) Selling products online via the Web. Also called "e-business," "e-tailing" and "I-commerce." Although in most cases e-commerce and e-business are synonymous, e-commerce implies that goods can be purchased online, whereas e-business might be used as an umbrella term for a total presence on the Web that includes the shopping component (see shopping cart
Electronic data interchange, in which one company's computer directly queries the inventory of, and transmits purchase orders to, another company's computer, may also be considered e-commerce (see EDI
). See m-commerce
and clicks and mortar
The Evolution of Mail Order
In the U.S., had the dozens of mail order catalogs and businesses not flourished, perhaps e-commerce would have had a slower start. However, starting in the 1980s, people were beginning to get used to ordering products without driving to a store or shopping mall. One phone call and you were talking to a customer service rep, even day and night in some cases. Today, certain retail outlets have resorted to offering coffee and lunch bars, educational classes and other social events to entice customers to go to the physical store.
The First "Electronic" Commerce
In 1886, a telegraph operator managed to obtain a shipment of watches that had been refused by the local jeweler. Using the telegraph, he sold all the watches to fellow operators and railroad employees and then ordered more. Within a short time, he made enough money to quit his job and start his own catalog mail order business. The young man's name was Richard Sears, who founded Sears, Roebuck and Co. in 1893.