Online Shopping versus E-commerce: What’s the difference?

If you’re thinking: “there isn’t one”, you’re both right and not so right. While online shopping definitely falls under the larger umbrella term ‘e-commerce’; there are actually a total of 6 different kinds of business e-commerce types, a few of which may constitute the kind of transactions you’re thinking of when you think ‘online shopping’.

Herewith follows a quick rundown of the 6 basic types of e-commerce:

  1. Business to Business E-Commerce

Business to Business e-commerce is basically online shopping for corporations, and it encompasses all electronic transactions (whether the deliverables are goods or services). Business to Business e-commerce usually takes place between a wholesaler and their supplier, for example.

  1. Business to Consumer E-Commerce

This is the type of e-commerce most closely related to traditional ‘online shopping’. This is the type of e-commerce which encompasses all transactions between businesses and consumers in which the consumer purchases a finished product from the business. Business to Consumer e-commerce represents the virtual version of standard retail transactions, such as would take place in a mall.

  1. Consumer to Consumer E-Commerce

Consumer to Consumer e-commerce is exactly what it sounds like; people (consumers) selling their goods to other consumers via online platforms like, for example, EBay or Gumtree (though some of these third-party platforms are used by businesses as well in a business to consumer e-commerce model).

  1. Consumer to Business E-Commerce

An inversion of the traditional flow of production/sales, the consumer to business e-commerce model typically sees groups of people who provide services advertising and then selling their services to larger companies. This kind of e-commerce also traditionally takes place on third-party platforms, for example those on which freelancers can advertise and companies can visit when they have need of, for example, a graphic designer or another service provider they don’t have in-house.

  1. Business to Administration E-Commerce

This sector of e-commerce encompasses all the online dealings and transactions between the corporate sector (companies) and the public administration sector. The types of services offered under the umbrella of business to administration e-commerce are incredibly varied. Services could be financial in nature, deal with employment, legal documents or the like.

  1. Consumer to Administration E-Commerce

Another inversion of the typical flow of production/sales, consumer to administration e-commerce can be thought of in similar terms to consumer to business e-commerce in that, in consumer to administration e-commerce, the ‘consumer’ is also selling their goods or services to the administrative sector. Examples of consumer to administration e-commerce may include: teachers offering distance learning services, or a tax return filing service.

*Condensed form of the original article Types of E-Commerce as it appeared on Bloom Idea, October 2014