Understanding Different Types of E-commerce  

Electronic commerce or e-commerce is a term for any type of business, or commercial transaction, that involves the transfer of information across the Internet. E-commerce allows consumers to electronically exchange goods and services with no barriers of time or distance. In the near future, the boundaries between “conventional” and “electronic” commerce will become increasingly blurred as more and more businesses move sections of their operations onto the Internet and vice versa. Hence, Alibaba coined the term “New Retail” to describe a world where the distinction between online and offline commerce becomes obsolete, as Internet users continue to migrate to mobile devices from desktop computers.

Generally, e-commerce can be categorised into several types:

1.Online-to-Offline (O2O)

O2O  describes e-commerce services which provide information online about other services offline (including discounts). Generally this enhances an offline shopping experiences.


2. Business – to – Business (B2B)

In this type of e-commerce, both participants are businesses. As a result, the volume and value of B2B e-commerce can be huge. An example of business to business e-commerce could be a manufacturer of gadgets sourcing components online.


 3. Business – to – Consumer (B2C)

A B2C business sells its product directly to a customer. A customer can view products shown on the website of business organization. The customer chooses a product and order the same. Website will send a notification to the business organization via email and organization will dispatch the product/goods to the customer.


4. Consumer – to – Consumer (C2C)

The moment you think of C2C e-commerce, eBay.com comes to mind. That is because it is the most popular platform that enables consumers to sell to other consumers. Since eBay.com is a business, this form of e-commerce could also be called C2B2C e-commerce (consumer to business to consumer e-commerce).


5. Consumer – to – Business (C2B)

In this model, a consumer approaches website showing multiple business organizations for a particular service. Consumer places an estimate of amount he/she wants to spend for a particular service. For example, comparison of interest rates of personal loan/ car loan provided by various banks via website. Business organization who fulfils the consumer’s requirement within specified budget approaches the customer and provides its services.

That is not all.

Employees can be regarded as a special type of consumer. That would give rise to a new type of e-commerce: B2E (Business to Employee e-commerce). Likewise if we consider Government to be separate entity, as also Citizens, we can come up with many more types of e-commerce: B2G (Business to Government), G2B (Government to Business), G2E (Government to Employee), G2G (Government to Government), G2C (Government to Citizen), C2G (Citizen to Government).

There is a lot of value in being clear about the type of e-commerce business one is talking about. Among other benefits, it allows us to make like-to-like comparisons across e-commerce businesses. At the same time, it helps us better understand the business model of different e-commerce players.