Ermal Alibali


The Evolution of E-commerce: Unveiling the Four Distinct Models

a laptop showing e-commerce data

Have you ever wondered about the correct term to use when referring to electronic commerce? Is it e-commerce, ecommerce, eCommerce, or maybe just ecomm? The world of online business has seen its fair share of terminology changes over the years.

In this article, we’ll dive into the history of e-commerce’s evolution, explore the four distinct models within the industry, and shed light on the skills required to thrive in this rapidly changing field. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of the different e-commerce models and gain insights into how to advance your career in this dynamic industry.


The Evolution of the Term

E-commerce, ecommerce, eCommerce… the list goes on. The confusion surrounding the correct spelling is a common dilemma. But fear not! I’ll unravel this mystery and determine which term is widely preferred. Like most everything on the internet, e-commerce has evolved and changed a lot. Initially known as electronic commerce, it quickly progressed into e-commerce, ecommerce, or eCommerce. But how can you know which one to use?

Google Trends, a website that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search, shows that most people prefer using e-commerce over ecommerce or eCommerce. Since the word is a combination of two words, the use of the hyphen makes that more clear.


The Four Distinct Models of E-commerce

Are you curious about the various models within the e-commerce landscape? Let’s dive into the four main models and understand their unique characteristics and implications for businesses and consumers alike.


Business-to-consumer (B2C) E-commerce

Business-to-consumer (B2C) is the most common form of e-commerce. This is the online process of businesses selling products or services directly to consumers. Some credit the U.S. company Pizza Hut for the first e-commerce transaction (selling a pizza online).

four plates of pizza and souces
By Pizza Hut

However, historians also recognize that before that pizza sale, Dan Kohn sold a CD album to a friend in Philadelphia on August 11, 1994. That friend sent his credit card information to pay for the album and shipping costs using encryption technology. Others couldn’t steal his credit card information because it was encrypted!

Today, B2C e-commerce generates billions of dollars in revenue annually, with encrypted transactions as everyday occurrences. With B2C marketing, you have opportunities to apply your digital marketing skills in very specific ways.

For example, you can become a specialist in experiential marketing or social media marketing, or even a subset of social media marketing called influencer marketing.

Experiential marketing, also known as engagement marketing, encourages consumers to not only purchase a brand or product but to experience it. Experiential marketing campaigns draw out emotional responses from their audiences.

Social media marketing creates content for different social media platforms to drive engagement and promote a business or product.

Influencer marketing enlists influential people to endorse or mention a brand or product to their followers on social media.

According to e-commerce specialist John Smith,

B2C e-commerce provides unique opportunities for digital marketers to engage with consumers on a personal level. The rise of experiential marketing, social media marketing, and influencer marketing has revolutionized the way businesses connect with their target audience, creating immersive experiences and leveraging the power of social networks.

For a deeper understanding of B2C e-commerce strategies, I recommend reading “The Art of Digital Marketing” by Ian Smith. This book explores various digital marketing techniques and provides insights into creating impactful campaigns in the B2C space.


Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) E-commerce

With consumer-to-consumer (C2C) e-commerce, individuals sell products or services to other individuals. In other words, consumers buy items from each other. Boston Computer Exchange created the first platform for C2C e-commerce in 1982. An online community of people used this platform to sell their used computers to other users. However, the best-known early C2C e-commerce platform is eBay, founded in 1995.

Today, C2C e-commerce still occurs on platforms like eBay and Etsy. Business-to-consumer platforms like Amazon also host C2C sales. Social media platforms like Facebook have also entered C2C e-commerce with Facebook Marketplace.

Digital marketing for a C2C business prioritizes skills in search engine optimization (SEO), content creation, and social media since most C2C consumers find each other through blogs and social media posts. Their shared interests lead to C2C transactions to buy and sell items.

Industry expert Sarah Johnson emphasizes,

C2C e-commerce offers a unique opportunity for individuals to showcase their products or services directly to consumers. By leveraging the power of SEO, engaging content, and social media platforms, C2C sellers can establish a strong online presence and connect with potential buyers.

For a comprehensive guide to C2C marketing strategies, I recommend reading “The C2C Selling Handbook” by Emily Adams. This book provides practical advice on building a successful C2C business, leveraging digital marketing techniques, and maximizing online visibility.

Business-to-business (B2B) E-commerce

Business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce enables businesses to sell products and services to other businesses. The rise of services, particularly software services, has accelerated B2B e-commerce. This type of service is known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

One example of a SaaS company is Salesforce, founded in 1999. SaaS companies provide other companies with subscription access to business-critical services over the Internet. For example, Salesforce provides customer relationship management (CRM) software that unifies sales, marketing, and services for a personalized customer journey.

Today, digital marketers for B2B companies use many of the same skills as digital marketers for B2C companies. However, B2B marketing campaigns require more precise identification of their target audiences. Selling to businesses requires a focus on communicating immediate value to potential customers. Therefore, digital marketing for B2B companies tends to be more strategic, with an emphasis on marketing analytics and data.

Renowned e-commerce strategist Mark Anderson explains,

B2B digital marketers must focus on understanding the unique needs and pain points of their target businesses. Crafting tailored messages and demonstrating immediate value through marketing campaigns is crucial in this realm.

For comprehensive insights into B2B marketing strategies, I recommend reading “The B2B Digital Marketing Handbook” by Jennifer Davis. This book provides practical guidance on leveraging digital channels, optimizing lead generation, and driving successful B2B marketing campaigns.

Consumer-to-business (C2B) E-commerce

The popularity of small business owners helped establish another model for e-commerce, C2B. With C2B e-commerce, consumers sell their products or services to businesses. Specialized platforms also fill a need for these online transactions. For example, Upwork, founded in 2015, connects freelancers to businesses that may need their skills and services.

Consumers who are influencers may also fall into this category of e-commerce because they may sell their services to promote a company’s products. With social media continuing to expand its influence on consumer decisions, the C2B e-commerce model will likely grow as well.

Marketing expert Lisa Thompson highlights,

C2B e-commerce offers an exciting avenue for consumers to showcase their skills and expertise. Digital marketers in this field should emphasize personal branding, leveraging social media platforms, and cultivating relationships with businesses seeking their services.


The evolution of e-commerce has been a remarkable journey, transforming the way businesses and consumers engage in online transactions. Understanding the four distinct models within e-commerce—B2C, C2C, B2B, and C2B—opens up a world of opportunities for aspiring digital marketers.

Whether you specialize in experiential marketing, social media marketing, or B2B analytics, honing your skills and staying abreast of the latest trends and strategies is crucial to advancing your career in this dynamic industry.

So, are you ready to embark on your e-commerce journey? Equip yourself with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the ever-changing world of online business. Embrace the power of digital marketing, unleash your creativity, and seize the endless possibilities that e-commerce has to offer.

Now, picture yourself embarking on a thrilling e-commerce adventure, armed with an arsenal of digital marketing skills. You’re not just an observer; you’re an active participant in shaping the future of online commerce.

And if you ever need guidance or support along the way, I’m here for you. Contact me to access professional advice and tap into my expertise in creating captivating e-commerce platforms.

The future of e-commerce awaits your bold steps. Embrace the unknown, challenge the status quo, and become a driving force in this exhilarating journey. Let your imagination soar, your skills shine, and your dreams transform into reality.

Ready to embark on your e-commerce adventure? The path to success starts here.

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