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WHAT IS ECOMMERCE?
  Definition of eCommerce  
  eCommerce Terminology  
  Different types of eCommerce  
  The dot.com Phenomenon  
  The Future  
Definition of eCommerce
Turn to any paper or trade magazine and you are almost guaranteed to find an article on eCommerce. Politicians see eCommerce as the way forward and essential in making the UK business community compete successfully around the world. The benefits are put forward as being so obvious for both large and small companies that everyone should move into this new way of doing business. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will be able to compete with their much larger competitors on a world stage. However, in reality, the situation is somewhat different and possibly over-hype and over-sell of eCommerce has been detrimental in the overall adoption of modern trading practices by SMEs.
A typical and vague definition used for eCommerce is as follows:
The buying and selling of products and services by businesses and consumers over the Internet.
However, eCommerce is much more than selling from a Web site. A far more accurate definition of eCommerce is as follows:
eCommerce covers any form of business, or administrative transaction, or information exchange, between the company and the outside world, that is executed using any information and communication technology (ICT).
The use of eCommerce within SMEs will vary and any implementation should be driven by business needs rather than by technology. eCommerce can open up radically new ways of working, but most SMEs should start by using eCommerce to improve the effectiveness of what they currently do, such as providing an improved approach to marketing, communications and customer service, improvements which they could never afford if using conventional methods. This is the eCommerce vision which they should work towards, rather than the get-rich-quick, sell-from-a-Web site approach - the vision which so much of the UK press would have us believe is the way forward.
eCommerce shouldn't be seen as a development which always reduces staff numbers. There are several examples of SMEs that have increased the number of staff they employ, attributing this expansion to the increased business that eCommerce has brought them.
Much of the initial hype relating to eCommerce was in the area of business-to-consumer, particularly in the selling of products such as CDs, videos, computer-related products and travel services. There is now a realisation that in the scheme of things this is a limited area, and whilst there will still be tremendous growth, the future will be in the application of eCommerce in a business-to-business environment.
Most companies that succeed with eCommerce will be founded on a firm business footing. New innovative services will be offered by some SMEs but most will use eCommerce to improve the effectiveness of what they do now. Certainly new dot.com companies will feature but these are typically driven by entrepreneurs who will succeed in their own right, with or without eCommerce. The dot.com scenario is not a vision which many SMEs could or should strive to emulate.
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