The “e” stands for electronic and the commerce implies the selling of goods or services. The term is not a new one (Wikipedia claims online shopping was invented in 1979 by Michael Aldrich) and I think the evolution of the “how” of e-commerce can often times confuse the issue.
It could be argued that e-commerce is any website that facilitates the direct purchase of an item. So for example if you had a 5 page website with paypal buttons on 2 of the pages for your company’s various services, it could be argued that you have an e-commerce website, because visitors would be able to make an “electronic” purchase. However, I don’t think that we can think of that kind of website as e-commerce, any more than we can say a vending machine is a supermarket.
For our purposes, I’m going to treat e-commerce as I believe it should be defined these days. Simply put e-commerce is any website that has shopping cart functionality.
A shopping cart is something that allows website visitors to add multiple items to a “shopping cart” (or basket) before checking out. Just like you would do in a supermarket, except you would be online.