E-commerce (electronic commerce or EC) is the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data, over an electronic network, primarily the internet. These business transactions occur either as business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business. 

E-commerce businesses may employ some or all of the following:

  • Online shopping websites for retail sales direct to consumers
  • Providing or participating in online marketplaces, which process third-party business-to-consumer or consumer-to-consumer sales
  • Business-to-business buying and selling
  • Gathering and using demographic data through web contacts and social media
  • Business-to-business (B2B) electronic data interchange
  • Marketing to prospective and established customers by e-mail or fax (for example, with newsletters)
  • Engaging in pretail for launching new products and services
  • Online financial exchanges for currency exchanges or trading purposes

E-commerce is conducted using a variety of applications, such as email, online catalogs and shopping carts, EDI, File Transfer Protocol, and web services. This includes business-to-business activities and outreach such as using email for unsolicited ads (usually viewed as spam) to consumers and other business prospects, as well as to send out e-newsletters to subscribers. More companies now try to entice consumers directly online, using tools such as digital coupons, social media marketing, and targeted advertisements. 

The rise of e-commerce forces IT personnel to move beyond infrastructure design and maintenance and consider numerous customer-facing aspects such as consumer data privacy and security. When developing IT systems and applications to accommodate e-commerce activities, data governance related regulatory compliance mandates, personally identifiable information privacy rules and information protection protocols must be considered.