Electronic commerce. Expression evolution typology.

The expression electronic commerce ( e-commerce (also eCommerce)) can refer to several concepts:

  1. can refer to all transactions for the marketing of goods and services between producer (supply) and consumer (demand), carried out via the Internet;
  2. In the telecommunications industry, electronic commerce can also be understood as the set of applications dedicated to commercial transactions.
  3. A further definition describes electronic commerce as the communication and management of business activities through electronic means, such as EDI(Electronic Data Interchange) and automated data collection systems.

Evolution of the term

The meaning of the term 'electronic commerce' has changed over time. Initially, it meant supporting commercial transactions in electronic form, generally using a technology called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI, introduced in the late 1970s) to send commercial documents such as purchase orders or invoices in electronic format.

Later, functions were added that can be more accurately termed as 'e-commerce' (contraction of electronic commerce) - the purchase of goods and services through the World Wide Web using secure servers (characterised by HTTPS, a special protocol that encrypts sensitive customer data contained in the purchase order in order to protect the consumer), with online payment services such as credit card authorisations.

Type of product

Some types of products or services appear more suitable for online sales, while others are more suited to traditional trade. The best-performing e-commerce companies, however, remain a totally virtual entity (without physically opening shops). They usually sell IT products, such as storage media, data recovery and processing, the sale of music, films, courses and educational materials, communication systems, software, photography and financial intermediation activities. Examples of these companies include: Schwab, Google, eBay and PayPal. An interesting case is that of companies specialising in offering discount vouchers that can be spent at local or national companies, such as Groupon.

Online retailers are also able to enjoy some success if they also sell concrete, non-digital products and services such as software or images online. Non-digital products that lend themselves to be sold online can be those that are embarrassing for the buyer (e.g. underwear), and/or those products that have 'standard' features and do not need to be tried out or evaluated 'live' (e.g. books).

Spare parts, whether for end-users (e.g. dishwashers, washing machines) or for the needs of an industrial activity (e.g. centrifugal pumps), can also be considered as good examples of products that can be sold via the Internet. Since retailers do not stock spare parts at retail outlets, they often have to order them later; in the latter case the competition is not between e-commerce and traditional trade but with the system of ordering from the supplier and/or wholesaler. A success factor in this niche appears to be the possibility to offer the customer precise and reliable information about the product needed, for example by listing the available spare parts together with their identification code.

Conversely, products that are not suitable for e-commerce activity are those with a low value/weight ratio, items that have a relevant component with regard to their smell, taste or feel, goods that need to be tried on (e.g. shirts) and even if it is relevant to see them in order to grasp all the nuances of colour.

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