What is Ecommerce? The Best Ecommerce Websites

» 22 min read


By Joseph Brannon

Vice President, Commerce

Ecommerce definition

Ecommerce is the selling and purchasing of goods or services using the internet. The term ‘Ecommerce’, or ‘e-commerce’, or ‘eCommerce’, is also known as internet commerce or electronic commerce.

By 2023, e-retail sales are expected to account for 22 percent of all retail sales worldwide. (Statista)

The first online sale took place in 1994 on an American retail platform called NetMarket. Ecommerce has subsequently evolved and has made products and services easier to be discovered and purchased via retailers and marketplaces online. Businesses ranging from independent retailers to big corporations have all benefited from ecommerce. They can sell their products and services at an enormous scale, which was impossible with offline retail.

According to a study by Digital Commerce360, currently, there are between 12 million and 24 million ecommerce websites in the world.

Nasdaq predicts that 95% of all purchases will take place through ecommerce by 2040.

What is ecommerce, and what are the types of ecommerce?

‘Ecommerce’ or ‘electronic commerce’ or ‘internet commerce’ is the buying and selling of goods and services through an electronic medium (internet). It enables customers to make their purchase(s) from businesses online irrespective of the time and location. There are four popular ecommerce models:

  1. Business to Business (B2B)
  2. Business to Consumer (B2C)
  3. Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
  4. Consumer to Business (C2B)

What is B2B ecommerce?

A business transaction between two or more companies without the involvement of the consumer is called B2B. This model of ecommerce involves only manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and others.

What is B2C ecommerce?

B2C is a direct transaction between a company and customer. In this model, stores sell their products or services directly to the customer. The customer can also visit their website, take a look at their products/services, and read their reviews. They can then place the order, and the goods are shipped to them directly by the company.

What is C2C ecommerce?

C2C is a direct transaction between customers without the involvement of any company. In this model, people sell their goods or personal assets directly to people who are interested in them.

What is C2B ecommerce?

C2B is the opposite of B2C, where the consumers provide their goods or services to the company. For instance, a software engineer can sell his products/services to a company that is interested in it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What is ecommerce?

What is ecommerce, and how does it work?

The term ecommerce is used to define all commercial transactions conducted online. In simple terms, it is the selling and buying of products or services. Online businesses work on the same concepts of offline stores. There are three steps in any ecommerce transaction – placing/receiving the order, processing the order, and shipping the order.

What is the first step in an ecommerce transaction?

For a customer, placing the order on an online store is the first step in an ecommerce transaction. For a business, receiving the order through their website is the first step.

What is the second step in an ecommerce transaction?

Once the customer has placed the order, the details of the customer’s order are processed and completed. This is the second step in an ecommerce transaction.

What is the final step in an ecommerce transaction?

Shipping the order is the final step in an ecommerce transaction. Once the order has been processed by the merchant, the customer is assured that the order will be delivered on time, and the delivery process is carried out.

What is an ecommerce business?

A business that sells its products or services online or through an ecommerce platform is an ecommerce business.

Four in ten purchases are made using only an online channel for searching and buying. (UPS)

What is the importance of ecommerce?

In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of internet users. A large number of these users spend their time browsing and purchasing goods and services online. Below are the key reasons why ecommerce is important for businesses and consumers:

1. Wide range of products

Brick and mortar stores have a limited inventory of goods. As a result, consumers are forced to visit multiple stores to find their desired products/services. With ecommerce, it is easier for customers to search and make purchases from the comfort of their homes. They can peruse through a wide range of products within minutes and make their purchases instantly. Ecommerce has made the lives of consumers easy and convenient.

2. Low cost

Traditional retailers sell products or services at relatively higher prices without lowering their rates. This is mainly attributed to the overhead costs. Ecommerce allows businesses to eliminate overhead costs such as store rent, management, inventory, security, counter, transportation, and others. Therefore, it reduces the fixed cost and variable costs, and consumers get their products/services at a low and affordable rate.

3. Fast consumption and less laborious

Ecommerce has changed the way people consume products and services. Students no longer need to attend classroom sessions to take study courses; they can do their courses online, that too, at their own pace. Similarly, consumers do not need to spend time physically, shopping for products or services. They can get their products delivered at their doorstep, and focus on other tasks at hand.

4. Exquisite offers and deals

Traditional brick and mortar stores do not offer deals or discounts unless there is a festive occasion. With ecommerce, customers can avail regular offers or deals throughout the year. Ecommerce connects people and removes physical boundaries by offering great deals at the right time.

In 2019, e-retail sales accounted for 14.1 percent of all retail sales worldwide. (Digitalcommerce360)

5. Transparency

Ecommerce has made transactions between sellers and buyers more transparent. The use of Point of Sale (POS) machines and UID integration with bank accounts enables the government to check where the money was spent, why it was spent, and what was its source. The transactions taking place on ecommerce platforms are mostly digital, which is through credit cards, net banking, PayPal, and other modes. Ecommerce ensures that a record of the transactions is maintained to prevent fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering.

6. Low maintenance cost

Ecommerce has delivered higher profit margins for businesses. It has helped reduce manpower costs by automating tasks such as inventory, order management, customer management, and more. Enterprises find investing online cheaper than investing in a physical store, as the operation and maintenance cost is less and a one-time task. With the integration of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cloud computing, it has further minimized the functioning and operational cost for businesses. Most ecommerce websites have tie-ups with delivery or courier agencies, which also reduces their package and delivery costs.

7. Customer retention

With ecommerce, businesses can retain customers by sending them new products/services recommendations, offers, deals, and discounts based on their previous transactions and buying preferences. Traditional stores do not have much data on their customers, and they are unable to retain their customers, as they need to continually provide them with premium quality products/services to keep them loyal. With ecommerce, businesses are perpetually in touch with their customers through notifications, messages, and cold calls. This keeps the customer engaged and improves brand loyalty.

8. Personalized experiences

When customers explore and interact with ecommerce websites or other websites, data is captured and stored. Online businesses use this data to deliver a highly personalized experience for each customer at the right time and place.

9. Better production of digital products and services

With ecommerce, brands are creating new and innovative products/services, small businesses are flourishing, and the solutions are accelerating development. Ecommerce is a boon to people as it not only provides them with good quality products/services but also provides job opportunities and improves their quality of life.

Credit cards reign supreme (94%) as the preferred payment mode for online purchases. (BigCommerce)

bc and ta ecommerce

Why is ecommerce important?

Ecommerce is important as it provides convenience for brands and customers to transact. It is easily accessible from any part of the world. It allows businesses to market themselves across all channels and helps them scale with ease.

Why is ecommerce useful?

Ecommerce is useful both for businesses and consumers. Businesses can sell their products/services across the globe, and consumers can buy these products/services at any time and location. It enables consumers to peruse through a variety of products/services before making their purchases. It also saves time and money.

Why do brands need ecommerce?

Businesses need ecommerce as it is easy, convenient, decreases costs simplifies management, reduces maintenance, saves time and money, is open 24×7/365, gives customers an omnichannel experience, and boosts brand awareness.

What are the advantages of ecommerce?

The internet has brought the world closer, and ecommerce has done marvels by providing businesses and consumers the platform to communicate and transact across various channels. The advantages of ecommerce are as follows:

1. No need for physical stores

Ecommerce allows businesses to expand their customer base without the need for brick and mortar stores. This eliminates the long queues at physical stores and expands the consumer base across all channels. This is advantageous to both the business and the consumer, as they can provide products/services at any location. Most companies are successful as they have developed good ecommerce SEO, and it drives more traffic to their site.

2. Economical

Ecommerce stores are open 24×7/365, and consumers can access them at any time and location. Online businesses eliminate overhead costs such as security, rent, maintenance, management, utilities, and other expenses related to offline stores. There are no limitations of selling online, as ecommerce stores are not confined to a physical space; warehouses/storehouses can be rented for such purposes and are far cheaper than a retail space. Businesses will not face issues like parking spaces or foot traffic.

Global ecommerce sales are expected to reach 4.8 trillion U.S. dollars by 2021. (Shopify)

3. Scaling

Ecommerce enables businesses to scale up quickly, unlike physical stores. In physical stores, employees are hired to expedite the processing of products and other factors related to expansion. By selecting the right logistics provider, businesses can manage their growth expeditiously.

4. Easy to connect

Ecommerce has bridged the gap between businesses and consumers across the world. Ecommerce captures data related to consumers like preferences, previous purchases, views, location, contact information, and more. This enables businesses to send highly personalized emails, messages, and notifications, and let them know about the latest products/services, offers, and deals. Web tools like cookies, allow businesses to customize their website based on the behavioral patterns of the consumer.

5. Tracks logistics

The key to a successful ecommerce business is the ability to track logistics. With digitization, it has become easier for businesses to collect information, add numbers, and analyze what’s selling and what’s not selling. Displaying products is easy, and storage costs are low.

6. Easy supply chain

Most consumers like purchasing products online due to benefits such as cashless transactions, no waiting time or long queues, and the ability to make purchases at any time. Businesses benefit from cheaper, smoother operations, and low possibility of inaccuracies in accounting.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What are the advantages of ecommerce?

What are the advantages of online selling?

The advantages of selling online are as follows:

  1. No need to invest in physical stores.
  2. It takes less time and money to run an online business.
  3. Digital technologies help deliver consumers an amazing experience.
  4. More savings.
  5. Personalized marketing/persona-based customer targeting.
  6. Easy scalability.
  7. Increase in ROI.
  8. Increased sales.
  9. Larger audience/prospects/customers.

What are the advantages of ecommerce over traditional commerce?

The two advantages of ecommerce over traditional commerce are:

  1. Ecommerce businesses can reach a greater number of consumers within a short time.
  2. Ecommerce businesses can easily save and earn a lot of money.

What are the drawbacks of online shopping?

The drawbacks of online shopping are:

  • Risk of fraud and scams
  • Security risks
  • Site crashes
  • Delay in delivery
  • Tax issues
  • Legal issues
  • Shipping issues
  • High competition
  • No tangible product experience

What is an ecommerce website?

An ecommerce website is an online portal that expedites transactions of goods or services by transferring funds and information with the help of the internet. Earlier, ecommerce was done through phone calls or emails. But now, ecommerce is done through a single website, which also includes monetary transactions and data sharing. Below are the six types of ecommerce websites and their definitions:

  1. Business to Business (B2B):Online transactions of goods or services take place between two businesses.
  2. Business to Consumer (B2C):Online transactions of goods or services take place between businesses and consumers.
  3. Consumer to Consumer (C2C):Online transactions of goods or services take place between customers through a third party.
  4. Consumer to Business (C2B): Online transactions where consumers offer products or services to businesses.
  5. Business to Administration (B2A): Online transaction of goods and services between businesses and public service agencies.
  6. Consumer to Administration (C2A): Online transactions between consumers/individuals and public service agencies.

85% of customers start a purchase on one device and finish it on another. (UPS)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What is an ecommerce website?

How do I build an ecommerce website?

The fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to build an online store is through BigCommerce. Here are the steps to building your online store:

Step 1: Determine which products you want to sell.

Step 2: Select your business model.

Step 3: Select a business and domain name.

Step 4: Select an ecommerce website builder like BigCommerce.

Step 5: Design your ecommerce store.

Step 6: Set up the payment gateway.

Step 7: Secure your website.

Step 8: Select your shipping partner.

Step 9: Test, preview, and publish your online store.

Ecommerce website designs for inspiration

1. Dick Moby

dick moby

Dick Moby is an ecommerce website that sells sunglasses and eyeglasses made out of oil-free, recycled materials. The brand has a unique identity and beings together great design elements. On the homepage, we see fun patterns and squiggles. The quality of their photos is remarkable. On the shop page, they let the products stand out on their own. This website design brings out true feelings for the products.


2. Poketo


Poketo is a creative lifestyle brand that uses vibrant colors on their website. It is easy to navigate through their product options. Most of their product patterns are box-shaped, which is eye-catching.


3. Muroexe


Muroexe is a footwear brand that has a great layout for shoe products. The products on this website stand out due to the white webpage background, which makes customers focus on the design of the shoes.


4. Molly Jogger

molley jogger

Molly Jogger is an outdoor recreation brand that is simple and eye-catching. The website design is such that it is easy to browse and pleasant to the eyes.


5. Di Bruno

di bruno

Di Bruno is a specialty food brand, and their ecommerce website design is fascinating. They have short descriptions of every product so that visitors can make their purchases accordingly. If you are interested in trying a new product, you can preview the product to know more about it. This provides an in-store experience for the visitors.

Upcoming ecommerce trends – future of ecommerce

The emerging ecommerce trends on the horizon are:

1. More customer engagement and personalization

Unlike before, ecommerce stores will be working on giving customers or visitors a highly personalized experience throughout their customer journey. They will recommend products based on their interests, preferences, behavior, and more. Ecommerce is replacing the in-store retail experience of a store clerk recommending products. Consumer data can be procured from page visits, search queries, purchase history, and preference checklist. Personalization can serve the needs and interests of the customers, and they are more likely to make purchases. According to a. survey by MyBuys, 48% of consumers spend more when they get a personalized experience. Also, 57% of customers are ready to provide personal data to improve their shopping experience (Invespcro)

2. AI, Chatbots and Assistants

Most online businesses have already started implementing AI and ML in their systems. An AI assistant is capable of handling multiple tasks like responding to inquiries, managing inventory, and many other tasks. This helps free up time for people to focus on other tasks or aspects of the business. Chatbots can clear customer queries, address customer service needs, and assist website visitors throughout their customer journey, giving them a personalized experience. According to a report, 34% of consumers are comfortable interacting with chatbots or virtual assistants. (Statista)

In 2018, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. (Statista)

3. B2B ecommerce is on the rise

The growth of ecommerce is not just limited to B2C commerce. According to a study, by next year, B2B ecommerce will increase to $6.6 trillion. (Frost & Sullivan)

4. Visualization and interaction with the product

Consumers prefer investing in products they find genuine, and visuals play a vital role in establishing the authenticity of a brand. Ecommerce brands are now providing in-store experience online by providing them with high-quality images, virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D imaging for multiple devices. By this, consumers will not hesitate to make their purchase, and it will give them an in-store experience.

5. Custom retail experience

Ecommerce brands are creating immersive retail experiences to engage customers and drive sales by starting a physical store. In these stores, customers can interact and experience the product before making a purchase. This shows that brick and mortar stores are not entirely out of the picture. The online experience has only extended offline.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What are the upcoming ecommerce trends?

What is the future of ecommerce?

Ecommerce is thriving and continually changing. Leading marketing research firm eMarketer estimates that by 2020, the worldwide retail ecommerce sales are expected to reach $27 trillion. Last year there was a 23.3% increase in ecommerce sales (Statista).

There are a lot of changes expected in the future. For instance, using devices will become very important, emerging markets will play a massive role, product videos will be in demand, personalization will enhance the shopping experience, and products/services can be purchased across all channels.

Will ecommerce continue to grow?

Yes, ecommerce will continue to grow like it did in the past several years. Ecommerce retail sales are expected to hit $4.9 trillion worldwide by 2021 (Statista). In addition, a large number of consumers are making purchases from overseas retailers. The global average of consumers making purchases from overseas retailers has grown to 57% (Smallbizgenius.net). The following trends are expected to boost ecommerce in the coming years:

  • Consumers are increasingly using multiple channels in their shopping journey.
  • Consumers purchase products after viewing them on social media platforms.
  • Ecommerce personalization is becoming a standard for all businesses.
  • More consumers are using their mobile devices for browsing and purchasing products.
  • Voice commerce is on the rise and customers are using voice commands to make purchases.
  • More payment options and payment platforms are emerging.

What should you do next?

Here’s what you need to do to engage customers and increase sales:

  • Make your ecommerce website user-friendly.
  • Make a responsive/mobile-friendly website.
  • Upload high quality images and videos.
  • Add reviews for your products.
  • Provide special offers and discounts.
  • Personalize the shopping experience for customers.
  • Allow your website visitors to create their own ‘wish list’.
  • Feature ‘related items’ or ‘you may like this’ to improve engagement with the customers.
  • Add Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to clear the doubts and queries of customers.
  • Be visible on all social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
  • Maintain the security and privacy of the customers.
  • Provide multiple and secure online payment options.
  • Have a multi-touchpoint contact page for consumers.
  • Implement an active return policy.

Incorporating these features and constantly innovating, brands can deliver a flawless shopping experience. The ecommerce industry needs to give consumers a seamless, engaging, interactive, omnichannel, and personalized customer experience. The ecommerce world is constantly changing, and businesses need to embrace the latest trends to stay on top of the game.

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