E-commerce is the purchase and sale of products or services via electronic channels such as the internet. Everything including electronic trading, starting from development to completion of transactions, refers to e-commerce. That means, even a simple email inquiry regarding a contact information counts to e-commerce as ordering an article in an online shop. Due to this kind of digital commerce a great variety of possibilities opens up for suppliers and consumers concerning information, communication and transaction.
E-commerce in Europe is an essential revenue generator for companies and constitutes a high-growth market. Nearly all growth in retail comes from e-commerce. ‘The European e-commerce turnover managed to increase 1,3 % to € 455,3 billion in 2015’ (European B2C E-Commerce Report 2016).
The multitude of advantages cannot be brushed aside. The possibility for the trader to stay in contact 24/7 with his customers, global reachability, equal opportunities for smaller companies, time and cost savings, global direct marketing and so on – just to name a few examples. Also, customers benefit from the advantages of e-commerce, such as relaxed shopping from home 24/7, independent of regular opening hours, direct and immediate price comparisons, international shopping.
But for both, trader and consumer, e-commerce also involves certain disadvantages. Security and fraud are challenging problems, also anonymity and intimacy might imply some discomfort. The absence of human contact is another loss as well as not to have the chance to actually touch, see or try out products.
Despite the significant difficulties, the digital sector is booming. According to the European E-Commerce Report, the full potential of European e-commerce market has not been reached yet. 57% of European Internet users shop online, but only 16% of SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) sell online and less than half of those sell online across the border (European B2C E-Commerce Report of 2016). There are still main barriers for traders if they want to offer their goods across the border within the European Union. For example logistics, taxation issues or legal regulations, all of which differ considerably among the various Member States of the EU.
E-commerce changes rapidly. This provides an incredible number of opportunities. The wide online market is open for every innovative, creative individual or company. There is a need of keeping track of trends and new regulations to not miss opportunities in the fast changing online trading business. And if a breakdown of barriers to cross-border e-commerce will be achieved in the next future, even greater, newer dimensions of e-commerce will open up.