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Virtual commerce, or v-commerce, is a type of application, service, or product feature that helps enterprises implement strategies and design Web sites for e-commerce (the buying and selling of goods and services using the Internet). The term "virtual commerce" is sometimes used as a synonym for e-commerce itself.
Virtual commerce in business
Virtual commerce can help organizations transcend physical barriers that brick and mortar operations would usually face. Virtual retailers such as co-shopping sites, on-line auctions, Internet retailers, and e-commerce portals have the potential to reach the world market, while having the ability to customize their services using flexible payment systems and CRM databases for one-to-one marketing. Virtual commerce has been pictured as part of a new paradigm for doing business. Many companies are starting to explore commercial possibilities and trying to engage virtual consumers. For example, Starwood Hotels was an early arrival, prototyping a new real-world hotel on the site, while technology companies like IBM are quietly eyeing virtual communities as the building block for next-generation operating systems. Retailers such as American Apparel are attempting to gain value from both ends of the spectrum by mixing and matching virtual and real-world sales.
Virtual commerce provides users with a different experience due to the fact that they are not physically present at a store. Creating a web-presence is considered cheap for firms and can allow them to further establish themselves in the physical market or completely replace their physical presence with a virtual one. Virtual commerce can be challenging to businesses that are already established in the real world and need to communicate their brand image or message on a different format. Online brand strength faced skepticism at first but it soon became apparent that users resorted to brands due to the large penetration of different products online. Virtual commerce is oriented around strategy and progress rather than profit since it is considered new territory where firms are trying to establish themselves online. It allows businesses to create products that cater to the demands of customers with help from the increased communication and data collection methods that are available online. Successful v-commerce models have the potential of gaining a competitive advantage and increased exposure. Some businesses choose not to participate in virtual commerce because an online presence does not support the product or service they provide, along with geographic or demographic reasons. Other businesses create an online store that provides a similar experience to that of the physical one, displaying the same products and giving customers a sense of comfort because they can still resort to the physical store for returns or complaints. Businesses that have a physical presence may use v-commerce as a way to experiment or display different products that they would not usually display in-store. This could be because the Internet provides greater geographic and demographic exposure where people with different tastes and incomes shop.
Virtual commerce provides a number of advantages over physical businesses:
- Greater market exposure.
- Lower hiring and renting costs.
- Higher degree of automation, faster transactions.
- Product prices can be easily changed to match the market price. Quick and hassle-free.
- Customer specific advertisements can be displayed based on their saved purchase history.
- Product suggestions and links according to customer tastes.
- Product information is available for viewing by individual customers, educating them about the product’s features and decreasing returned purchases.
- 24/7 service
- Successful v-commerce models could potentially gain a competitive advantage over physical businesses.
- Newly formed businesses have a chance to flourish without a physical presence and the associated costs.
Virtual commerce also provides a number of disadvantages over physical businesses:
- Customers may prefer a more personalized shopping experience 
- A lack of trust for courier services used to deliver purchases.
- Shipping charge is considered an added cost.
Virtual commerce in education
There are many different scenarios in which virtual commerce can play a vital role. For one, traditional learning, usually campus-based, can be augmented by technology, and can allow people to learn at any time, any place. This can be instrumental in providing a customized learning environment that can cater to the needs of every individual. V-commerce looks to be a key component in the 21st century learning environment. However, many institutions of higher learning have yet to develop the knowledge and competency in virtual commerce. The reason is that for many leaders of institutions of higher learning, the focus is still on basic infrastructure and applications, and they currently do not recognize the value or importance of virtual commerce.
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