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 benefits of e-commerce include its around-the-clock availability, the speed of access, the wide availability of goods and services for the consumer, easy accessibility, and international reach. Its perceived downsides include sometimes-limited customer service, consumers not being able to see or touch a product prior to purchase, and the necessitated wait time for product shipping.
The beginnings of e-commerce can be traced to the 1960s, when businesses started using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to share business documents with other companies. In 1979, the American National Standards Institute developed ASC X12 as a universal standard for businesses to share documents through electronic networks. After the number of individual users sharing electronic documents with each other grew in the 1980s, in the 1990s the rise of eBay and Amazon revolutionized the e-commerce industry. Consumers can now purchase endless amounts of items online, both from typical brick and mortar stores with e-commerce capabilities and one another.
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E-commerce is not a new industry, technically speaking, but it is creating a new economic model. Most people agree that e-commerce will positively impact economic society in the future, but in its early stages its impacts are difficult to gauge. Some have noted that e-commerce is a sort of incorporeal revolution. E-commerce has numerous social benefits: one, the cost of running an e-commerce business is very low when compared with running a physical store; two, there is no rent to pay on expensive premises; and three, business processes are simplified and less man-hours are required to run a typical business smoothly. In the area of law, education, culture and also policy, e-commerce will continue to rise in impact. E-commerce will truly take human beings into the information society.
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