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Information Technology has transformed the way people work. Electronic Commerce or E-commerce has unleashed yet another revolution, which is changing way businesses buy and sell products and services. Associated with buying and selling of information, products and services over computer communication networks, e-commerce helps conduct traditional commerce through new ways of transferring and processing information, since it is information which is at the heart of any commercial activity. Information is electronically transferred from computer to computer in an automated.
Or e-commerce is a term for any type of business, or commercial transaction that involves the transfer of information across the Internet. It covers a range of different types of businesses, from consumer based retail sites, through auction or music sites, to business exchanges trading goods and services between corporations. It is currently one of the most important aspects of the Internet to emerge.
It seems befitting that at the beginning of the next millennium, we're on the threshold of a quiet revolution. The spectacular technological inventions are about to completely metamorphose the way we do business.
Electronic commerce uses the web to bring together customers, vendors and suppliers in ways never before possible. The web enables your core business processes to improve customer service, reduce cycle time, get more results from limited resources and actually sell things. In short, it is using the web to sell goods, services and information to consumers.
The E-commerce technologies are designed to replace traditional paper-based workflow with faster, more efficient and reliable communications between computers. And it is on this technology that businesses are expected to piggyback on in the next millennium.
All you need is a computer, a browser, and internet access, and you can buy flowers, airline tickets, and even a car & lots. You are limited only by your imagination!
Speed and convenience are considered as the main reasons for the upsurge in E-commerce. Unfettered by boundaries of geography, language and other barriers, web sites can remain open all 24 hours a day. For both, those needing as well as those providing services, access are only a few clicks away. In turn, these opportunities give birth to more opportunities.
However fascinating the technology and its use is, it would do well to remind us that everyone on the global competitive stage has the same access to technology. It is again the human mind, which will determine how you will be able to harness this technology. Move entrepreneurs and give way to new entrepreneurs. And it is in this area that India Domain's expertise is so crucial.
TYPES OF E-COMMERCE:
A business organization can organize itself to conduct e-commerce with its trading partners, which are businesses and/or with its customers. The resulting modes of doing business are referred to as Business-to-Business (B2B), and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce. There is another category of e-commerce, referred to as consumer-to-consumer (C2C).
B2B: This is e-commerce between businesses. The exchange of products, services or information between businesses on the internet is B2B e-commerce. Since examples of B2B includes company websites, product supply and procurement exchanges, specialized or vertical industry portals, brokering sites, information sites, and banking and financial sites that provide information for its business customers and employees. For example, Seekandsource.com is a very large Indian cross-industry marketplace that is ideal for businesses buying and selling to a wide cross-section of industries. B2B needs to have inbuilt processes to integrate sellers' and buyers' systems for delivering maximum benefits to trading partners.
B2C: This is business-to-consumer e-commerce. It may be defined as many business selling its products or services to consumers over the internet for their own use. Amazon.com, the online book seller that launched its site in 1995 to sell books and other products directly to consumers, is a prime example of B2C e-commerce. In addition to online retailers, B2C has grown to include services such as online banking, travel services, online auctions, real estates, health services, insurance and other services. Retailers do not have to integrate with their customers' systems, though they need to track their preferences to keep their loyalty to their sites so as to ensure their repeat visits.
C2C: This is consumer-to-consumer e-commerce. A virtual marketplace on the internet in the form of a website enables sellers and buyers to meet and exchange goods, including used goods, at a negotiated price in C2C. Such a site is known as an auction site, and it started like a garage sale. The most famous site is eBay.com, which started the C2C revolution. Many similar companies in other countries have been acquired by eBay. For example, in India, the auction site Bazzze.com has recently been taken over by eBay.
ELEMENTS OF PAYMENTS IN E-COMMERCE
When a buyer procures goods or services electronically from a merchant, the method of payment is Electronic Payment Systems. Authentication, integrity, authorization and confidentiality are the basic security requirements that must continue to be met when payments are made electronically for such procurement.
1. PAYMENT GATEWAY: Payment gateways handle all the payments operations that are needed for operating multiple payment mechanisms including debit cards and smart cards in e-commerce sites. The servers on these sites have to be secured and duly certified by a certifying authority. Normally, there are two functions within payments gateway software. Theses are:
a. The authorization function which performs certification and issuance of digital identification to the entities that would be interacting with the payment gateway.
b. The settlement function which facilitates the carrying out of actual inter-banking transactions.
2. INTERNET BANKING: With the expansion of the internet, more and more banks and financial institutions are using the internet and the Web to offer an additional channel for their services as well as to improve communication with their customers. Convenient and safe 'anytime anywhere' banking can be carried out over the Internet.
3. PAYPAL: PayPal, an eBay company, has a unique payment model wherein can be sent to anyone who has an e-mail address. Customers of PayPal are allowed to move money electronically from their bank account to other PayPal account holders, unlike traditional banks wherein such transfer requires cheques. Account holders can send money to non-account holders by creating a virtual account attached to an e-mail address.
4. ELECTRONIC CASH: Electronic or digital cash (e-cash) facilitates the execution of cash payments for transactions on the Internet. Electronic cash refers to prepaid, stored value that can be used for electronic purchases in lieu of cash. It is easily exchangeable in an electronic format and is tamper-resistant.
5. ELECTRONIC CHEQUE: An electronic cheque is yet another mechanism for Internet payments. This facility is the Internet version of Financial EDI systems which have allowed these functions to be performed over VANs. The electronic cheque provides Internet websites the ability to perform various financial functions.
THE CUTTING EDGE OF BUSINESS
B2B comprise about 80-90 percent of all e-commerce by value. Businesses are transforming themselves into e-Businesses by incorporating e-commerce tools, re-engineering their business processes and integrating them with those of their partners. In this section, we will present three companies those are leading this transformation in different areas. Amazon is a pure-play dotcom company that rediscovered itself, after initial emphasis of sales through website only, in the physical world by incorporating a supply chain, warehousing, and customer relationship to become a profitable business. eBay is yet another pure-play dotcom company that pioneered C2C e-commerce and become a profitable company from the very beginning. Baazee is an Indian company emphasizes the e-business in a new era. It's the most likely Indian site where anyone can sell or buy almost everything.
INTRODUCTION: Amazon.com, a pure-play B2C dotcom website, opened as an online bookstore in July 1995. It mission was to use the Internet to transform book buying into the fastest, easiest, and most enjoyable shopping experience possible. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, argued that retail stores required lot of real estate in prime locations to sell products to customers, and that the cost of real estate was always going up. Technology, on the other hand, was always getting cheaper. He wanted to trade technology for real estate in his virtual bookstore. Thatswhy the largest physical bookstore stores fewer than 200,000 titles; Amazon offers more than 3 million.
PRODUCTS & SERVICES: Jeff Bezos' vision was to build the most customer-centric company and to establish a virtual shop wherein a customer could buy anything. Amazon did translate this vision into reality by launching a 'Your Store' service in 2001. Today, the biggest bookstore is rapidly becoming the biggest anything store. The Amazon.com main website offers millions of books, CDs, DVDs, free electronic greeting cards, online auctions, games, videos, toys, tools, electronics, home furnishings, apparel, kitchenware, computers, health and beauty goods, prescription drugs, gourmet foods, health and services including film processing. Expansion continues with Amazon moving into uncharted territories in its quest to become the world's biggest store.
The website offers an extensive catalogue of products, and a wide variety of others shopping services and partnership opportunities. The facilities it offers are as follows:
Search for books, music, videos.
Browse virtual aisles in hundreds of products categories.
Get personalized recommendations based on prior purchases.
Explore the world and additional items on Amazon's international sites.
Become an Amazon.com Associate and earn money by selling products on one's own site.
Amazon is pioneer in improving the shopping experience. Presently Amazon provides products on Books Movies, Music & Games, Digital Downloads, Computers & Office, Electronics, Home & Garden, Grocery, Health & Beauty, Toys, Kids & Baby, Apparel, Shoes & Jewelry, Sports & Outdoors, Tools, Auto and many more. Its innovations included one-click shopping, product review information, purchase circles, e-mail alerts, recommendations, wish list, etc.
GROWTH: As a result, Amazon is now the largest store on earth. And it is profitable. Amazon also expanded in parallel into international markets. Even in July 1995, it had customers from 45 countries. By the year 2000, 13.8 percent of its revenues came from over 150 countries. It opened distinct websites for its customers in Britain, Germany, France and Japan with content in local languages for customers.
According to Neilsen's Net Ratings, Amazon.com had 31 million unique visitors in the month of November 2001, as compared to 27 million for Yahoo! and million for eBay websites. It was ranked among the top fastest growing e-tailers. It posted its first quarterly profit of US$ 5.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2001-the total sales in the year were US$ 3.1 billion. With sales of US$ 1.46 billion in the third
quarter of 2004, it was expected to have total sales of US$ 6.9 in the year 2004, with an operating income of about US$ 8 billion, and the operating income to about US$ 600 million.
PAYMENT OPTIONS: Amazon accepts the following cards as payment for orders:
Visa (including the Amazon.com Visa Card)
Diner's Club (U.S. billing addresses only)
Visa or MasterCard check cards or ATM cards
Visa, MasterCard, or American Express gift cards
Amazon Credit Account
Debit, check, and gift cards issued by the companies above in addition to their standard credit cards can also be used.
In addition, Amazon lets Amazon Payments to use the same credit card on file with Amazon.com to pay for items that purchased from others. When anyone buy a used or collectible item at Amazon Marketplace or from an Amazon Merchant, can pay via Amazon Payments. But Amazon Payments does not support payment by check, money order, or PayPal.
eBay.com- Don't just shop. Win!
INTRODUCTION: eBay was launched in September 1995 by an entrepreneur, Pierre Omidyar who was looking for a way to create a fair and efficient market on the Internet in the form of an auction. It was launched as Auction Web, and rechristened eBay in September 1997.
PRODUCTS & SERVICES: Organizing data into categories and enabling users to select what they need, just like what Amazon offered in the case of books, was an important element of eBay's strategy.
The eBay website proclaims that "eBay is the worlds Online marketplace, enabled trade on a local, national and international basis. With a diverse and passionate community of individual and small business, eBay offers an online platform where millions of items are traded each day". eBay enables a visitor to the site to find, buy, and pay for an item by bidding as if he were participating in an auction. In order to find an item, a visitor can either enter the desired name, or browse through the categories of items provided under the first step 'Find'. Thirty two categories, from Antiques to Video Games are listed alphabetically much like alphabetic listings in the classifieds sections of newspapers. For example, when he clicks on the category of 'Books', a visitor is taken to a page with further classifications running into several hundreds with special attributes like hard cover or paperback, first or later editions, publication year, used or new, quality of book, textbook, children or teenage use, subject matter and so on. Users have access to lively discussions on booksellers; they can join the Book Readers Discussion Board. The online marketplace thus provides a unique shopping experience. It offered newspaper classified with added advantage of non-linear search. Prospective buyers were presented a platform to interact with sellers, bid for items they were interested in, close the auction deals, arrange person-to-person meetings for exchange of goods traded, and settle payments.
eBay turned out to be a direct competitor of newspapers. It enabled sellers to post attributes of items on sale, the expected price, and their choice of how potential buyers could contact them. Users can search specific categories, sub-categories or the entire eBay database of listings by using keywords to describe their areas of interest. Detailed descriptions and images of items offered for sale, payment and shipping terms are invariably included in the listings. eBay doesn't directly participate in the physical transaction nor in the payment. Seller can choose English or Dutch auctions lasting three, five, seven, or ten days. eBay charges sellers a listing fee and transaction fee.
eBay opened a feedback forum from the very beginning. Following a successful auction, buyers and sellers were encouraged to leave feedback for one another. Transaction related feedback could be left only by buyers and sellers. It helped establish a degree of 'virtual trust'.
Starting as a marketplace for collectors of low-priced items like Beanie Babies and PEZ dispensers, eBay expanded into mainstream product categories such as computers, consumer electronic, jewellery and sports equipments. eBay has special marketing and business developing activities to accelerate the development of the most active categories. Category Managers are designated for introducing category-specific bulletin boards and chat rooms, and for integrating category-specific content to a liaison role with eBay's IT stuff.
eBay launched its 'Go Local' initiative with its first regional auction site-eBay Los Angeles and therefore it had launched in largest metropolitan areas in US . It wanted to encourage the sale of items that were too bulky or expensive to ship, items that people preferred to inspect before purchasing, and items of local interest.
Accepted Payments Policy in eBay:
Sellers and Buyers meet through the eBay marketplace, and interact through it as also directly. They follow the auction or fixed formats facilitated by the website. Most items require small payments to be exchanged. Both Buyers and Sellers found it inconvenient to deal with money orders or cheques. eBay encourages following payment methods:
PayPal - PayPal is the fast, easy, and secure way to pay on eBay. When sellers list items with PayPal as a payment method, buyers can securely pay online with a credit card or checking account. PayPal also helps protection against fraud.
Merchant account credit card - Sellers can set up eBay Checkout to take credit card payments and require buyers to provide their credit card information. If the buyer is using a credit card, contact the card issuer and verify that the name on the card matches both the shipping information and contact information.
Other methods of payment include personal checks, cashiers checks, and money orders. These methods are traceable to a particular mailing address, but most sellers wait for the funds to clear before they ship the item to the buyer. The advantage of these methods is that there is no additional fee to the seller.
Escrow - For high-priced items, eBay recommends eBay's approved escrow services.
Cash - eBay does not recommend cash or cash wire transfers as a payment method. The lack of transaction protections and traceability represent major risks with little to no remedy for transaction problems.
INTRODUCTION: E-Choupal was launched in June 2000 by ITC ltd., a leading fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) cigarette major, while being renowned for its cigarette business, also has business interests in hotels, paperboards, paper and packaging; agri-exports and some other branded FMCG products. ITC's agri-business is one of India's largest exporters of agricultural products. With its innovative web-based E-Choupal initiative, ITC has sought to plough back a larger share of the products price in the market to the farmer in respect of its agri-business. The distribution process has been adapted to meet the needs and challenges of consumers at the bottom of the economic pyramid. E-Choupal has become the subject matter of a case study at Harvard Business School, and is expected to progressively create for ITC a huge rural distribution infrastructure, significantly enhancing the company's the company's market reach.
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: With E-Choupal, the farmers, who participate in this initiative, benefit from higher price returns. ITC operates at a lower cost, having re-engineered the supply chain-the intermediaries in the supply chain between the farmer and ITC, have retained their functions of aggregation, logistics and financing, but have been removed from the chain of information flow and market signals. The following five distinct services are offered to the farmers by E-Choupal:
Information in the local language on the weather, crop, prices, e-mail and news.
Knowledge on firming methods
Purchase of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and services
Sales of their produce
The Indian farmer is now linked to consumers in the local and global markets through E-Choupal. A farmer, who would earlier find out the price for his produce after he had incurred costs of transportation, thereby selling at whatever price he got, can now make a decision before leaving the village.
Meanwhile, ITC now buys more than 25 percent of its commodities through the E-Choupal. E-Choupal transactions worth $100 million were carried out in 2003.
E-Choupal kiosks are managed by sanchalaks, who are farmers themselves. The sanchalaks selected by ITC to run the service in the village are educated at least up to the school level. In many instances, the children of the sanchalaks too help out in the running of the Internet Kiosk. Information relating to the weather, market prices, farm practices and risk management, along with facilitation of sale of farm produce and procurement of firm inputs, is provided through these kiosks, all in the local language. E-choupal is now one of the pioneering initiatives for rural India. Its services are now offered to more than three million farmers in over 29,500 villages through around 5050 Internet kiosks across villages in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Utter Pradesh. E-Choupal is expanding into 30 new villages every day. The products covered include soyabean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses, and shrimp. The E-Choupal portals are based on Indian languages like Hindi, Kannada and Telugu.
The e-Choupal model shows that a large corporation can combine a social mission and an ambitious commercial venture; that it can play a major role in rationalizing markets and increasing the efficiency of an agricultural system, and do so in ways that benefit farmers and rural communities as well as company shareholders. ITC's example also shows the key role of information technology-in this case provided and maintained by a corporation, but used by local farmers-in helping to bring about transparency, to
increase access to information, and to catalyze rural transformation, while enabling efficiencies and low cost distribution that make the system profitable and sustainable. Critical factors in the apparent success of the venture are ITC's extensive knowledge of agriculture, the effort ITC has made to retain many aspects of the existing production system, including retaining the integral importance of local partners, the company's commitment to transparency, and the respect and fairness with which both farmers and local partners are treated.
In view of the positive response received from farmers in the four states where E-Choupal has been implemented, ITC now plans to extend E-Choupal to eleven other states in India in the next six years to cover 100,000 villages, and reach out to 10 million farmers. By 2010, the turnover of the E-Choupal is projected to reach over Rs.9000 crores.
The legal issues of e-commerce have generated tremendous interest among technologists, traders and legal experts. Many of the early e-commerce experiments, and even production systems went into operation without any legal interchange agreement between trading partners, or between networks and their customers.
Incorporation: Incorporation means that any company is a separate legal and financial entity. It even has its own social security number for tax purposes. Incorporating makes look more professional, and often helps with taxes. While incorporation protects in many regards, it does not protect from any criminal charges by the corporation.
Trademark: The trademark act, or "Lanham Act", 18 USC Sec. 1051 etc. is meant to ensure that consumers can correctly identify the sources of goods or services. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, which identifies and distinguishes the source of particular goods. A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.
Copyright: Copyright can be important when companies obtain content for their site, and in the protection of the site's content.
The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right:
to copy the work
to modify the work (create "derivative works")
to distribute the work
to perform the work publicly
to display the work publicly
Copyright arises upon the creation of a copyrightable works (typically substantial text, images, music, etc.).
The Future of E-Commerce:
Commerce what does the future hold for e-commerce? Many would say it is difficult to predict. The forces that determine the web's winners and losers are just taking shape and technological advances could add even more uncertainty. On the downside, some experts predict that it will be increasingly difficult for smaller companies to establish their presence. Public companies and additional brand name retailers have deep pockets and a name recognition that will make it difficult for smaller sites and mom-and-pop shops to attract customers, thereby forcing them to compete with the big boys. On the Net, it's one big neighborhood. On the upside, nearly all experts believe that overall e-commerce will increase exponentially in coming years. Business to business transactions will represent the largest revenue. Online retailing will also enjoy a drastic growth. Areas expected to go include financial services, travel, entertainment and groceries. And for those considering opening a virtual storefront, forthcoming technology and standards agreements will make it easier to create a site, to protect it against payment fraud, and to share information with suppliers and business partners.