E-commerce (electronic commerce or EC) is the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data, over an electronic network, primarily the Internet. These business transactions occur business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business.
E-commerce is conducted using a variety of applications, such as email, fax, online catalogs and shopping carts, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), File Transfer Protocol, and Web services. Most of this is business-to-business, with some companies attempting to use email and fax.
The benefits of e-commerce include its around-the-clock availability, the speed of access, a wider selection of goods and services, accessibility, and international reach. Its perceived downsides include sometimes-limited customer service, not being able to see or touch a product prior to purchase, and the necessitated wait time for product shipping.
The advantages of e-commerce allow a business of virtually any size that is located virtually anywhere on the planet to conduct business with just about anyone, anywhere. Imagine a small olive oil manufacturer in a remote village in Italy selling its wares to major department stores and specialty food shops in New York, London, Tokyo, and other large metropolitan markets. The power of e-commerce allows geophysical barriers to disappear, making all consumers and businesses on Earth potential customers and suppliers.