You're not alone in your search for “what is ecommerce.” Since November 2021, people around the world are searching for this term more than ever before. And I am not just saying that.

The other day, I looked up the term on Google Trends and I was surprised to see the sudden surge in popularity. I mean, sure, ecommerce has been around since the 1990s.

But if you are to go by the search trends, ecommerce is really having its moment now.

What is Ecommerce - Google search trends from 2004 to 2022
Image via Google

It seems like everywhere you look, people are shopping online for everything from clothes to groceries to furniture. And it's not just big retailers that are benefiting from this trend – small businesses are getting in on the action too.

For those who want to hop on the ecommerce bandwagon, this is a perfect read. I’ll answer the questiom, “What is ecommerce?” And I’ll discuss the different ecommerce business models and what it takes to run a successful online store.

Disclosure: This content has a few affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I will get a commission (without any extra cost to you).

What is Ecommerce?

Ecommerce stands for electronic commerce or even internet commerce. It is the process of buying and selling goods and services online.

To execute these online transactions, the money and data are all transferred via the web. This can be done through various platforms, including websites, mobile apps, and social media.

What is ecommerce
GIF via Pinterest

History of Ecommerce

Ecommerce has come a long way since its humble beginnings. What started as an out-of-the-box idea has turned into a massive industry that touches nearly every aspect of our lives.

Here’s a brief history of ecommerce and the key turning points in its growth.

The Idea For Ecommerce is Born

Ecommerce has come a long way since it was first created in 1979 by Michael Aldrich.

During his experiments, he linked his computer and television via a telephone line. This gave birth to the idea that it was possible to shop without actually having to visit a store physically.

While the idea was fresh, computers were not very accessible at that time. In the 1980s and 1990s, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs popularized the use of computers in households.

Amazon Paves the Way

In 1994, Jeff Bezos created Amazon, which is now the largest online retailer in the world.

The company started as an online bookstore and has since expanded to become a major retailer, selling everything from books and electronics to clothing and home goods.

Amazon.com in 1994 - first website
Image via Business Insider

Amazon is now one of the world's largest ecommerce companies, with a market value of over $1 trillion.

Bezos has been credited with changing the way we shop and consume media. He has also been a major driving force behind the growth of ecommerce and cloud computing.

PayPal Simplified Online Payments

When PayPal first arrived on the scene in 1998, it changed the way that people thought about ecommerce. Suddenly, it was easier than ever before to buy and sell items online.

Paypal in 1990's - first website edition
Image via PYMNTS

PayPal made the process of sending and receiving payments much simpler and more efficient. This helped to spur the growth of ecommerce and made it easier for businesses to reach a global market. Today, PayPal is one of the most popular payment methods available online.

Ecommerce Platforms Arrived

In the early days of ecommerce, building an online store was a daunting task. You needed to be a web development expert even to get started. This made ecommerce accessible only to large businesses with deep pockets.

However, that all changed in the early 2000s with the advent of platforms like Shopify and WordPress. These platforms made it easy for anyone to build an online store, without needing any coding knowledge.

This democratization of ecommerce allowed small businesses and entrepreneurs to get started with selling online. And it’s why we’ve seen a boom in ecommerce in recent years.

Ecommerce Statistics: What is the Future of Ecommerce?

Now that you know the history of ecommerce, it's time to learn about its present and future. Ecommerce is constantly evolving and growing.

Here is a quick overview of what you can expect from the ecommerce industry in the near future:

Ecommerce sales growth from 2014 to 2026
Image via Statista
  • By 2025, the online apparel industry is projected to be worth 1.2 trillion US dollars.
  • For each visit, online shoppers spend an average of 2.6 US dollars across all verticals.
  • With estimated sales of over 780 billion US dollars, Alibaba is the largest ecommerce platform in terms of sales.
  • Globally, Amazon.com is the most popular shopping website. In 2022, the website received over 3 billion visitors every month.
Chart of most popular shopping websites in the world
Image via Statista
  • By 2025, it is estimated that over 53% of online shoppers will use digital and mobile wallets for global ecommerce payments.

As you can see, ecommerce is here to stay. And it's only going to become more and more popular as time goes on.

Regardless of the niche you want to enter, you can be sure to face stiff competition. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to make sure you are keeping up with the latest ecommerce trends.

Pros of Ecommerce

There are many advantages of ecommerce, which is why it’s become so popular in recent years.

Here are all the pros of ecommerce businesses:

  • Shoppers can shop from the comfort of their own homes: No more battling crowds at the mall or fighting for a parking spot. You can do your shopping in your PJs if you want!
  • Ecommerce offers a huge selection: You’re not limited to the items that are available in your local store. When you shop online, you can access products from all over the world.
  • Shoppers can save money with ecommerce: Online retailers do not have high overhead costs like physical stores, so they can offer lower prices. You can also take advantage of online deals and coupons to save even more.
  • Ecommerce is convenient: With today’s busy lifestyles, it’s often difficult to find time to go shopping. Ecommerce makes it easy to shop anytime, anywhere.
  • Ecommerce makes it easier to compare deals. While shopping online, you can check similar products on multiple websites and compare their prices. This way, you can ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible.
  • Shoppers can check reviews from other users. Before you make a purchase, you can check what other users are saying about the product or service.

So there you have it— these are a few of the many reasons to love ecommerce.

Cons of Ecommerce

There are many disadvantages of ecommerce, which is why some people are still wary of buying things online.

Here are all the cons of ecommerce businesses:

  • Shoppers may have security concerns. When you purchase items online, you are putting your personal and financial information at risk. This information could be intercepted by cybercriminals and used to commit identity theft or fraud.
  • Online shoppers run the risk of falling victim to scams. There are many unscrupulous individuals who create fake websites or online stores in order to steal people's money.
  • Shoppers have to pay extra shipping costs. When you buy something online, you often have to pay for shipping and handling. This can add up, especially if you make a lot of purchases.

Before you enter the field, these are the few potential downsides of ecommerce that you should be aware of.

What Are the 4 Different Types of Ecommerce Business Models?

There are a variety of ecommerce models out there, and it's important to know the difference between them if you're looking to enter the field.

Here's a quick rundown of the four most popular ecommerce models:

Different types of ecommerce business models
Image via Sell.Amazon

1. B2B Ecommerce Model

B2B ecommerce is when businesses sell products or services to other businesses. This is a less common model, but it's still used in a variety of industries, from construction to healthcare. An example would be an office supply company selling products to a local business.

Note: If you’re interested in this model, you should check out my other blog post that lists the best B2B ecommerce platforms.

2. B2C Ecommerce Model

B2C ecommerce is the most familiar model to most people, as it involves businesses selling products or services directly to consumers.

This is the type of ecommerce that most people are used to, whether they're shopping for clothes on Amazon or booking a vacation on Expedia.

3. C2C Ecommerce Model

C2C ecommerce is when consumers sell products or services to other consumers. This is the least common model, but it's growing in popularity thanks to platforms like Airbnb and Etsy.

4. C2B Ecommerce Model

C2B ecommerce is when consumers sell products or services to businesses. An example of this would be a freelance writer selling an article to a website or selling their services on a platform like Upwork.

So, which model is right for your ecommerce business?

It really depends on a variety of factors, from the products you sell to the nature of your customer base. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which model makes the most sense for your company.

Best Ecommerce Platforms You Should Check Out

The ecommerce landscape is constantly evolving, and what worked well for your business last year might not be the best solution this year. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to be proactive, use the newest ecommerce tools, and keep up with the latest trends.

But with so many options out there, how do you know which ecommerce platform is right for your business?

To help you make the best decision for your business, we’ve listed the top ecommerce platforms here.

1. BigCommerce: Best For Growing Businesses

If you're looking for an ecommerce platform that can help take your business to the next level, BigCommerce is definitely worth considering.

Not only do they offer a host of powerful features, but they also have no transaction fees on leading payment gateways and amazing customer service. Plus, their platform is highly scalable and flexible, so you can easily adjust it as your business grows.

Video via BigCommerce

Note: For more information on this ecommerce platform, check out my review of BigCommerce.

2. Shopify: Best For First-Time Users

Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market. It’s easy to use, has a lot of features, and is scalable as your business grows.

Shopify also has a huge ecosystem of plugins and themes so you can customize your store to match your brand. And if you need help with anything, there’s a large community of Shopify experts that can assist you.

Video via Shopify

Note: If you are interested in Shopify, you should check out my comparison post on Shopify vs. BigCommerce.

3. WooCommerce: Best for WordPress Websites

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that turns your WordPress website into an ecommerce store. It’s a great option if you’re already using WordPress for your website or blog.

It offers customization options to fit your specific business needs, and a good range of payment options to make transactions easy and convenient. Plus, the basic WooCommerce plugin is free!

Video via WooCommerce

Note: If you are interested in WooCommerce, you should check out my comparison posts on WooCommerce vs. Shopify and WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce.

Ecommerce Examples: Most Popular Ecommerce Sites

There are a variety of ecommerce sites out there, each offering something unique that speaks to a certain type of shopper. Whether you're looking for the latest fashion trends, the best deals on electronics, or just want a one-stop shop for all your home goods, there's an ecommerce site out there for you.

Here's a look at some of the most popular ecommerce sites and what makes them stand out.

1. Amazon

Amazon is one of the most well-known ecommerce sites on the internet. They offer a huge selection of items, from books to clothes to electronics, and just about everything in between. They also offer Prime shipping for fast and free delivery on many items.

What is Ecommerce - Amazon homepage
Image via Amazon

2. eBay

eBay is another huge ecommerce site that offers a little bit of everything. You can find new and used items at a fraction of the retail price. They also have a huge community of users who are always willing to help answer questions or give advice.

What is Ecommerce - eBay homepage
Image via eBay

3. Alibaba

Alibaba is a relative newcomer to the ecommerce scene, but they're already making waves. It is a great example of a B2B ecommerce site.

This website connects businesses from all over the world with each other, making it easy to find the products and services you need. Alibaba is a one-stop shop for businesses, and its ecommerce platform makes it easy to find what you're looking for.

What is Ecommerce - Alibaba homepage
Image via Alibaba

4. Fiverr

Fiverr is a C2B ecommerce site that allows freelancers to offer services to potential customers. Businesses can browse the Fiverr website and choose from a variety of services offered by freelancers.

Once they find a service they like, they can purchase it directly from the freelancer through the Fiverr platform. Fiverr takes a percentage of the transaction as a commission.

What is Ecommerce - Fiverr homepage
Image via Fiverr

If you want to learn more about such websites, you should check out my blog post on the most popular ecommerce companies.

What Makes an Ecommerce Store Successful?

Now you know some of the top ecommerce sites in the world. But what makes them successful? What is it about them that makes them tick?

For starters, it’s important to understand that every ecommerce store is different and what works for one might not work for another.

However, there are some general principles that all successful ecommerce stores have in common. Let’s break down the core components of a successful ecommerce store and understand how you can apply them to your own business.

Successful ecommerce stores have:

1. A Clear Purpose and Identity

Your purpose defines your store and sets it apart from the competition. It's what drives your customers to purchase from you instead of somewhere else. And your identity is how you communicate that purpose to the world.

To unlock your identity, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What values does your brand stand for?
  • What do you offer that your competitors don’t?
  • What is your unique selling point?

Once you've identified what makes your store special, you need to communicate that to the world through your branding and marketing.

Your purpose and identity are what make your ecommerce store successful. Without them, you're just another store in a sea of sameness.

Take the time to find your niche and communicate your purpose and identity to the world, and you'll be on your way to ecommerce success.

2. A Strong Focus on Customer Service

In a brick-and-mortar store, customers can interact with sales staff and get immediate assistance if they have any questions or problems.

But when shopping online, customers are often left to fend for themselves. This is why it's so important for ecommerce stores to have a strong focus on customer service.

Customers should feel like they can reach out to you with any questions or concerns, and they should feel confident that you'll respond quickly and help them resolve any issues.

So how can you make sure that your ecommerce store has a strong focus on customer service?

Here are a few tips to help you build a more customer-centric ecommerce store:

Make it easy for customers to get in touch.

Make sure that your contact information is prominently displayed on your website and that it's easy for customers to find. You should also offer multiple channels for customer support, such as phone, email, live chat, and others.

Different ecommerce customer service channels
Image via Zendesk

Train your team members to be friendly and helpful.

Your team members are the face of your business, so it's important that they're friendly and helpful. Make sure to train them on how to handle customer service inquiries and give them the resources they need to resolve issues.

Respond to customer inquiries quickly.

No one likes to be kept waiting, so make sure to respond to customer inquiries as quickly as possible. Use automated systems to help you keep on top of things, but don't sacrifice quality for speed.

You could also add a FAQ page on your website so that customers can seek solutions to their questions easily.

Ecommerce Customer Service - FAQ website page
Image via Rebecca Minkoff

Go above and beyond for your customers.

Remember that it's important to wow your customers and make them feel special. If you can do something extra for them, such as offer a discount or free shipping, they'll be more likely to remember your store when they need to make a purchase.

Get feedback from your customers.

Make sure to get feedback from your customers on a regular basis. This will help you identify areas where you can improve your customer service. You can use surveys, polls, and even social media to collect feedback.

Ecommerce customer service survey example
Image via Delighted

By following these tips, you can make sure that your ecommerce store has a strong focus on customer service. This will help you attract and retain customers, and it will ultimately lead to more sales.

3. A Well-Designed Website

Think about it this way: would you rather do business with a company whose website is professional and easy to use or one whose website is difficult to navigate and looks like it was made in the early 2000s?

The answer is probably obvious. In order to be successful, your ecommerce store needs a well-designed website that is up-to-date with the latest trends.

But what exactly does that mean?

For starters, your website needs to be visually appealing and easy to navigate. If potential customers can't figure out how to find what they're looking for, they're not going to stick around for long.

If you have multiple products, make sure they are properly organized into categories on your homepage. Take inspiration from ASOS’ well-designed product categories:

Ecommerce product categories - Asos website example
Image via ASOS

In addition, your website needs to be optimized for search engines. This means using the right keywords and phrases so that people can easily find your site when they're searching online.

Most ecommerce platforms have special ecommerce SEO features. Make sure you check them out before you finalize a platform for your ecommerce site.

Finally, your website needs to be mobile-friendly. More and more people are using their smartphones and tablets to shop online, so you need to make sure that your site looks good and is easy to use on these devices.

If you can tick all of these boxes, then you're well on your way to having a successful ecommerce store.

4. Personalized Messaging

Think about it: when you go to a store and the salesperson knows your name, it makes you feel special. And when you feel special, you're more likely to buy something.

The same principle applies to ecommerce stores. When you have personalized messaging, it makes your customers feel like you really know them. And when they feel like you know them, they're more likely to buy from you.

To create personalized messages, you need to gather data about your customers. This can include information such as their name, location, and purchase history.

Once you have this data, you can create messages that are relevant to each customer.

For example, if a customer lives in a cold climate, you could send them messages about winter clothing and accessories. Or if a customer abandoned their cart, you can send them a gentle reminder.

Here’s an example:

Ecommerce personalized messaging example - abandoned cart email
Image via Popupsmart

Personalized messages can be sent through various channels, such as email, social media, and push notifications.

By following these guidelines, you can set your ecommerce store up for success. Keep in mind that there is no magic formula for success – it takes hard work, dedication, and a bit of luck.

FAQs

1. Why is ecommerce used?

By using ecommerce, businesses can reach a wider audience and consumers can find what they are looking for more easily. Additionally, ecommerce can help businesses save money on inventory and other costs associated with traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.

2. What are some examples of ecommerce?

Some popular examples of ecommerce websites include Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Fiverr, Upwork, and Etsy.

3. What are the four types of ecommerce business models?

The four main types of ecommerce business models are: B2B, B2C, C2C, and C2B.

What is Ecommerce? Ecommerce is the Way Forward!

And that's a wrap! We hope this post helped clear up any confusion about ecommerce. In short, ecommerce is simply buying and selling products or services online. No matter the size of the business, ecommerce has many benefits, including increased reach, convenience, and efficiency.

Whether you're a small business owner looking to start selling online, or a seasoned pro, there's no doubt that ecommerce is the way of the future. Thank you for reading!

I hope you have more clarity on what is ecommerce and why it’s important. If you still have any questions, please feel free to mention them in the comments section.

Disclosure: This content has a few affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I will get a commission (without any extra cost to you).

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