While today eCommerce seems as natural as tying your shoelaces, it wasn’t always the case. In actuality, the buying and selling of goods (or services) on the internet wasn’t a reality until recently. It took decades of development before anyone could just Amazon Prime a new pair of shoes to their house.
Nowadays, the term eCommerce encompasses a wide variety of services. These services include shopping, online payments, encryption, marketing, and all the tools to support these functions.
The journey to today’s billion-dollar eCommerce sector was a long one. In fact, the history of electronic commerce (eCommerce) goes back fifty years. It was in 1969 when Dr. John R. Goltz and Jeffrey Wilkins founded CompuServe.
Back in these days, the internet wasn’t public and went by the name the Arpanet. CompuServe built on this technology to bring the earliest forms of the internet to the public.
CompuServe provided universities with the earliest forms of email and internet connectivity. The firm laid the foundation of the eCommerce sector from the 1980s to the mid-1990s.
Decades Ahead of His Time
In 1979 an English inventor by the name of Michael Aldrich invented electronic shopping officially. Aldrich was way ahead of his time with his product which, in essence, was a transaction-processing computer connected to a modified TV via a telephone line. Who knew that one day this invention would lead to untold changes in global economics. Aldrich let the cat out of the bag. It wasn’t long before other developers wanted to get in on the action.
Boston Computer Exchange
In 1982, the Boston Computer Exchange became the world’s first eCommerce company. The platform was an online market for people interested in selling their used computers. Aside from the fact the Boston Computer Exchange brought the concept of eCommerce to North America, it also laid down the foundation for some of the most successful eCommerce platforms of all-time.
In 1995, Amazon entered the market. Jeff Bezos, today, the richest man in the world, introduced Amazon as an online bookstore. Users could find their favorite titles and order them to their doorstep.
That same year Pierre Omidyar introduced AuctionWeb. Today the platform is better known as eBay. eBay was revolutionary on so many levels. The platform made it easy for anyone to participate in eCommerce. Consequently, it took the mystery out of how to make money online.
PayPal Monopoly Begins
By 1998 it was obvious that some form of online payment system needed to exist to facilitate more growth in the market. Confinity was the brainchild of founders Max Levhin, Peter Thiel, Luke Nosek and Ken Howery. These developers understood the average person needed a safe and secure way to send and receive money online. Today Confinity is better known as PayPal.
An eCommerce Mammoth is Born
As the nineties wound down, the online sector ballooned into a billion-dollar industry. In 1999, Alibaba entered the market. What made this platform different was the sheer size of backing the developers had. Alibaba had $25 million in initial funding to develop its online marketplace which today is one of the most successful eCommerce platforms ever built.
Pay-Per-Click Enters the Market
In 2000 Google stepped into the eCommerce section with the introduction of Google AdWords. Google AdWords changed online marketing forever. For the first time, you had a search engine using its data to individually market to targeted users.
AdWords would show up in search results. Importantly, web developers could get in on the profit by placing AdWords on their website. This allowed content creators to make a living as infopreneurs. With AdWords came the now everyday pay-per-click (PPC) eCommerce strategy.
Prime Time Shine – eCommerce
Amazon stepped back into the spotlight in 2005 when it showcased its newest feature – Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime was revolutionary. It provided shoppers with free two-day shipping for a flat annual fee. Additionally, it discounted one-day shipping and gave access to services like Amazon Video.
Amazon Prime proved to be a huge success. It boosted customer loyalty, incentivize repeat purchases, and it catapulted Amazon to new heights within the market. Today, 50% of all online shopping starts at Amazon.
Google Wallet Makes Your Phone Your Bank
In 2011 the Google Wallet entered the market as a peer-to-peer payment system. At this time, the mobile revolution was in full swing. Internet use began to come mostly from handheld devices as opposed to traditional PCs.
Google Wallet allowed a user to connect their bank account or debit card directly to their phone. Once connected, users could utilize a host of different methods to buy products with just their phone. Eventually, Google Wallet joined with Android Pay for what is now known as Google Pay.
Facebook Enters the eCommerce Market
In 2011 the social media giant Facebook decided it wanted to get in on all the fun. The platform began to offer sponsored stories. These paid campaigns would run in your Livestream as if you were a friend. The concept was very effective because it allowed marketers to reach specific audiences using the social network.
eCommerce and the Future
Today, eCommerce stands on the steps of a new beginning. For the first time in history, alternative financial tools exist to conduct eCommerce without the need of any third parties. For example, a traditional online transaction must go through no less than thirty-six different third party verification systems before processing. Each of these systems add a small portion to the overall cost of business online.
Bitcoin & Cryptocurrencies
Now, thanks to the advent of blockchain technology, online shoppers can use cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to facilitate a seamless online peer-to-peer transaction. Many in the financial and tech sectors see cryptocurrencies as the natural evolution in the eCommerce story.
eCommerce Set to Expand
As it stands today, eCommerce is as normal as brushing your teeth. You can expect to see this trend continue to expand as natural resources such as gas become more expensive. Who knows, maybe one day all commerce will be eCommerce.