E-commerce is defined as the buying and selling of products and services exclusively through electronic channels and without the use of paper documents. There are three main branches of electronic commerce; the most well-known form being online shopping, also known as business to consumer (B2C). Here individuals can order various products and most times also pay for their purchase via internet. Another category of e-commerce is business to business (B2B), where companies, such as manufacturers and a wholesalers or wholesalers and retailers exchange products and/or services. The third category of e-commerce involves transactions from consumer to consumer (C2C), as in the example of eBay, Etsy or other similar websites.
The North American e-commerce market has been developing constantly in the past decade, with B2C sales in the region accounting for 34.9 percent of global B2C e-commerce sales in 2013. However, the Asian market, especially China, is poised to become the global market leader, with B2C sales in the region expected to account for almost 38 percent of the worldwide B2C e-commerce market. In 2014, retail e-commerce sales in the United States amounted to over 305 billion US dollars and are projected to grow to 548 billion US dollars by 2019. Sales tend to especially spike up in the holiday season, with retail e-commerce sales having amounted to over 53 billion U.S. dollars during November and December 2014 in the United States. During Cyber Monday 2014, over 2 billion U.S. dollars were spent on online purchases.
Although customer satisfaction with e-retail, as measured in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), is relatively high, at 82 points on a 0 to 100 scale, online sales still represent only a small amount of purchases in the United States. On the other hand, recent studies show that the influence of the internet in shopping behavior is set to soar in the following years, where web-influenced offline sales are projected to amount to almost 1.8 billion in 2017, while non-web-influenced offline sales will start losing ground. The number of digital shoppers in the United States is also constantly growing, from 172 million in 2010 to an estimated 196 million in 2014. Approximately 73 percent of internet users in the United States, representing more than 60 percent of the entire population, had purchased products online, according to a recent survey. Furthermore, more than 61 percent of those who used the internet to perform such transactions are using a mobile device, whether a smartphone, tablet computer or other connected devices, a number which is expected to grow up to almost 80 percent of all online sales by 2018.
By far the most successful e-retailer in the United States is the web-only B2C platform Amazon.com, which in 2014 reported sales of almost 80 billion U.S. dollars in the United States alone. Amazon is followed by Apple and Walmart, which also have offline distribution points. Other successful web-only companies are Netflix, Etsy and Amway. According to a recent statistic, in 2014, the top 500 e-retailers generated 296.52 billion U.S. dollars in online shopping sales, representing a 15.74 percent growth compared to the previous year.
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