What Is eCommerce? How It's Changing in 2024

Updated   |  8 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Selling online through an eCommerce storefront has several advantages for businesses.
  • Businesses can use eCommerce in different ways, such as having the business sell mainly online or using a website to support a physical store or foundation.
  • ECommerce has evolved through the use of AI, machine learning, and data analytics, as well as through developments in mobile technology and social media.
  • Mobile commerce, social commerce, omnichannel, and online resources are all becoming increasingly important as time goes on.
  • There are four main types of eCommerce models, including B2B, B2C, C2C, and C2B.
  • Businesses should weight the pros and cons of eCommerce and decide what is best for them when looking to expand their reach.

ECommerce is a popular business model that has only gotten more popular in the past few years, with many businesses expecting eCommerce to dominate their operations. The eCommerce surge presents a unique opportunity for businesses to tap into the potential of the digital age and sell their products online. Electronic commerce, or e-commerce, is applicable in a variety of industries, and it can involve multiple channels for sales and product distribution.

With your products readily available on the internet, you can reach out to a wider audience, including global markets. This gives you the chance to scale up your operations efficiently. Running an online store or website typically has lower overhead costs than running a physical store, making the process relatively simple and cost-effective for any business owner looking to expand their scope. In short, eCommerce business provides you with a great way to grow your operations and capitalize on new market opportunities.

Online retailer.

What Is eCommerce?

ECommerce, short for electronic commerce (also spelled e-commerce), refers to the buying and selling of goods and services through the internet, usually using an online platform or website. Activities like online shopping, receiving digital content, online transactions, and managing digital data are all part of eCommerce. Companies of all sizes can participate in eCommerce to reach a wider market, increase efficiency and reduce costs, and improve customer service.

Nowadays, eCommerce brings fresh opportunity for a business online. Many eCommerce merchants sell only online. For example, an entrepreneur could start selling high-end dog supplies. Before, they could have either sold the merchandise at a boutique pet shop or wholesaled it to a national pet store. Now, these businesses can take up e-commerce and directly offer products and services online. Let's explore the different ways businesses use online stores for their business model.

How Do Businesses Use eCommerce?

Some businesses use online avenues like an eCommerce website or online marketplaces to increase brand awareness and offer physical or digital content (which is either shipped or made available electronically). Their main sales touchpoints are kept online, and they may or may not have physical shops to supplement their online sales. Warehouses can be owned by them or they can rent space at another company's warehouse.

The latter case allows businesses to sell products in more areas without having to incur the costs of owning and maintaining a warehouse or storage facility. This is popular for those who sell in large online marketplaces, such as Amazon. Consumer-to-consumer sellers or those who offer handmade or unique items (like on Etsy or eBay) often don't have a separate store from the online one or a warehouse outside their home or business.

Other businesses use e-commerce sites for distribution purposes and have a business plan that includes physical stores and other revenue sources. In this case, the online business supplements the brick-and-mortar stores or allows the company to distribute products to a wider audience.

With these types of businesses, the brick-and-mortar store often comes first, and then later an online business plan is incorporated (think Walmart). These businesses often own their warehouses (if applicable), and might be large enterprises, manufacturers, or distributors, or they might be small start-ups or individual sellers that only offer out of a certain location (i.e., local businesses).

A Quick Word on eCommerce Marketing

However businesses use online commerce, it's clear that the marketing efforts that go into online advertising, organic search, and conversion optimization are worth it—effective marketing and selling online gets your brand better recognition and draws people to your online store. And once you get them there, having a great eCommerce platform will make people want to stay and see what you have to offer. If you haven't already, putting your business online is one of the best things you can do to increase revenue and have a successful business.

A person shopping online.

The Evolution of eCommerce Business

One could say that eCommerce began in the 1970s and 1980s, with the emergence of the early forms of electronic transactions. However, eCommerce as we think of it today didn't really begin until the 1990s, when the World Wide Web and the development of secure online payment systems made it possible for consumers to buy and sell products online.

It was during the 1990s when the first online retailers, including Amazon and eBay, began to emerge. These early e-commerce businesses focused primarily on selling physical goods, such as books and electronics. In the 2000s, the rise of social media and the increasing use of mobile devices further expanded the reach and potential of eCommerce.

Today, eCommerce is a multi-billion dollar industry that includes a wide range of products and services, including digital products and services, and has transformed the way we shop and do business. What distinguishes the eCommerce business of today is the use of technology like machine learning, data analytics, and artificial intelligence for eCommerce to personalize the shopping experience and make it more efficient.

Additionally, the widespread use and development of mobile devices has made it possible for shoppers to access eCommerce stores from anywhere at any time. This has changed how a business makes their eCommerce store, and has opened a new avenue of e-commerce called mobile commerce, or m-commerce. Now, online retail needs to be mobile-responsive, meaning the online platform adjusts to different screen sizes, so things always fit on the screen properly whether the customer is looking at the store through a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone.

ECommerce platforms also gives businesses and consumers the opportunity to sell and buy products internationally. International eCommerce business models have specific requirements when it comes to developing an eCommerce platform. That's why it's especially important that you work with an eCommerce platform developer that has experience with international platforms and can provide everything you need to run your business successfully.

An e commerce business.

Some eCommerce Stats

These statistics show that there are some key things when it comes to eCommerce business models in 2024—those being mobile, social media, omnichannel, and online resources.

Mobile Commerce

When it comes to mobile, the first thing is to have a mobile-responsive website. This allows people to go onto your website with their phones, tablets, computers, etc., and still get a nice, user-friendly experience.

Depending on your business model and offerings, it can also be advantageous to have a dedicated mobile app. Rather than using a browser to access your online store, consumers can download the app from their app store. This often provides a better experience on mobile, as apps can be more customized and dedicated to the mobile user experience.

Social Commerce

Selling online through social media platforms or apps is a type of eCommerce known as social commerce. Some social media apps allow you to sell directly on their platform, and others have you put a link to your product page and customers purchase from there. Social media is also an excellent marketing tool, as it gets your brand noticed by potentially billions of people.


Here's why omnichannel is so important. Omnichannel is essential to a successful eCommerce brand because it involves the seamless interaction with your website or application throughout different devices and channels. To have an effective omnichannel strategy, you'll need to both appear on multiple channels (e.g., YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, SERPs, etc.) and have the software to enable a smooth transition from one channel and device to the next.

So when a customer clicks on a link to your website from YouTube or Instagram, if they have an account and have logged in using that device at that IP address before, it'll remember who they are and automatically log them in (unless they were logged out for security reasons). And, it'll take them directly to the page they clicked on in the link, even if they had to sign in first (rather than taking them back to the home page).

Furthermore, when a client is on your website from their phone, but want to switch to their laptop, they simply have to go to the website on the desired device to start where they left off.

Online Resources

Generating online content or resources is another great way to get people to know more about your brand and company, what you do, and the services you offer. This article, for example, is a type of online content designed to inform you, the reader, about eCommerce. We're offering our knowledge and experience in exchange for a simple but important thing: the chance that we'll make an impression. That's it. By reading this article, there's a chance that some quiet voice will whisper "Clarity Ventures" the next time you hear about eCommerce platforms or eCommerce businesses. And there's a chance that by interacting with our content once, you'll want to do it again. Maybe on a different channel, like our YouTube channel, or maybe on a related subject, like online auctions or auction websites. By providing these online resources, we're helping you stay informed about subjects that matter to you, so you can make the best decisions possible for your business.

Business documents and online content resources.

Types of eCommerce Businesses

When it comes to online purchases, there are four main types of eCommerce models. Each of these e-commerce business models has specific factors that alter the seller and customer experience and how eCommerce transactions are made. Let's go over the definitions and some examples of each.

Business-to-Business (B2B)

B2B eCommerce is when businesses sell products or services to other businesses. To conduct business this way, you'll need to form partnerships and focus on your relationships with other companies. Examples of B2B organizations include service providers, software companies, manufacturers, distributors, warehousers, wholesalers, and web hosting companies.

Business to business eCommerce website.

Business-to-Consumer (B2C)

B2C eCommerce involves businesses selling to individual consumers. The B2C model is often what we imagine when we think of online shopping. B2C is the traditional online retail model that allows companies to interact directly with their customers. In recent years, B2C eCommerce has developed significantly as more and more businesses have embraced digital technologies to reach a wider audience.

Business to consumer ecommerce store.

Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C)

C2C eCommerce is consumers selling to consumers through an eCommerce website. Some examples include eBay, Etsy, and Craigslist. The idea behind C2C is that anyone can sign up and start selling online, using the C2C website to facilitate the transaction (for a fee). Sellers often use social media to promote their goods and services and direct people to their product pages on the website. C2C operates the best in niche markets, meaning there's a specific target audience in mind and only certain types of goods and services are promoted on the site. Other key aspects are robust verification measures for sellers and insurances for buyers and sellers in case something goes wrong with a delivery or payment.

Customers online.

Consumer-to-Business (C2B)

C2B eCommerce involves consumers selling to businesses online. This type of eCommerce is also becoming more popular. Some examples of C2B are reverse auctions, freelance websites like Fiverr and Upwork (which can also fall in the C2C category), and blog advertisements or affiliate marketing. The C2B model and its increase in popularity is made possible by eCommerce growth. Dedicated reverse auction software may or may not be needed, depending on your business needs.

Consumer to business e commerce transactions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of eCommerce

E-commerce growth has made shopping online more and more prevalent in our everyday lives. How many times have you said or heard someone say, "I bought it on Amazon," or, "I sold it on Facebook Marketplace," or something to that effect? Online stores are part of many people's everyday shopping experiences. But as with anything, electronic business has its benefits and drawbacks. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of eCommerce? Let's explore.

Advantages of eCommerce

Available 24/7

If you have access to a device with internet or cell service, then you have access to the website and all it has to offer, no matter the time or day. You don't have to wait until morning to shop online late at night, nor do you need to wait until a weekday if you want to buy something on the weekend. If you're buying digital content, it's usually available for download right away.

For businesses online, this increase in availability doesn't come at the cost of paying employees to keep running the store at night (or during the day). Processes and workflows can be triggered automatically so that anytime someone places an order, the transaction and order go through. Being always available means more opportunity for customers to make purchases.

Stock from Multiple Warehouses

ECommerce businesses can benefit from storing inventory in various locations. With stock in multiple warehouses, your business can:

  • Effectively manage inventory levels and reduce stockouts.
  • Shorten delivery time and reduce shipping costs by shipping from the closest warehouse.
  • Reach more customers in different areas and serve them more effectively.
  • Mitigate risks by having more than one option for fulfilling orders in case any issues arise with a particular warehouse.

Easier to Do a Search than When in A Store

Thanks to advancements in online search, filtering, and sorting options, it's become easy to find what you're looking for when shopping online. You can type a product name into the search bar, use filters to further specify what you want the results to show, and sort the list of results according to relevancy, price, recency, and more.

On an eCommerce website, it's also easy to compare products side by side. You can also use online reviews from others who have bought the products to inform your decisions about what to buy.

International Reach

ECommerce presents a unique opportunity to expand your reach internationally. Since customers can purchase products online, they can potentially order from your website from any location.

Depending on your business model, customer base, and business partnerships, in some locations it will make sense to have products stored in a warehouse there for faster shipping, and for other places it will make sense to ship from a warehouse that's further away. Either way, though, offering products internationally can help you scale your business.

Cost Savings and Increased Revenue

ECommerce is relatively cheaper to run than physical stores since it doesn't require physical space for the store itself and all the expenses that come with maintaining the building, equipment, hiring store employees, etc.

While you don't have the expenses that come with a physical store, oftentimes there are expenses for running an eCommerce site. You'll likely need to pay for a domain, hire a developer to build and maintain your website, and there may be other expenses for adding on or integrating various features.

If you have both a physical store and an eCommerce platform, while you'll have the costs of both mediums, you'll also reap twice the revenue since you'll be reaching more customers and making your products more available.

Personalized Shopping Experience

Online shopping offers a more personalized customer experience through AI and machine learning, which uses customer data to make more relevant product recommendations, offer customer-specific pricing and deals, and personalize search results.

Predictive analytics can also be used to anticipate what customers might want in the future and reach out with personalized offers and promotions.

Customer shopping at e commerce store.

Disadvantages of eCommerce

Can't "Run Out to the Store"

Some people enjoy physically going to the store to browse through the shelves and just get out of the house, especially as so many of us are spending more time at home nowadays. When you go to the store, you can buy something and have it right away—no need to wait for the product to be shipped. You also don't have to worry about the product getting damaged, lost, or delayed in transit.

Limited Customer Service

Online shopping doesn't allow for in-person interaction, which can make it difficult for customers to get the information they need about a product or service. That's why having self-service is crucial for any eCommerce platform. Customers need to be able to do most things for their online shopping on their own. However, the lack of human interaction can be a downside to some.

You Can't Touch Products Online

When shopping online, you can't physically inspect, test, try on, or feel the products before buying. This is especially disadvantageous for clothing products if customers don't know their size, or for anything where sensory input is important to its function, usefulness, or likeability.

Shipping and Handling Costs

Shipping and handling costs can be a disadvantage for eCommerce businesses, especially for large or heavy items. Shipping prices can be added on as a separate expense when buying the product (though most people don't like the idea of paying for shipping, so this strategy is less advised), added to the cost of the product itself (so it shows shipping as free but the product is $5 more than it would've been), or mitigated through a subscription fee that members pay for free shipping (like Amazon Prime). For some shipping and handling expenses, though, the business may have to absorb them or risk losing customers.

More Returns and Refunds

ECommerce businesses tend to have higher return rates than physical stores. Return rates have only gone up since eCommerce sales have soared during the pandemic. Being able to make free, easy returns and get refunds are important to customer satisfaction and the likelihood that they will shop there again. But returns cause several problems for eCommerce businesses, such as:

  • Shipping, handling, and restocking fees
  • Logistical challenges when coordinating with multiple carriers and warehouses
  • Products might be damaged upon return
  • Time is taken away from other business activities to sort through returned items
  • Waste is generated from returns that are thrown away simply because businesses don't have the technology or resources to deal with them
  • Increased carbon emissions from shipping returned items to various places
  • Costs of issuing refunds to customers who return products

However, there are ways to mitigate the impact of returns, such as improving product descriptions and images, providing accurate size charts and measurements, offering augmented reality, improving packaging and shipping, and using return management software.


Start Your eCommerce Business Today

The Clarity Ventures team is made up of highly skilled and experienced eCommerce platform developers. We offer a free, no-obligation discovery session to get you started—where you'll go over your needs with our experts to discover the best solution for your business. You're free to take the information with you, even if you end up working with someone else. Our goal is to help you advance your business with the best e-commerce site for you.

Ecommerce developer.



eCommerce, short for electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods or services over the internet.


There are several types of eCommerce business models, including B2B (businesses selling to businesses), B2C (businesses selling to consumers), C2C (consumers selling to consumers), and C2B (consumers selling to businesses) eCommerce.


Examples of B2B: Alibaba and

Examples of B2C: Amazon and BestBuy.

Examples of C2C: eBay and Craigslist.

Examples of C2B: Upwork and 99designs.


ECommerce websites are online platforms where customers can shop online. ECommerce sites typically include a product catalog, a shopping cart, and checkout process. Customers browse items using the catalog and search functions, add items to their cart, and proceed to checkout when they're ready.

ECommerce stores also handle payment processing and certain processes for order fulfillment. Oftentimes, online stores also display product reviews, make product recommendations, and use account-based features like subscriptions and membership benefits and customer-specific rewards and discounts.


Retail eCommerce is the sale of goods through an online storefront or marketplace. It's the electronic or digital version of traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores, and it's usually a B2C (business-to-consumer) business model.


Whether it's better to have a physical store or eCommerce website (or both) depends on your business model and goals. A physical store offers a tangible shopping experience while an online storefront offers greater convenience and reaches more customers. A physical store requires a large financial investment and has ongoing expenses, while an eCommerce site requires an investment in technology, marketing, and logistics. Having both allows your business to take advantage of both sales channels, but it also means paying the expenses of each.

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Autumn Spriggle is a Content Writer at Clarity Ventures who stays up to date on the latest trends in eCommerce, software development, and related topics to provide readers with the latest and greatest. She strives to help people like you realize the full potential for their eCommerce business.