Ebusiness vs. Ecommerce

Understanding the Difference: Ebusiness vs. Ecommerce

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Some people use the terms "ebusiness" and "ecommerce" interchangeably. After all, they both involve business processes conducted electronically -- quite likely on the Internet. Others view ecommerce to be a subset of ebusiness.

Ecommerce Is Narrower

If we regard ecommerce as different from ebusiness, then the only valid view we can adopt is that ecommerce is a narrower discipline. Ebusiness accounts for all business processes conducted online, while ecommerce is restricted to buying and selling.

Of course, this narrower definition flies in the face of many of the articles I have written in the past, such as the advantages and disadvantages of ecommerce. In most such articles several of the characteristics I attribute to ecommerce are actually broader than merely buying and selling.

What Is Ebusiness?

So that we do not end up splitting hair, it is best to understand ebusiness with the help of examples:

  • Email marketing to existing customers and prospects is an ebusiness activity, as it electronically conducts a business process -- in this case marketing.
  • An online system that tracks inventory and triggers alerts at specific levels is also ebusiness. Inventory management is a business process. When facilitated electronically, it becomes part of ebusiness.
  • A content management system that manages the work flow between content-developer, editor, manager, and publisher is another example of ebusiness. In the absence of an electronic work flow, the physical movement of paper files would conduct this process. By electronically enabling it, we are now in the realm of ebusiness.
  • An online induction program for new employees automates part of the whole of its offline counterpart.

I guess you get the idea. As long as something is a business process conducted on electronic networks, it is fair to call it an ebusiness process.

Is Ebusiness a Business That Is Conducted Online?

Some authors have taken the view that an ebusiness is not about business processes being conducted electronically.

Instead, an ebusiness is a special type of business -- one that exists online. So if you are an advisory firm helping people choose the right furniture, then you are a business. But if you run a website where people can compare furniture options, then you are an ebusiness.

This view of an ebusiness is significantly more limited in its scope. And in this avatar, it starts getting synonymous with ecommerce.

Will the Real Ebusiness Please Stand Up?

What exactly is ebusiness? This is not a question that bothers me too much, as it is simply a matter of semantics. My jargon is not necessarily superior to your jargon.

But deliberating over the ebusiness vs. ecommerce dilemma is not a complete waste of time. Unless I understand the intended meaning of the speaker, I am likely to misinterpret. Imagine the confusion that would be caused by a piece of legislation that talks about ebusiness, but does not adequately describe it!

What Is Ecommerce? 

Compared to the murky definitions of ebusiness, ecommerce is clearer. In its basic form, it involves placing orders online and making payments online. Especially in the B2C (business to consumer) type of ecommerce, we have a website that sells goods on one end, and a buyer of those goods on the other.

Is Business to Business Ecommerce the Same as Ebusiness?

I have not seen this issue being addressed elsewhere, but I think that it is at the heart of the ebusiness vs. ecommerce dilemma.

If you read about business to business (B2B) ecommerce, you will invariably come across references to sharing data, supply chain management, logistics management and other core business processes that are not directly related to buying and selling. So which is it then: B2B ecommerce or ebusiness?

In my analysis, people who can clearly differentiate between ebusiness and ecommerce are only thinking about B2C ecommerce. And those who find ecommerce and ebusiness to be synonyms are thinking about all forms of ecommerce, including B2B ecommerce.