When this definition of commerce is used, some people find the term electronic commerce to be fairly narrow. Thus, many use the term e-business instead. E-business refers to a broader definition of EC, not just the buying and selling of goods and services, but also servicing customers, collaborating with business partners, conducting e-learning, and conducting electronic transactions within an organization. Others view e-business as the “other than buying and selling” activities on the internet, such as collaboration and intrabusiness activities.
e-Commerce can take several forms depending on the degree of digitization (the transformation from physical to digital) involved. The degree of digitization can relate to:
1. the product (service) sold
2. the process
3. the delivery agent (or intermediary).
A product can be physical or digital, the process can be physical or digital, and the delivery agent can be physical or digital. In traditional commerce all three dimensions are physical, an in pure EC all dimensions are digital. All other combinations include a mix of digital and physical dimensions. If there is at least one digital dimension, we consider the situation electronic commerce but only partial EC. For example, buying a shirt at Wal-Mart Online, or a book from Amazon.com is partial EC, because the merchandise is physically delivered by FedEx. However, buying an e-book from Amazon.com or software store from gentari.com is pure EC, because the product, its delivery, payment, and transfer agent are all done online.
Pure physical organizations (corporations) are referred to as brick-and-mortar (or old-economy) organizations, whereas companies that are engaged only in EC are considered virtual (or pure-play) organizations. Click-and-mortar (or click-and-brick) organizations are those that conduct some e-commerce activities, yet their primary business is done in the physical world. Gradually, many brick-and mortar companies are changing to click-and-mortar ones (e.g., Wal-Mart Online).
Internet Versus Non-Internet e-Commerce
Most e-commerce is done over the Internet. But EC can also be conducted on private networks, such as value-added-networks (VAN’s, networks that add communication services to existing common carriers), on local area networks (LAN’s), or even on a single computerized machine. For example, buying food from a vending machine and paying with a smart card or a cell phone can be viewed as e-Commerce activity.