E-Commerce definition

E-commerce stands for electronic commerce and is the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transferal of money or data, over the internet. These transactions are related to either business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business.

E-Commerce definition

Where did it all begin?

You may think of e-commerce as being a new phenomenon, but it actually started back in the 1960s with businesses sharing documents with each other via the Electronic Data Interchange. This replaced the need to send documents via traditional mail or by fax. Digital transfer saved businesses both time and money.

By the 1980s the process of sharing documents electronically had been adopted by individuals as well as businesses, but it was a decade later that e-commerce really took off.

The 1990s saw the rise of eBay and Amazon which transformed the e-commerce industry. Consumers were introduced to the convenience and affordability of online shopping which generated excitement and fundamentally changed the way goods and services are purchased.

Different types of e-commerce

The three main types of e-commerce are:

Business-to-business (B2B)

Business-to-business means both the seller and the buyer are businesses. The electronic exchange could be of products, services or data and it's big business. Recent reports state that global B2B revenue will exceed $6.7 trillion by 2020.

Business-to-consumer (B2C)

B2C refers to the retail part of e-commerce on the internet. It is when businesses sell directly to consumers. There are countless virtual stores on the internet selling a whole host of goods and services. Since its launch in 1994, Amazon has dominated the B2C market.

Consumer-to-consumer (C2C)

This is where consumers sell directly to other consumers. Perhaps the most recognisable example of C2C is eBay. Since 1995, consumers have been able to list their unwanted items on an online marketplace and sell directly to other consumers.

The impact of e-commerce

Thanks to the extraordinary rise in e-commerce since the 1990’s, physical stores have taken a hit. What has been coined ‘the death of the high street’ refers to the reduction in ‘bricks and mortar’ stores as a result of the growth of online shopping.

Online sales of non-food items have rocketed over the past five years in the UK, from 11.6% of the total market in December 2012 to 24.1%in December 2017. It appears that online sales of clothing, in particular, is growing and at the expense of offline.

But what does this mean for the future of physical stores? According to industry experts, there will also be a place for shops on our high street. Very often a store can act as a showroom for consumers to see, feel and try on clothes before buying online. A physical store still plays a vital role in consumers' shopping behaviour habits.

The rise of ‘click and collect’ purchases gives retailers another reason to continue with a network of stores. With life getting busier, ‘click and collect’ is a very convenient option and also makes returns more straightforward to manage, both for the consumer and the retailer.

For now, it seems, physical stores are here to stay, but the success of online retailers such as ASOS and Amazon can’t be ignored.

The pros and cons of starting an e-commerce business

Aspiring entrepreneurs considering starting an e-commerce business need to understand both the advantages and disadvantages to ensure that it’s right for them.


• More customers

The main benefit of an online business is the ability to reach a wider audience than would be possible with a physical store only. E-commerce provides an opportunity for companies to interact with new customers all over the globe and sell directly to them.

• Lower costs

The cost of establishing an e-commerce business often requires less funding than starting a ‘bricks and mortar’ store. Without business premises expenses, costs are lower resulting in a profit being achieved more quickly. These savings can either be reinvested back into the business to help it grow or passed on to consumers to offer a competitive advantage.

• Easily accessible

Unlike physical stores, e-commerce businesses don’t have any set opening hours. Being able to sell goods and services all day, every day means that a profit can be made even when the business owner sleeps.


• More competitors

It can be challenging to stand out from the crowd in a competitive marketplace such as e-commerce. Without a shop window to entice consumers, a business needs to establish a unique selling point which can be marketed easily. Consumers need to be given a reason to use one e-commerce business over another. This can be difficult for a new business as building trust and credibility without a physical store is more of a challenge.

• Fast-paced environment

In the digital world of e-commerce, things are always changing and improving. For a business to remain competitive, they must keep up to date as e-commerce evolves. A recent example of an important change that online retailers have needed to make is due to the increase in the use of mobiles as a means to purchase from the internet. For websites to remain usable for consumers, businesses have needed to ensure that their website is mobile optimised to make the process as simple and comfortable as possible for mobile users.

• Cost of delivery

Consumers can be impatient and consider having to wait for their parcel to arrive as one of the worst parts of shopping online. With the increase of larger retailers offering next day or even same day delivery, consumer expectations are set pretty high. However, delivery costs can be significant and express deliveries is not a service most small businesses can afford to offer. Businesses should be transparent about the cost of delivery, along with how long the goods will take to arrive, to avoid consumer disappointment.

E-commerce franchise opportunities

With the improvements in technology making the ability to work remotely easier than ever, more and more people are striking out on their own to start an online business. There are a whole host of e-commerce franchises in many different industries for you to consider, including online retail, digital marketing and consultancy.

Here are some e-commerce franchises which are available for investment.

Activ Net Marketing

Activ Net Marketing is an affordable franchise that offers you the opportunity to run a successful and profitable web marketing business from the comfort of your own home. As a franchisee, you’ll become part of a reputable online franchise which has built thousands of websites for a wide range of businesses.

You don’t need to be a digital whizz to start an Activ Net Marketing franchise either. The software you'll have access to can be operated with limited computer skills, and you’ll receive all the technical training you need to become a success. The sales model is simple too. You charge your clients a setup cost for each website you design meaning that the more clients you have, the more money you make.


If you want the flexibility of working from home for a low-cost investment, then consider owning a franchise with Brokerplan. By being part of this reputable franchise, you'll introduce clients to an array of quality financial products and services. These are supplied by more than 250 lenders from all over the UK, all of which have an active and ongoing relationship with Brokerplan.

Your role as a franchisee will be to help small and medium-sized businesses to secure business loans, buy to let mortgages, development finance and asset leasing, plus much more. If this rewarding franchise sounds right for you, then you’ll need to have the confidence to work with owners and managers of SME companies along with a passion for creating your own profitable business.

Project M Asia

Project M Asia offers a unique and trail-blazing opportunity that hasn’t been presented to the market before. Starting a franchise with Project M Asia gives you the opportunity to be part of the world’s first mobile gaming franchise. The exciting opportunity introduces a brand new concept whereby you ‘own’ a ‘mining level’ within an online game.

This franchise allows you to develop your very own mining level, with the help and support of the designated franchise team. You don’t need to have any technical experience as you’ll be helped every step along the way of the three-year franchise term.

It’s an excellent time to think about investing in a franchise within the mobile gaming industry. It’s now more popular than the movie and music industry put together and holds the title as the most enjoyed entertainment medium in the world.


There are many reasons to start an e-commerce franchise. From the freedom and flexibility that being a franchisee can bring to the ability to earn as you sleep, for many an e-commerce franchise is the perfect opportunity. So, if you're considering investing in an e-commerce franchise, there has never been a better time, and the opportunities are growing day by day.

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