When you think about how prevalent eCommerce is today, it seems impossible that this new world of eCommerce has only existed or a few decades. Though buying items online became a common experience in the mid-90s, the actual framework for eCommerce websites goes all the way back to 1979.
The Roots of eCommerce
In 1979, the first system was put into place to enable ecommerce in the U.K. This beginning ushered in a number of advancements in this area in the early 80s. Even when the average shopper didn’t have a home computer and had never heard of an Internet, more and more companies were creating ways to accommodate their customers online.
In 1987, the first software was created specifically to allow people to sell items through online merchant accounts. This opened the door for businesses to start getting a bigger customer base through this new portal, and ecommerce began a quick ascent.
After the first Web browser was created in 1990, it was a quick leap to an online shopping system navigated by icons in 1992. As the world started to see that shopping online was really possible, more and more navigators were being developed, leading to more companies offering their products through ecommerce channels. By 1994, you could order a pizza online.
eCommerce Becomes a Household Norm
It may have been programmers and gamers who first got into the Internet, but by 1995, corporations and Web developers had their eyes on the average, everyday consumer. One of the biggest years in the history of ecommerce was 1995. That year, both U.S. and U.K. companies developed large and secure shopping services. In the U.K., customers could buy from Virgin, Tesco, Dixons Retail and other recognized companies without leaving their homes.
In the U.S., one of the largest, most iconic online retailers was born. Amazon.com started out as a media retailer, but it quickly branched out into every household device imaginable. This billion-dollar business was the first online company that many people bought from as they learned how convenient and reliable ecommerce was. That same year, eBay was developed, changing the way people looked at their own possessions and making just about anything available online.
The Dot Com Bust and Recovery
As companies and individuals started hearing how much business was available online, more and more people started putting their money into flashy websites. Some sites were run with little thought of cost or how to make money. Raising capital for sites that were run by people who spent lavishly and didn’t monetize their sites well became the norm. This led to the dot-com bust in 2000.
While the world of ecommerce seemed bleak for a while, it didn’t take long for it to recover. Businesses learned how to spend less, monetize their sites for the maximum incomes and how to advertise to the right demographics instead of paying for blanket advertisements that brought in few customers. Amazon started showing a profit in 2003 and ecommerce incomes have gone up across the board ever since. With US$197 billion spent online in 2011, these numbers are expected to continue to rise each year as commerce leaves main street and goes online.