There is a wide array of definitions used to describe business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) E-commerce, the two forms that are relevant to operations management. Business-to-consumer is the exchange of services, information and/ or products from a business to a consumer, as opposed to business-to-business which is between one business and another. Some studies have used a fairly strict definition that requires that business is done electronically without any human involvement. In the narrow definition of e-commerce, it would require that firms have extensive websites linked to ERP, SCM, and/or CRM systems.
Other definitions used by the European Commission and the United Nations have been fairly broad, stating that B2B and B2C e-commerce are any commercial transaction done between two businesses or between businesses and consumers using some form of electronic technology. This includes the sharing of various forms of business information by any electronic means (such as electronic mail or messaging, World Wide Web technology, electronic bulletin boards, smart cards, electronic funds transfers, and electronic data interchange) among suppliers, customers, governmental agencies, and other businesses in order to conduct and execute transactions in business, administrative, and consumer activities.
Early electronic commerce was the preserve of large companies because the systems required large investments to build or lease mainframes, with complex, purpose-specific software, proprietary networks and massive systems integration. Today, however, users of all kinds need only a PC and a phone line to take advantage of the growing number of public and private networks that use standard protocols such as TCP/IP. E-commerce is not limited to the Internet and Web-based systems to perform transactions, because it includes proprietary services also. This “scalability” and “choice” has put small businesses on an equal footing with large corporations and created opportunities for buyers, sellers, and new intermediaries to create value in electronic channels. It offers enormous opportunities for both developed and modernizing countries alike.