touch products before purchasing, which can lead to dissatisfaction. There is also a wait time for product shipping, although this has been reduced with faster delivery options. Security issues, such as fake websites and hacking, can also be a concern in e-commerce transactions.

How has e-commerce revolutionized retail?

E-commerce has revolutionized the way we buy and sell goods and services, with online retail experiencing significant growth in recent years. It offers convenience, accessibility, a wide selection, and international reach for businesses and consumers. As technology continues to evolve, e-commerce is expected to play an even larger role in the future of retail.


  • Marcin Wieclaw

    Marcin Wieclaw, the founder and administrator of PC Site since 2019, is a dedicated technology writer and enthusiast. With a passion for the latest developments in the tech world, Marcin has crafted PC Site into a trusted resource for technology insights. His expertise and commitment to demystifying complex technology topics have made the website a favored destination for both tech aficionados and professionals seeking to stay informed.

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