Unpacking E-commerce

Business Models, Trends and Policies

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As digital transformation has accelerated, the e-commerce landscape has become increasingly dynamic. New players have emerged at the same time that established actors have taken on new roles; some barriers to e-commerce at the firm, individual and country levels have been overcome, while other barriers have emerged. Innovative business models have transformed buyer-seller relationships and pushed out the frontier of what is possible to buy and sell online. This report analyses new and emerging e-commerce business models, examines e-commerce trends along a range of dimensions, and offers new insights on the policies needed to exploit the opportunities and mitigate the challenges of unlocking the potential of e-commerce for all.




E-commerce has been high on the agenda of policy makers since the mid-1990s. In 1998, the OECD and the Government of Canada jointly organised a Ministerial Conference on Electronic Commerce in Ottawa, calling together leaders from national governments, heads of major international organisations, industry leaders, and representatives of consumer, labour and social interest groups, to discuss the development of global e-commerce. Participants unanimously recognised that e-commerce offered a radically new way of conducting commercial transactions and could become a global driver of growth and economic development. They also recognised that business would have to play a key role in developing and implementing solutions essential for the development of e-commerce.


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