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E-commerce: What is it?

E-commerce is the process of buying and selling goods and services over the internet. Technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems are also a part of e-commerce. These transactions can occur either as business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business.

History of e-Commerce

In the 1960s, businesses used electronic data interchange to share business documents with other companies. The beginning of e-commerce can be traced back to this. The American National Standards Institute developed ASC X12 in 1979, which was then the universal standard for businesses to share documents through electronic networks. The 1980s saw the number of individual users sharing the electronic document at a rise. The introduction of e-commerce websites like e-bay and Amazon in the 1990s revolutionized the industry. Now, customers have a number of e-commerce sites to choose from for buying a particular product.

E-commerce refers to exchanging of products or services over the internet. The transaction over the internet can be through various mediums like File Transfer Protocol (FTP), web services such as email. 

E-commerce has familiarized people with services such as net banking, and online shopping. E-commerce platform has put both the customers and businesses at ease. It allows buying or selling of products or services irrespective of time and geographical boundaries. E-commerce is not only cost-effective but also faster than the conventional ways of trading.

Applications of E-Commerce

A variety of applications like e-mail, online catalogs, shopping carts, File transfer protocol etc is being used to carry out E-Commerce. Many companies now target their customers online by using tools like social media marketing, targeted advertisements digital coupons and more.

The most important benefit of E-Commerce is it’s round the clock availability. Other advantages include its speed of access, a wide range of goods and services available, easy accessibility and international reach. Mobile devices are playing an increasing role in E-Commerce. Known as m-commerce, this is also seeing a rapid growth. Many companies have invested enormous volume of investment in mobile applications, done mainly through mobile devices.

Today IT professionals have a huge interest in e-commerce, which helps them progress from the legacy infrastructure design and concentrate on customer-facing aspects like customer data privacy and security.

E-commerce: Impact on Customers

E-commerce really brought a lot of convenience for customers. They can now shop for products in the comfort of their homes, and can even buy products which may not be available in their nearby physical stores. Online shopping often provides sales promotion or discounts code to their customers, thus it is more cost effective in comparison to normal physical stores for the customers. Detailed product information is given in e-commerce sites, which even an in-store staff cannot offer always. Facilities to review and track ones order is also provided through these sites. Lack of human interaction for customers, especially who prefer face-to-face consumption is a disadvantage of the online shopping site. The returning policy and refunding process can be inconvenient as customers need to pack and post the goods.

Government Regulations

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council are the primary agencies regulating e-commerce activities in the United States.

Online activities like advertising, content marketing, and customer privacy are monitored by FTC, while the PCI Council develops standards and rules including that outline procedure for proper handling and storage of consumers' financial data. Businesses should authenticate business transactions, control access to resources for registered or selected users, encrypt communications and implement security technologies to ensure the security and privacy of its customers.

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