When the World Wide Web began to take off as a commercial marketplace, many of the first corporate Web sites were little more than static pages providing company information or product and service promotions. Because these sites essentially were electronic brochures, they sometimes were referred to as brochureware. By the early 2000s, e-commerce—and many supporting Internet-related technologies—had evolved beyond this early stage. Consumers and businesses were engaging in many forms of online transactions that happened immediately, in real-time. The speed at which information traveled across the Internet, along with its widespread availability and integration with other systems, caused significant improvements for both consumers and businesses.
One simple example of a real-time transaction is an online credit card purchase of an e-book. Unlike traditional mail orders involving paper checks, order forms, postal services, and parcel shippers, someone ordering an e-book receives the goods immediately in the form of a downloadable file after their order is placed, and the seller receives immediate payment. These kinds of credit card transactions are validated almost immediately after an online order has been placed to prevent fraud. A more involved example could extend to the many different areas of an organization that are affected by a transaction. If the above scenario involved an online order for a paper book that had to be shipped to the buyer, information about the order might be instantly sent to the seller's accounting system for billing; to its customer service department in the event of problems or questions; to the warehouse for packing and shipping; and to the marketing department for use in targeted promotions based on the kind of book purchased. Successful etailers integrate their many different systems so that this process happens seamlessly in real-time.
Real-time transactions also extend to the business-to-business arena where manufacturers and suppliers integrate their systems online. In this situation, a manufacturer's computer might automatically order supplies when inventory reaches a certain level, keeping its real-time production levels in line with those of the supplier. Real-time transactions also have implications for customer service. For example, when packages are sent from one party to another, the receiving party often wants to know the status of their delivery. In the early 2000s, parcel/express carriers allowed customers to track shipments via the Web in a number of different ways. By entering tracking numbers into a Web site, customers could receive instant e-mail replies as to the status and location of their package in transit. Companies also could check the location of goods being shipped to them by truck or rail, and in some cases could check the temperature of cars moving perishable goods.
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"Real Time." Ecommerce Webopedia, . May 29, 2001. Available from e-comm.webopedia.com.
SEE ALSO: Electronic Payment