The term commerce is defined as the buying and selling of goods and services. For many years, commerce was carried on face to face as customers came to a storefront or other establishment and bartered or paid for their purchases. Currency eased the limitations of a barter system, and allowed commerce to expand.
Trade took place across oceans, but for ordinary customers, mail-order purchase was a development that let individuals purchase items that were not available in their immediate vicinity. In mail order, either both the order and the purchase travel via the mail or the order is sometimes placed over the phone.
Electronic commerce—the term for which eCommerce is an abbreviation—refers to the buying and selling of goods and services via computer networks and electronic systems such as the Internet. Other variations on the name for this type of trade are e-commerce, ecommerce, and e-comm. In contrast toretailers, those who do business online may be referred to as e-tailers. E-tailers may have a business that is run entirely online, like Amazon.com, or a business may have both an online presence and one or more storefronts, like Borders or Barnes and Noble.
eCommerce is carried out through a website, which may be a website run by the business or a website that is a subdomain of another establishment. Customers need to be able to find the website of the company, navigate it to discover the merchandise or services that interest them, and submit payment for what they want to purchase. It is the e-tailer’s responsibility to create such a site or have such a site created on his or her behalf. There are a number of things to think about that may be entirely new, even to an experienced retailer in moving a business online.
Some of the things to think about in entering into eCommerce that are likely to be new to someone who has not had an online business before include:
- Choosing a web host and an eCommerce web hosting plan
- Deciding what kind of payment options you will offer customers
- Planning your website
- Planning marketing
- Figuring out how much disk space and bandwidth are needed for the site
Some of the things to bear in mind include:
- Some pre-fabricated eCommerce website set-ups limit your options in branding your website.
- Some eCommerce hosting plans may limit the number of catalog items you may have and/or the number of images you can display with any item.
- Your ability to manage your catalog may differ
- The site may or may not be able to import information that you’ve already accumulated.
- The site may or may not be able to integrate with the shipper(s) you plan to use.
- The web host may or may not allow you to participate in an affiliate program.
- The web host may or may not charge a set-up fee and a transaction fee for each sale.
- If you accept credit card payments, you will need to make sure that your site set-up complies with the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI-SSC) standards.