Online shopping is the process whereby consumers directly buy goods or services from a seller in real-time, without an intermediary service, over the Internet. If an intermediary service is present the process is called electronic commerce. An online shop, eshop, e-store, internet shop, webshop, webstore, online store, or virtual store evokes the physical analogy of buying products or services at a bricks-and-mortar retailer or in a shopping mall. The process is called Business-to-Consumer (B2C) online shopping. When a business buys from another business it is called Business-to-Business (B2B) online shopping. Both B2C and B2B online shopping are forms of e-commerce.
In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee created the first World Wide Web server and browser. It opened for commercial use in 1991. In 1994 other advances took place, such as online banking and the opening of an online pizza shop by Pizza Hut. During that same year, Netscape introduced SSL encryption of data transferred
online, which has become essential for secure online shopping. In 1995 Amazon expanded its online shopping, and in 1996 eBay appeared. More recently Overstock has also become one of the world’s largest and reliable online shopping stores.
The term ‘webshop’ has a number of meanings as a noun. An online retailer may be called a ‘webshop’. Web development, hosting and other web-related activities can be called ‘webshops.’ The word ‘webshop’ is also used as a verb – ‘I will webshop for that.’ Buying online grew because, over time, transportation costs went up and telecom costs went down and access to the Internet became commonplace. Online shopping offers a larger selection of goods and services and thus greater choice at optimal prices. The problems with online shopping are that you can not smell, touch, taste or try what you are buying.
Online shoppers commonly use credit card to make payments, however some systems enable users to create accounts and pay by alternative means, such as:
* Debit card
* Various types of electronic money
* Cash on delivery (C. O. D., offered by very few online stores)
* Wire transfer/delivery on payment
* Postal money order
* Reverse SMS billing to mobile phones
* Gift cards
* Direct debit in some countries
Some sites will not allow international credit cards and billing address and shipping address have to be in the same country in which site does its business. Other sites allow customers from anywhere to send gifts anywhere. The financial part of a transaction might be processed in real time (for example, letting the consumer know their credit card was declined before they log off), or might be done later as part of the fulfillment process.
Privacy of personal information is a significant issue for some consumers. Different legal jurisdictions have different laws concerning consumer privacy, and different levels of enforcement. Many consumers wish to avoid spam and telemarketing which could result from supplying contact information to an online merchant. In response, many merchants promise not to use consumer information for these purposes, or provide a mechanism to opt-out of such contacts.
Many websites keep track of consumers shopping habits in order to suggest items and other websites to view. Brick-and-mortar stores also collect consumer information. Some ask for address and phone number at checkout, though consumers may refuse to provide it.