unit 16: e-commerce technologies

Unit 16:  e-Commerce Technologies

Unit code:

QCF Level 4:

Credit value:


BTEC Higher National



The aim of this unit is to give learners an understanding of the functionality and technology that underpin e-Commerce solutions.

Unit abstract

E-Commerce has become one of the biggest growth areas in recent years. Almost everybody has engaged with buying and selling over the internet. This includes individual consumers purchasing or trading online, through to retailers that have extended their business provision to include a website and online presence, reaching out to a global market.

This unit begins by exploring a commercial transactional website, beginning with the front-end services and investigating how this links to back-office processes such as data management systems. The technologies involved in running an e-Commerce solution are explored including web architecture, hardware and software requirements and communication technology features which ensure the smooth running of the site..

Security forms a major part of any e-Commerce solution and this unit explores the various methods of securing the site, data and online payments as customers purchase goods from the site. Finally, learners will design an e-Commerce solution for a small to medium e-Commerce organisation.

On completion of this unit learners will have an understanding and appreciation of e-Commerce technologies, and how they support the infrastructure of e-Commerce activities and trading.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit a learner will:

1     Understand the functionality of commercial transactional websites

2     Understand the technologies involved in setting up commercial websites

3     Know how to address e-Commerce security issues

4     Be able to design e-Commerce technology solutions.

Unit content

1     Understand the functionality of commercial transactional websites

Purpose of site: purposes eg how it is structured, the goods and/or services offered, product information provided, types of transactions that can be made and how easy it is to do so, methods used to capture customer information (both overt and covert), customer authentication, techniques used to engage, retain and entice customers, usability and accessibility

Services: benefits eg access to a world wide customer base, low set-up and running costs, extension of product range to include internet-specific goods and services, 24 x 7 presence, faster response times, real-time sales information, customer expectation.

Data: processes eg capture and process data, present and exchange information, conduct transactions, market goods and services, distribute goods, manage customer relations, optimise just-in-time purchasing of stock and components; transactional database eg products and prices, stock levels, customers, orders.

Back office processes: activities eg maintenance of the virtual shopping basket, identification and authentication routines, real-time tracking of customers’ actions, payment processing, stock control, despatch and delivery; chain of events leading up to an online purchase; chain of events that an online purchase triggers

2     Understand the technologies involved in setting up commercial websites

Web architecture: components eg Server-side scripting, client/server/script interaction, operation of server-side web applications, accessing data on the web server, dynamic web pages, consistent navigational menu on all pages, browser cookies, embedding animation and video content in web pages, adding interactivity with plug-ins

Technology: hardware and software eg web servers, browsers, server software, web authoring tools, database system, shopping cart software, scripting software, browser and platform compatibility

Networking technology eg TCP/IP addresses, ports and protocols; domain names, multiple registration of domains (.com as well as .co.uk); setting up the server directory structure, deploying access configuration/security

Database: uses and processes eg database-driven web pages, opening a connection to a database, storing data captured from forms, performing dynamic queries on the database, generating a web page response displaying the results of a query

Data transmission: features eg download speeds, transfer rates, bandwidth required for given applications including text, graphics, video, speech

Communication technology: uses eg email support, forum; search engine optimisation; additional hardware and software components required to support communications

3     Know how to address e-Commerce security issues

Protection from security threats: methods eg risk assessment, physical security, user identification and access rights, firewalls, virus protection, managing software updates, restricting HTTP methods, securing communication with SSL/TLS, enabling HTTPS on the web server, protecting the exchange of credentials, Secure Electronic Transactions (SET), detecting unauthorised modification of content, configuring permissions correctly, scanning for file-system changes

Certification: procedures eg obtaining and installing server certificates, certificate chains/hierarchies, validation; security eg public- and private-key cryptography, verifying message integrity with message digests, digital signatures and digital certificates

Customer information: handling eg how it is protected, how accurate it is, what it is being used for, who has access to it, potential threats such as identity theft and fraud.

Legislation: with respect to organisations and individuals exchanging information and conducting transactions online eg data protection, civil rights, distance selling

4     Be able to design e-Commerce technology solutions

Solution: design for a small to medium e-Commerce organisation

Hosting: choice of Internet Service Provider (ISP); in house or sub-contracted

Hardware and software: requirements based on eg projected hits on site, bandwidth requirements

Structure: customer interface eg ease of use, display of products, personal details entry, credit card entry, other types of payment, delivery details; image; style

Promotion: marketing: eg advertising the site, placing in search engines; message board; chat rooms

Finance: costs eg hardware and software, setup, maintenance, security, leasing, advertising; delivery strategy; staff training

Security: fraud protection; threats eg hackers, viruses

Database: processes eg schema design, query processing, file systems, ensuring integrity, availability, successful transactions, recovery and authentication; multimedia databases

Connectivity: linking via a web server/internet with databases eg ODBC (Object Database Connectivity), JDBC (Java Database Connectivity (DBC)), SQL, Microsoft ASP (Active Server Page

Learning outcomes and assessment criteria

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit a learner will:

Assessment criteria for pass

The learner can:


Understand the functionality of commercial transactional websites

1.1 evaluate the effectiveness of a commercial transactional website suggesting areas for improvement

1.2 show diagrammatically the chain of events and the flow of information that are triggered by an online purchase


Understand the technologies involved in setting up commercial websites

2.1 analyse a commercial transactional website detailing the technologies implemented by the site

2.2 explain how to evaluate web server performance


Know how to address
e-Commerce security issues

3.1 discuss how the security of data exchanged through an e-Commerce service can be managed

3.2 describe current legislation related to online purchasing and protection of customer data


Be able to design e-Commerce technology solutions

4.1 design an e-Commerce technology solution for a small to medium e-Commerce organisation

4.2 discuss the differences between an in-house hosted solution against a sub-contracted hosted solution.


Links to National Occupational Standards, other BTEC units, other BTEC qualifications and other relevant units and qualifications

The learning outcomes associated with this unit are closely linked with:

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

Unit 3: Information Systems

Unit 1: Business Skills for e-Commerce

Unit 29: e-Commerce Strategy

Unit 8: e-Commerce

Unit 30: Information Systems in Organisations

Unit 33: Exploring Business Activity

Unit 34: Business Resources

This unit has links to the Level 4 and Level 5 National Occupational Standards for IT and Telecoms Professionals, particularly the areas of competence of:

•     IT/Technology Infrastructure Design and Planning.

Essential requirements

Learners must have access to a range of e-Commerce sites and organisations that engages with e-Commerce at all levels. Learners should also keep up to date with current research developments in the field regarding technologies and security.



Hassler V Security Fundamentals for E-commerce (Artech House, 2000) ISBN 1580531083

Khosrow-Pour M E-commerce Security: Advice from Experts (IT Solutions) (IGI Publishing, 2004) ISBN-10: 1591402417

Reynolds J The Complete E-Commerce Book: Design, Build & Maintain a Successful Web-based Business: Design, Build and Maintain a Successful Web-based Business (CMP, 2004)
ISBN-10: 1578203120

Rich J Design and Launch an e-Commerce Business in a Week (Entrepreneur Magazine's Click Starts) (Entrepreneur Press, 2008) ISBN-10: 1599181835





Employer engagement and vocational contexts

To further enrich the content of this unit and to provide more of a vocational context it would be beneficial to bring in guest speakers from a range of organisations. Speakers can discuss their

e-Commerce system(s) in terms of the infrastructure, technologies and security aspects.