With the explosion of information technology and the Internet over the past few decades, an increasing amount of business is being conducted over communications networks. E-business is the process of buying and selling goods or services electronically rather than through conventional means and includes the support activities and transactions necessary to perform these tasks. E-business can reduce the need for service technicians, increase the responsiveness of the business to the needs to the customer, and allow businesses to add new features to their products and services. Business-to-customer applications include online retailing and electronic storefronts, electronic markets, portals, and online services. In addition, information systems can facilitate businesses in dealing with other business electronically through such applications as supply chain management, electronic procurement, and electronic exchanges.
With the explosion of information technology and the Internet during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the normal paradigm of business has changed. Once constrained by communication boundaries in the not-too-distant past, business transactions were only conducted in person or via e-mail, fax, or phone. Since then, an increasing amount of business has been conducted electronically over public and private communications networks. The proliferation of information on the Internet makes it possible to research and compare similar products and features as well as obtain the best price available in seconds or minutes rather than in hours or days. In the comfort of one's own home, one can purchase electronics, furniture, books, music, and more. Rather than going to the grocery store, it is even possible to point and click one's way to a full pantry using online grocery delivery services that will bring food to one's doorstep. Clothing, too, can be purchased online with easy return policies and even virtual models that allow one to "try on" the clothes before purchase. Although these technologies are still evolving, they are mature enough that more and more people rely on the Internet to conduct at least some of their business. For business enterprises in the twenty-first century, e-business, or e-commerce is a fundamental method of conducting business.
The use of communications networks for conducting business is still not an all or nothing proposition. Companies can have both traditional capabilities as well as e-business capabilities. There are several different strategies that are taken by organizations that want to do some or all of their business online. The off-line focused strategy has a primary channel that is off-line with online marketing efforts playing only a supporting role. The off-line focused strategy may publish a website that provides customers with information about store hours and locations, describes the range of products that are sold, or offers customer service options. For example, grocery stores often allow customers to go online to read the weekly sales flyer, send a comment to the store or corporate manager, or find driving directions to the store, but one cannot buy groceries online. The off-line focused strategy is often used when a sophisticated distribution system is needed to provide goods, personal consultation services are offered that can only be done in person (e.g., interior decoration services), or there are contractual restrictions among the channel partners that prohibit more online involvement. Due to the nature of their goods and services, other organizations can primarily use the online channel for their marketing efforts while others only do business online using traditional marketing methods (e.g., television advertisements; infomercials) to point the customer to their website. This strategy can allow both the business and the customer to bypass the "middleman" or to take advantage of the lower costs associated with the online channel (e.g., no need for the overhead associated with a physical retail store).
E-business is the process of buying and selling goods or services -- including information products and information retrieval services -- electronically rather than through conventional means. Although typically conducted over the Internet, e-business can be conducted over any public or private communications network. There are two types of e-business. Business-to-business e-business is the electronic marketing and selling of goods and services by one business to another. Business-to-consumer e-business is the electronic marketing and selling of goods and services by a business directly to the individual consumer.
There are many benefits of e-business. First, it enables a business to extend its geographic reach. With e-business, a business can literally have a global market. For example, software is not only sold over the Internet, but can be downloaded from the Internet, thereby eliminating the costs of delivery and packaging. Even for instances where the product needs to be physically delivered via a transportation carrier, e-business can facilitate a larger market. In addition, e-business increases the speed at which transactions can take place. Customers no longer have to wait in line to be served as they can complete their own transactions over a secure network. Transaction speeds are also increased because the customer does not physically have to travel to a store to pick up a product. Although the transaction speed is irrelevant if the customer still has to wait for delivery, for those items that are not available locally, time is still saved. Third, e-business can increase productivity. Before the advent of e-business, researching the characteristics of products was a labor-intensive task often requiring a search for review articles and trips from store to store to compare the features of similar products. Today, these activities can be done online for many products. This means that the information can be put to use more quickly and the decision made in a timelier manner. E-business also allows businesses to share information. Product specifications and users manuals can be posted online for customers to download; troubleshooting databases can also be made available to customers, or customer service can be available by e-mail or chat. These features can both reduce the need for service technicians and increase the responsiveness of the business to the needs to the customer. E-business can also enable businesses to add new features to their products and services. These can include personalization or automatic notification of updates, activities, or new products. Perhaps one of the most attractive advantages of e-business, however, is that it can significantly reduce costs for both the business and its customer. E-business allows customers to reach the business quickly and irrespective of geographic distance for purchasing, technical help, or customer service. These features can combine to give the e-business a competitive advantage over other businesses offering similar products and services.
Another advantage that e-businesses have over conventional...
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