On-line shopping is a form of electronic commerce which allows consumers to directly buy goods or services from a seller over the Internet using a web browser. Consumers find a product of interest by visiting the website of the retailer directly or by searching among alternative vendors using a shopping search engine, which displays the same product’s availability and pricing at different e-retailers. As of 2016, customers can shop on-line using a range of different computers and devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablet computers and smart phones.
An on-line shop evokes the physical analogy of buying products or services at a regular “bricks-and-mortar” retailer or shopping centre; the process is called business-to-consumer on-line shopping. When an on-line store is set up to enable businesses to buy from another businesses, the process is called business-to-business on-line shopping. A typical on-line store enables the customer to browse the firms range of products and services, view photos or images of the products, along with information about the product specifications, features and prices. On-line stores typically enable shoppers to use “search” features to find specific models, brands or items. On-line customers must have access to the Internet and a valid method of payment in order to complete a transaction, such as a credit card, an Interact-enabled debit card, or a service such as Pay Pal. For physical products, e.g., paperback books or clothes, the e-tailer ships the products to the customer, for digital products, such as digital audio files of songs or software, the e-tailer typically sends the file to the customer over the Internet. The largest of these on-line retailing corporations are Alibaba, Amazon.com, and eBay.
Alternative names for the activity are “e-tailing”, a shortened form of “electronic retail” or “e-shopping”, a shortened form of “electronic shopping”. An on-line store may also be called an e-web-store, e-shop, e-store, Internet shop, web-shop, web-store, on-line store, on-line store front and virtual store. Mobile commerce or m-commerce describes purchasing from an on-line retailer’s mobile device-optimized website or software application (“app”). These websites or apps are designed to enable customers to browse through a companies’ products and services on tablet computers and smart phones. On-line customers must have access to the Internet and a valid method of payment in order to complete a transaction. Generally, higher levels of education and personal income correspond to more favourable perceptions of shopping on-line. Increased exposure to technology also increases the probability of developing favourable attitudes towards new shopping channels. In a December 2011 study, Equation Research surveyed 1,500 on-line shoppers and found that 87% of tablet owners made on-line transactions with their tablet devices during the early Christmas shopping season.
Consumers find a product of interest by visiting the website of the retailer directly or by searching among alternative vendors using a shopping search engine. Once a particular product has been found on the website of the seller, most on-line retailers use shopping cart software to allow the consumer to accumulate multiple items and to adjust quantities, like filling a physical shopping cart or basket in a conventional store. A “checkout” process follows continuing the physical-store analogy in which payment and delivery information is collected, if necessary. Some stores allow consumers to sign up for a permanent on-line account so that some or all of this information only needs to be entered once. The consumer often receives an e-mail confirmation once the transaction is complete. Less sophisticated stores may rely on consumers to phone or e-mail their orders although full credit card numbers, expiry date, and Card Security Code, or bank account and routing number should not be accepted by e-mail, for reasons of security.