What Is E-Commerce?

Since the 1979 invention of online shopping - credited to Michael Alrich of England - the e-commerce industry has grown to move hundreds of billions of dollars annually between vendors and buyers in both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) formats. Schools offering E-Business Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Industry Overview

E-commerce can be divided into four categories, according to Export.gov. Online retailers, commonly referred to as 'virtual storefronts,' sell goods, usually in a catalog format. Physical business-to-business transactions involve the buying and selling of goods. Electronic data interchange (EDI) is the process by which businesses exchange valuable electronic information, such as customer data, patents, lists of leads, or business models; this type of transaction often takes place on a dedicated network called the Electronic Data Interchange Network. Lastly, e-commerce can be the compilation and use of demographic data for profit.

Export.gov notes that common examples of business-to-consumer organizations include Amazon.com, CompUSA.com, Hotels.com, and Travelocity.com. E-commerce transactions take place over the Internet, intranet, electronic mail, and other electronic systems, according to the 2007 Economic Census Business Help Site. The organization also points out that online payment is not a requirement of e-commerce.

Important Facts About E-Commerce

Degree Levels Associate's degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree
Online Availability Fully and partially online degree programs are available
Common Courses Accounting
Economics
Information assurance
Information technology
Marketing
Statistics
Possible Careers E-commerce manager, marketing specialist, web developer
Median Salary (2018)* $69,430 (for all web developers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 15% growth (for all web developers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Possibilities

Online retail sales reached over $300 billion in 2015, according to the Forrester Research eCommerce Forecast, 2014 to 2019 (US), by Forrester Research, Inc., and is expected to grow over 10% by 2019. With such rapid growth, an increasing number of business schools are beginning to incorporate e-commerce courses and concentrations into their MBA programs. San Francisco State University, for example, allows MBA students to select e-commerce as an area of emphasis, and the University of Washington offers classes like e-business economics, e-business strategy, foundations of e-business, and e-business technology as part of its business program. In many programs, such as the MBA program at West Chester University, e-commerce courses are paired with entrepreneurial courses, emphasizing the benefits of the low start-up costs and low overhead of online businesses.

Career Opportunities

Although e-commerce careers are as diverse as the types of businesses that operate in electronic mediums, there is a high demand for people skilled in sales and technology. Many people looking to pursue a career in e-commerce are entrepreneurs. Famous Internet entrepreneurs include Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com; Sergey Brin, founder of Google; and Mark Cuban, Internet entrepreneur who used his earnings to buy the Dallas Mavericks for $285 million in 2000.

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