According to the good people at PayPal e-commerce is "the buying and selling of products or services over electronic or e-systems". In other words, the Internet.
It's when someone visits your online store and buys, as opposed to hitting the high street. And the beauty of it is your online store is open all hours of every day. Make money whilst you sleep? You can with e-commerce.
Shoppers are increasingly going online to buy. This is partly due to the efficiency and speed of online shopping and more households being connected to the Internet, but consumers are also feeling more comfortable with paying online, as opposed to a cashier.
In June 2009, PayPal released research forecasting a boom in online shopping from £8.9 billion in 2009 to £21.3 billion in annual sales by the end of 2011. This means that by 2011 consumers will spend the equivalent of approximately £430 for every UK adult; more than doubling the current annual online spending.
Whatever you're selling …
There's no limit to the products and services you can sell online; whether your business is offering walking tours or precious gifts.
Pete Hawkins promotes and sells walking tours from his site navigationcourses.co.uk so the site can still be taking orders when he's out on the Peaks!
Natalie Hickey began making plaques as a hobby. Friends suggested she list her work on Ebay and when she sold over 300 items in the first five weeks, she knew she was on to something. Her business, Precious Parcels
continues to grow with sales now coming from Natalie's own online store.
"I could not have turned this hobby in to a business if it had not been for e-commerce," says Natalie. "I didn't have the funds to open a high street store and the reason I wanted to start a business is to be able to spend
more time at home with my little boy. Having an online shop has opened up my products to a massive market and has kept me happily working from home!"
Both Pete and Natalie (and millions more business owners) are benefiting from the ease of starting an online shop and accepting payments through PayPal and the reach it offers. In part 2 we'll look at how to plan your
Emma Jones is founder of Enterprise Nation and author of Spare Room Start Up - how to start a business from home.