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In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of conventional shopping and online
shopping?

Do you, or your family, ever shop on the Internet? If so, what items do you buy and where do you buy
them?

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Read Text 1, then answer the following questions.

How do online transactions mirror physical transactions?

What makes e-commerce more complex than it actually seems?

In what ways have Amazon and eBay contributed to changing the way people use the Internet?

Which fundamental characteristics of e-commerce are embodied in these two shopping sites?

What is payPal?

How important has it proved for the expansion of e-commerce?

Why have major retailers moved parts of their operations online?

What is e-commerce being influenced by now?

The We1 is the world's 1iggest shop window

160

ommerciaI transactions
are
one of the most fundamental uses of the Internet and can
seem like one of the simplest.
Some
of the major
activities often associated with ecommerce are B2B (Business
to Business), the commerce
transactions
between businesses, and B2C (Business to
Consumer), the transactions
conducted between a business and a consumer.
Services are bought and sold
on a similar basis to physical
transactions.
And with retail
goods, much as in many shops
or catalogues, items are selected,
paid far, and then delivery is
arranged either by post, in the case
of physical goods, or via download.
Behind
e-commerce,
however,
lies a networl< of operations of
immense complexity, above alI
when it comes to processing
hnancial
transactions
and
ensuring data security.
Although
Amazon
and eBay,
both launched in 1995, weren't
the very hrst online shopping
sites, they were the hrst to have
a profound market impact and
to begin accustoming the world
to the idea that items could be
bought as welI as merely viewed
online.
Between them, the sites also

embody the two care types


business that the Internet
exce]s at delivering:
selling a
greater range of new goods than
can be htted into any physical
stare, and offering
a bigger
consolidated
marketplace
lor
second-hand
auctions and resales than anr. physical location.
The overwhelming
success of
these companies is also a telling
indicator of
dominance
01
e-commerce by larBe brands.
eBay was launched online in the
same year as mazon, but it's
best acquisition carne in 2002,
when it became the sole owner of
the e-commerce business PayPaI,
a company alIowing people to

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u,

purchase goods and services


online and mal<e and receive
payments and transfers of money
online via an account with PayPal
itself rather than a business banl<
account or credit cardo Services
lil<e PayPal have proved a centraI
part
of the Browing
online
economy
far 10th
customers
and businesses. Far many online
businesses,
in fact, processing
credit card transactions securely
across a spectrum of different
national banbng systems is one
of the most expensive aspects of
their entire business.
PayPal
accounts
also
alIow
small businesses and individuals
to mal<e and receive payments
securejy when they wDuld often
be ineligible or unable to set
up a payment system through
conventional
banking.
The
service operates todar in' aver
190 markets, as wel as via a
text-message-based
system on
mobile phones, making steady
headway
in
being
accepted
alongsicte credit card payments as
a truly mainstream way of paying
far goods and services.
In parallel to these two giant
booming
Internet-based.
1usinesses,
almost
every
major
retailer in the world now has a
substantial online presence, with
an increasing sophistication
of

goods and services available.


Supermarkets
have expanded
heavily into online shopping
and home deliveries, while many
bricks-and- mortar 1 stores, in
particular those selling media such
as books, CDs and DVDs, have
found their business shrinking or
have been compelled to adapt to
more of a "destination" experience
to differentiate physical shopping
from online shopping, not to be

left behind. ccompanying this,


too, has been a steady increase
in the sophistication of delivery
and 10dristicsservices - sornething
exemp ified by mazon, whose
strategically located distribution
centres can each be larger than ten
football pitchesl
Like everything else online,
the new stage of e-commerce
is being inHuenced by social
media. Leading multinationals

have begun to experiment with


selling brands directly through
Facebook,
with
the
sales
platform powered by mazon,
nd the online culture of
recommendations and reviews,
which mazon and others did so
much to fuel, is becoming more
and more sophisticated.
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bricks-and-mortar: a traditional store

that does not operate on the Internet

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f~:~~~'CA~GlI~~
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B2B Busine~s to Business da azienda a azienda

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B2C Business to Consumer da azienda a consumatore

e-com merce commercio elettronico

auction asta

Speaking
Work in pairs. You would like to buy a hifi system online but are worried about doing things
wrong. You phone a friend of yours, who is very good at picking up bargains on the Net, and ask for
advice. Act out your conversation following the hints given. Then exchange roles.
(

YOU

YOUR FRIEND

Greet
Answer greetings
Say the reason for calling
Offer help
Say you have visited some sites and found
one with good offers.
You do not know if you can trust it
Suggest sticking with well-known websites.
Add you usually shop on Amazon.
Say that site had better offers than Amazon
Suggest checking out user reviews
Say you did. Say there were many positive reviews
Ask about means of order
Answer you can either order by phone or fili in
a formo Ask about payment
-

Answer you always pay by credit card as transactions are


usually covered by the supplier's insurance scheme
Say you are worried about using your credit card
as your data might be stolen
Suggest making sure that the website address starts with
https:// instead of http://
Ask about the difference between them
Explain that https:// means the page is encrypted.
Add it is much safer than handing a credit card to someone
in a shop or restaurant
Ask whether there are other things to take into account
Suggest making sure the site does not have complicated
long winded replacement or refund procedures

or

Say you are stili undecided

Encourage your friend to buy online. List the advantages

161

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How

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01

ebay' sells everything

What's going on behind the scenes when someone shops


online with eBay?
They are automatically routed to one of the four eBay
data centres, which eBay operates to ensure that the
site will always be up and running. I
.Two centres are
located in Santa Clara (California), one is in Sacramento
(California), and one is in DenverI(Colorado).
The data centres mirror one another; no matter which
one a buyer connects to, he gets the....same information,
auctions.: and functions. The centres are connected via
a high-speed SONET (Syn<!:hron9us Optical Network)
fbre-optic network.
.,
In generai, items on eBay are sold in two basic ways: as
fxed price items or auction items.
Fixed price items are easy to identify because they have a
"Buy It Now" button with a pricelisted next to it.

L
Auction items have a "Piace Bid" button next to a box
for entering bids and show a current bid' price. Auction
items are open to bids for a predetermined amount of
time.
If a buyer logs on to fnd a bargain,the system assignshim
to one ofthe web servers atthe data centre. L....
When
the buyer types in a the name of an item (i.e. a HDTV
plasma display) in the eBay search box, the request is
shunted" to separate search servers, which send the
request to a cluster of 50 database servers running an
Oracle database on top of Sun SPARC hardware. 4 ...
database is organised in the form of 27,000 unique
categories, the largest category in sales being eBay
Motors.
The search results show ali the plasma displays on
auction. If the buyer bids on one of them, eBay's auction
software compares his bid to any others. L. .eBay
software continually updates the highest bid according to

It:i

a preset incrementai amount as the auction progresses.


For example, if he tells eBay that he is willing to pay at
most $100 to win the auction, eBay will keep bidding on
the auction for him until it hits that $100 ceiling. If the
maximum bid then exceeds his own $100, he is outbid
(and eBay will send him an email to this effect in case he
is not watching the auction). At this point, if the bidder
stili wants to buy the HDTV plasma display he'll have to
increase that $1 00 amount in order to stay in the bi~Biflg.
The most important moments of an auction are usually
the last few minutes. As closing time approaches, many
bidders will increase their maximum bid at the last
possible moment in an effort to win the auction.The last
IO seconds of a bidding war often becomes a batti e of
bandwidth.6 ...
Flags in the database signal when the auction ends.The
database sends ali the information about the winning
bid to the application server, which in turn sends the
information to the web server so it can be posted for ali
to see. It also automatically creates emails to the winning
and losing bidders and the seller.
When someone bids on an eBay auction, they are
entering into a legai agr,eement with the seller. L
When the transitions are complete, the buyer and the
seller are tasked with the all-important duty of rating the
transition experience. These ratings are rucial to eBay
because they help to assure its users that they are not
dealing with swndlers" or deadbeats'.

bid: make a price offer in an auction


shunted: moved to another pIace
3 swindler: someone who cheats
deadbeat: someone who tries to avoid paying the money they ~
1

0.0

Seven sentences have been removed from Text 2. Read the text, then choose from the
sentences (A-H) the one which best fits into each gap. There is one extra sentence
that you do not need to use.

People using high speed connection

Registration

If they win the auction, they are obliged to purchase the item from the seller.

'1i:m
Reading
Part 2

can piace a winning bid in two seconds.

is required to buy or sell on eBay.

If one data centre breaks down, three others are stili available.

A buyer can buy them by simply clicking that button instead of bidding on them, for a price that's typically

This database is in essence what eBay really is - it contains ali the details of every single auction on eBay.

Each bidder sets the maximum

Inside each data centre the eBay database is hosted on a number of web servers, so when he visits the

higher than the auction start price.

website he is connecting
1621

Speaking

price they're willing to pay for the item.

to one of those servers.

Work in pairs. Take turns to explain how an eBay auction works.