The unprecedented development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the last two decades has resulted in the application of ICT tools and services in almost all walks of life and fields of work. In the area of commerce and business too, ICT tools, services and applications have been used extensively to usher in efficiency, speed and reliability as never before. The way business and commerce is conducted has undergone radical transformation.
The computer, the World Wide Web (WWW) and the Internet have come together to accord business and commerce an entirely new much-enhanced digital dimension. The prefixing of the ubiquitous ‘e’ to a wide range of human activity including business and commerce is proof enough. Thus we have ‘e-Commerce’ and ‘e-Business’, terms which are which have largely been used interchangeably. e-Commerce, in very simple terms, had signified the function of creating exchange (i. e. buying and selling) over digital media.
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It was IBM who had in 1997 coined the term e-Business and defined it as “a secure, flexible, and integrated approach to delivering differentiated business value by combining the systems and processes that run core business operations with the simplicity and reach made possible by Internet technology” (IBM, 1997). In doing so, IBM had sought to formally accept the application of the Internet and its technology in business and commerce to step out of the conventional domain of e-Commerce and endorse other functionalities such as e-mailing, e-marketing, data-mining, data warehousing, e-franchising, etc.
For the purpose of this paper, the terms e-Commerce and e-Business will be used interchangeably. e-Commerce would therefore not be restricted to the conventional buying and selling over digital media but would all aspects of e-Business too, and would broadly imply “the conduct of business transactions and activities using in large part electronic means and typically involving use of the Internet and the world-wide web” (Clegg, Icasati-Johanson & Bennett, 2002, p. 245).
There are different e-Commerce models based on the type of customer (Galant, 2005).
The Business-to-Consumer (B2C) model is the most prevalent and the most popular. It connects a business with individual customers. There are two variants of this model: the Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) model in which e-Commerce services link consumers with one another, and the Consumer-to-Business (C2B) model where the consumers play a dominant or determinant role in defining the nature or price of services and products. The Business-to-Business (B2B) model concerns e-Commerce services functioning between two companies. This is seen in the case of a company supplying raw material or other services to another company.
When the government adopts e-Commerce technologies and applications, for what is known as e-Governance, we have the Government-to-Citizen (G2C) and the Business-to-Government (B2C) models of e-Commerce. The government provides online information and services to citizens through the G2C model; the B2G model is adopted to conduct business and exchange information between companies and different levels of government. The Business-to-Employee (B2E) model is more of an intra business approach which is adopted by a company to provide online information and services to its own employees.
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