Ecommerce or Not Ecommerce? That is the Question.

First of all, how are we spelling “ecommerce”?

There’s e-commerce, ecommerce, and eCommerce… But which is correct? As of now, there’s no clear consensus across the board. Because it is a relatively new word, though it is in the dictionary, organizations across the world tend to pick their own preferred spelling. So for the rest of this blog we’ll go with ‘ecommerce’.

“E-commerce is the activity of electronically buying or selling of products on online services or over the Internet.”

Wikipedia & Investopedia

“Commercial transactions conducted electronically on the internet.”

Oxford University Press

If asked “What is ecommerce?” most people would give an answer somewhere between those two definitions. Online shopping is a popular example of ecommerce (no surprise there with how common making purchases online has become), but the internet has inserted itself into our in-person shopping experience as well. 

Before ecommerce was even a notion, businesses would make carbon copies of customers’ credit cards which were then taken to the bank. Fast forward a few years, the process of credit card payments evolved to become electronic, done over the phone lines. Next our phones started to work over the internet (VOIP), and now, the technology to process in-store transactions is done utilizing the internet directly. 

Now for the head scratcher.

If the internet is used to process these in-person transactions, then by definition they are  technically ecommerce, right? This scenario, however common, isn’t acknowledged by the current definitions of ecommerce as most people wouldn’t count an in-store purchase as being ecommerce. In reality, the only transactions that aren’t ecommerce are when you pay for something in cash (even cheques are deposited electronically over the internet). 

At a certain point we stopped calling our touchscreen, web-enabled phones ‘smartphones’ and they simply became ‘phones’ again. Is ecommerce on the same trajectory and one day we’ll stop differentiating between commerce and ecommerce?

As we see it, either all transactions are quickly becoming ‘ecommerce’ or the definition needs to be updated.

What do you think?

Is ecommerce just regular commerce now, should we retire the word? Do we need new words to differentiate between in-person and not in-person transactions?