The history of online shopping

The history of online shopping
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eCommerce sales for 2021 are expected to exceed $4.9trillion USD!

The ability to go online and purchase what we want or need within a minutes is something that the world has become strangely acustom to, and is certainly something that over time will become even more integrated.

Check out these important steps taken to drive the e-commerce world we know today, the ability for instant access has been a long time in the making…

The History of Online Shopping Infographic

1979 – It all began when Michael Aldrich ‘invented’ online shopping.  Using videotex, a two way message service, it revolutionised businesses. We now know this as e-commerce.

1981 – Saw the first business to business transaction by UK based Thomson holidays.

1982 – Mintel, a videotex online service accessible by telephone lines, could be used to make online purchases, train reservations, check stock prices, chat and search a telephone directory. It is considered the most successful pre WWW online service.

1984 – The first ever shopper buys online at a Tesco store.

1985 – Nissan carries out the first online credit check.

1987SWREG was founded. This offered businesses a chance to sell products online.  As it is today, SWREG offers many payment options, as well as customization and distribution into international markets. Users can purchase items with their currency of preference using all major debit and credit cards.

1989 – In the USA the first online grocery store starts trading.

1990Tim Berners-Lee created the first WWW server and browser.  This started a whole new revolution. Nearly 25 years on, he is today still working hard at guiding the development and spread of the web, using the mantra ‘If it isn’t on the web then it isn’t happening’.

1991 – The internet is commercialised and we saw the birth of e-commerce.

1994 – Netscape launches the first commercial browser, which was once the dominant browser in terms of ‘visitors.’  It lost out in the first browser war.

1995 – Amazon started selling books online; currently it sells almost anything. Companies like Dell and Cisco started using the internet for all their transactions. eBay is founded by Pierre Omidyar, though it was originally called Auctionweb.

1997 – Began the era of comparison sites.

1998Paypal is founded. This enabled transactions of money without sharing financial information and gave customers the flexibility to pay using their PayPal account balances, bank accounts, PayPal Credit and other credit cards.  Today, people can now pay across their favorite apps in a single touch (one touch) on any platform, eliminating the need for usernames and passwords each time you pay.

1999 – the first online-only shop began, ‘Zappos’ although it was later bought by Amazon for $1.2 bn.

2001 – Amazon launches mobile services.

2003US online shopping hits $50 billion, in the same year Amazon posted their first yearly profit of $35.3m.

2005 – Social commerce emerges.  Consumers begin to recommend items to friends via Facebook and Twitter

2007 – A Pew Internet research study found that 81% of the Americans they surveyed had searched online for a product they intended to buy, with 15% doing so almost every single day. 66% of online users said they had actually bought something online.

2008 – Increase in growth of online shopping by 17% from the last year in the US, with ecommerce sales figures around $204 billion.  In the same year Groupon is launched as is Magneto – so anyone could have a go at creating their own online store.

2013 – UK shoppers spent a whopping £91bn online.

2014 – In 2014, 198 million U.S. consumers bought something online in the first quarter alone,(comScore) which is 78% of the U.S. population age 15 and above.

2015 – Today’s shoppers combine online shopping with real life shopping, using access to WiFi and the showrooming trend. They often make purchases in a retail stores at the same time as using mobile devices to buy something online.  In fact, this Forbes report tells us that 74 per cent of people use their mobile phone to help them while shopping, with 79 per cent making a purchase as a result.

2016 – Social media shopping arrives. Facebook Marketplace is launched in October to compete with industry leaders such as Etsy and eBay

2017 – Instagram shopping is introduced with help from their e-commerce partner BigCommerce.

2020 – The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a global lift-off for e-commerce as stores were forced to shut. By May 2020, e-commerce sales had exceeded $80bn displaying a 77% rise YoY.

It’s estimated that global eCommerce sales will reach $6.4trillion USD by 2024

Extended Commentary: A Brief History of Online Shopping and its Future Prospects

Online shopping has a rich history woven into the fabric of the Internet era. It’s a journey that changed how we buy and sell which shaped of modern commerce.

Milestones in the History of E-commerce: The Birth of Online Shopping

E-commerce’s inception dates back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. The concept of conducting transactions electronically was poised for growth. It was a time when ideas were brewing, waiting for the right technological advancements to turn them into reality.

Tracing Back to the First Online Retailer

The title of the first online retailer is often attributed to English inventor Michael Aldrich. In 1979, he started using videotex. This innovation was the precursor to what we know as online shopping today.

The Role of the World Wide Web in E-commerce

The commercialization of the World Wide Web in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee was foundational for e-commerce. It provided a universal and accessible platform for businesses to showcase and sell their products, paving the way for online marketplaces.

Notable Technological Advancements in E-commerce: SSL and Encryption

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and encryption technology, introduced in the mid-90s, were crucial in gaining consumer trust. They safeguarded personal and financial information, a vital step in convincing users that online transactions were safe.

Michael Aldrich: The Pioneer of Online Shopping

Michael Aldrich’s vision and innovation laid the groundwork for what e-commerce has become today. His early work demonstrated the feasibility and potential of selling goods electronically, setting the stage for the e-commerce giants that followed.

The Evolution of Online Marketplace: From Amazon and eBay to Shopify

The landscape of online shopping underwent a dramatic transformation with the emergence of platforms like Amazon and eBay. These platforms change how we shop and redefined the very nature of the marketplace.

Reinvention of Online Shopping with Amazon and eBay

Amazon, founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, began as an online bookstore and quickly expanded into a diverse range of products. eBay, launched in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar, introduced a new model: online auctions. Both platforms brought unique elements to online shopping – convenience and variety from Amazon, and the thrill of bidding and finding rare items on eBay.

Transition from Physical Store to Online Storefront

This era marked a significant shift from brick-and-mortar stores to digital storefronts. Traditional businesses recognized the need to establish an online presence. The transition wasn’t just about moving products online; it involved rethinking marketing, customer service, and logistics in the context of the digital world.

Shopify: A New Era of Online Shop

Shopify launched in 2006, Shopify made it possible for anyone to set up an online store with ease. It democratized e-commerce, offering user-friendly tools to create, manage, and scale online shops without the need for complex coding or technical expertise.

The Role of Online Auction in E-commerce Evolution

Online auction sites, particularly eBay, played a pivotal role in e-commerce evolution. They introduced a new dynamic where price determination became interactive and engaging, adding an element of excitement to the shopping experience.

Shopping Mall vs Online Marketplace: Consumer’s Preference

The debate between shopping malls and online marketplaces boils down to consumer preference. While malls offer a tactile, social experience, online marketplaces provide convenience, variety, and often better pricing. The modern consumer often leverages both, seeking the benefits unique to each shopping mode.

Revolutionizing the Shopping Experience with Smartphones

The advent of smartphones has significantly altered the landscape of online shopping, offering unparalleled convenience and a more personalized shopping experience.

Influence of Mobile Devices on Online Shopping Space

Smartphones have become ubiquitous, fundamentally changing how consumers interact with online stores. The portability of mobile devices means that shopping can happen anywhere, anytime, removing the constraints of physical location and desktop computers.

Making Online Purchases with Smartphones

The ease of making purchases via smartphones cannot be overstated. With just a few taps, consumers can browse products, read reviews, compare prices, and make purchases. This convenience has led to a surge in mobile commerce, making it a crucial component of the e-commerce ecosystem.

Transition from Web Browsers to Mobile Apps for Shopping

There’s been a noticeable shift from using web browsers to dedicated mobile apps for shopping. These apps offer a more streamlined, personalized shopping experience. They often feature user-friendly interfaces, faster loading times, and features like push notifications that keep consumers engaged.

The Advent of Secure Online Transactions: Apple Pay

Apple Pay, introduced in 2014, revolutionized online transactions by offering a secure, efficient payment method. It simplified the checkout process, allowing users to pay with their smartphones using biometric authentication. This level of security and convenience has set a new standard in online transactions.

Shopping Cart to Shopping App: Transforming the Shopper’s Journey

The transformation from a traditional shopping cart to a mobile shopping app represents a significant shift in consumer behavior. These apps not only facilitate purchases but also offer personalized recommendations, loyalty rewards, and enhanced customer support, enriching the overall shopping experience.

The Influence of Amazon Prime on E-commerce Growth

Amazon Prime has been a significant catalyst in the evolution of e-commerce. Its introduction has not only transformed consumer expectations but also reshaped the online retail landscape.

Amazon Prime revolutionized online shopping by offering an array of customer perks. Key among these are free two-day shipping, access to streaming media, and exclusive deals. These benefits created a sense of exclusivity and value, encouraging more frequent purchases.

Amazon Prime significantly boosted e-commerce sales. Prime members tend to spend more than non-Prime members, drawn by the convenience and value-added services. This increase in consumer spending has had a ripple effect across the entire e-commerce sector.

The Role of Subscription Services in the Success of Online Retail

Subscription services have played a vital role in online retail success. They foster customer loyalty and create a steady revenue stream for businesses. This model has been adopted by various online retailers to enhance customer engagement and repeat business.

Impact of Amazon Prime on Retail Sales

Amazon Prime’s impact on retail sales extends beyond just increased revenue. It has set new standards for delivery speed and customer service, compelling other retailers to upgrade their offerings to stay competitive. This competition has overall improved the quality and efficiency of online retail services.

Amazon Prime’s comprehensive approach to customer satisfaction – prioritizing speed, convenience, and value has redefined what consumers expect from online shopping, setting a high benchmark for all e-commerce platforms.

The Future of Online Shopping: How E-commerce Will Evolve

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to play a transformative role in e-commerce. AI can personalize shopping experiences by analyzing consumer behavior and preferences, offering tailored product recommendations, and optimizing search results. It also enhances customer service with chatbots that provide instant, round-the-clock support.

How Virtual Reality can Revolutionize the Online Shopping Experience

Virtual reality (VR) promises to revolutionize online shopping by offering immersive experiences. Imagine trying on clothes or previewing furniture in your home before making a purchase. VR can bridge the gap between online and physical shopping, providing a ‘try before you buy’ experience from the comfort of your home.

Evolving Payment Methods in E-commerce: Beyond Apple Pay

Payment methods in e-commerce are evolving rapidly. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology offer secure, decentralized payment options. Biometric payment methods, like facial recognition or fingerprint scanning, are set to add another layer of convenience and security.

Potential Impact of Quantum Computing on E-commerce Growth

Quantum computing could have a profound impact on e-commerce. With its ability to process vast amounts of data at unprecedented speeds, it can offer more sophisticated AI, enhanced personalization, and even more efficient supply chain management, potentially revolutionizing how online businesses operate.

Future of E-commerce: From Online Store to Online Shopping Space

The future of e-commerce is moving towards creating an ‘online shopping space’ – a more integrated, immersive, and interactive experience. This includes the convergence of various technologies like AI, VR, and augmented reality (AR) to create a seamless and engaging shopping environment.

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