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What is e-commerce?
For consumers, e-commerce means being able to buy anything from clothes, music and films, to gadgets and groceries online; booking and paying for transport, accommodation; or buying tickets to events. In just a couple of decades it’s opened up a vast array of choice in products and services; all available from a connected device that can be used anywhere, anytime.
For policy makers, ‘an e-commerce transaction is the sale or purchase of goods or services, conducted over computer networks by methods specifically designed for the purpose of receiving or placing of orders.’ 1 ” e-commerce can be business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), consumer to consumer (C2C) or peer to peer (P2P). Consumers’ needs, wants and views have played a central role in shaping e-commerce.
Consumers can respond directly to companies through social media and reviews, aggregating demand with such ease that new services can enter the market relatively quickly and cheaply. Through these new means of participation, consumers are shaping the economy in ways that couldn’t be imagined when the first secure transactions took place in the mid-1990s.
E-commerce has transformed the way in which many of us shop, although this has happened differently and to varying extents in different countries. The key challenges to overcome to make e-commerce work for consumers, are access and trust. Governments, companies, consumer groups and other stakeholders need to work to address these challenges. This may involve developing practical solutions together that work for consumers. The global nature of companies and e-commerce itself means any solutions need to work internationally.