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Definition: e-commerce


(Electronic-COMMERCE) Selling products online via the Internet. Also called "e-business" and "e-tailing." In most cases, the terms e-commerce and e-business are synonymous. However, e-commerce implies that goods are purchased online, whereas e-business might include electronic data interchange (EDI), in which one company's computer directly queries the inventory of another (see EDI). See Internet retailer.

The Evolution of Online Ordering
If mail order from a catalog had not been so popular in the Western world, perhaps e-commerce would have had a slower start. However, online ordering has been so ubiquitous that in order to entice customers back into the physical store, some retail outlets prior to COVID-19 have resorted to offering coffee and lunch bars, educational classes and other social events.

However, due to COVID-19, physical shopping plummeted and e-commerce has dramatically increased. Pundits are debating the permanent effects of the pandemic on retail outlets and malls in the future. See m-commerce, microcommerce and clicks and mortar.

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.