A Quick History of eCommerce

In this article, we’ll give you a rundown of everything e-commerce: from its history to some key stats and to current trends. Read on to learn more.

Ecommerce is most likely a term that you hear often, especially in a digital-oriented world such as our own. Ecommerce, also known as ‘electronic commerce’, is a business model that involves transactions that occur solely on the internet. 

Any store that sells their products online is considered an e-commerce store or business. Stores such as Amazon.com and iTunes.com are examples of e-commerce websites. 

Ecommerce is a larger, umbrella term that includes technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), Internet marketing, inventory management systems, supply chain management, and automated data collection systems.

In this article, we’ll give you a rundown of everything e-commerce: from its history to some key stats and to current trends. Read on to learn more. 

The beginning: the history of e-commerce

Ecommerce found its humble beginnings in 1979, founded by Michael Aldrich, who “connected a domestic television by telephone line to a real-time transaction processing computer and invented what he called teleshopping.“ Truthfully, this form of e-commerce is quite different from the one we know and use today, but his experiment planted the seed of what shopping without visiting a physical location could look like. 

From the mid-1990s and until the beginning of the 2000s, as computers became more ubiquitous and found its way into households, the idea of e-commerce gained more traction. In 1994, Amazon.com was founded by Jeff Bezos. An online bookstore that offered customers across the US over one million book titles, Amazon showed the world what e-commerce could look like. 


As Amazon flourished and more companies toyed with the concept of offering online purchasing, there was still a sticking point that needed to be solved: online payments. In the mid-90s, there were few online payment gateways to transfer funds from buyers to businesses, securely. 

Enter Paypal. Founded in late 1998, it solved the issue of online payments by providing a secure and simplified shopping experience for customers by accepting credit cards online. Now both companies and customers had the tools they needed to start selling online, safely. 

From that point, online sales began to skyrocket. When 2008 rolled around, e-commerce sales made up nearly 3.4% of all sales globally. By 2014, the number of online businesses across the world was at an estimated 12-24 million. With current trends and predictions, online commerce is set to grow exponentially in the coming years. Download our free infographic on the history of e-commerce here.

Ecommerce Statistics and Trends

  • Ecommerce was responsible for generating $3.5 trillion in sales in 2019 and is expected to hit a whopping $4.9 trillion by 2021, even in light of recent global events.

  • In just the United States, online sales represent over 10% of overall retail sales and it is estimated that this number will grow by nearly 15% each year!

  • Mobile is the future. The US alone had an estimated 162.8 million mobile shoppers in 2019. As a result, brands must ensure that their websites checkout processes are mobile-optimized to help ensure a frictionless experience. Learn more about how Shopistry can help you improve your mobile experience. 

  • Women tend to shop online more frequently than men. For every $10 spent online, women are spending $6 while men spend $4.

  • Millennials, aged 18-34, are considered to be the generation that does the most shopping online. They spend around $2000 online each year.

  • Multichannel shoppers spend 3 times more than single-channel shoppers. Meaning that brands should have a seamless shopping experience across many different platforms. By optimizing business across multiple channels, brands can offer customers greater choice and the ability to sell more to them on their terms. Learn more about multichannel shopping for online storefronts here.   

Different forms of Ecommerce Websites

  • Digital products e-commerce site: this category includes companies that sell digital products. From software and cloud-based apps to video games, these websites don’t require a physical store to sell their products since customers can easily download the product off of the site. Thanks to low overhead costs, those who are in this category usually boast high margins. 

  • Physical retailer e-commerce website: This category is typically made up of those who have a brick and mortar store and are looking to sell online to a larger audience. A smart way to increase sales and grow brand awareness without opening more physical locations.   

  • Service-based e-commerce website: Online services from freelancing to consulting are a growing e-commerce website type. These websites usually help facilitate a link between clients and freelancers. Similarly to digital product e-commerce sites, there are low overhead costs associated with this type of online retailer type.   

  • Dropshipping e-commerce website: Similarly but slightly different from the above-mentioned physical retailer e-commerce stores, dropshipping allows merchants to sell goods and services to customers without holding any inventory. Instead, merchants find a supplier that provides the goods and services, then they market to customers and garner brand awareness, and wait for the customers to buy and then have the supplier fulfill the orders on their behalf.  

Most Popular Ecommerce Sites

  • Amazon: Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, Amazon is currently ranked the 4th in the United States and holds the position for the 9th most popular website worldwide.

  • eBay: a household name, eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar and holds the 33rd position globally and number 9 in the US. 

  • Flipkart: Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart was founded in 2007 by Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal. It is ranked 147 globally and 9th in India and is primarily a competitor of Amazon’s Snapdeal. 

  • AliExpress: AliExpress was founded by Jack Ma. It’s currently ranked 40th in the world and 9th in Russia according to Alexa.

  • Tmall: Ranked globally at number 15 and a rank of 4 in China. Tmall was also founded by entrepreneur Jack Ma.

  • Taobao: Another global e-commerce company founded by Jack Ma, this site is ranked 5th in China, and globally ranked 11

What is an eCommerce Platform?

An e-commerce platform is a software solution which allows a brand or a business owner to manage their online business operations. Through building an online store, merchants can sell products or services to people worldwide and use global delivery services to help transport products to customers. 

Ecommerce platforms are the lifeblood of any online retail enterprise. A good e-commerce platform allows front-end and back-end to work efficiently in tandem. 

When done right, e-commerce platforms are in essence growth enablers, allowing high-growth brands to expand their ecommerce offerings and provide a unique and seamless customer experience.  

Some examples of e-commerce platforms include BigCommerce, Shopistry, Magento and Shopify.  

The Future of Ecommerce

All signs point to e-commerce growing exponentially in the coming years. In the United States, brick and mortar retailers currently generate $3.9 trillion in sales annually while e-commerce comes in a close second, generating $294 billion

As more people turn to online shopping for ease and due to global conditions, we foresee e-commerce sales growing, taking away market share from brick and mortar retailers. 

Here are the 12 e-commerce trends that we’re seeing driving online business in 2020.

  1. Mobile shopping continues to grow and dominate 
  2. Social and corporate responsibility: A prioritization of sustainability in products and initiatives.
  3. Increased volume in voice search 
  4. Chatbots continue to improve both the shopping experience and the support you give to your customers.
  5. Easier ways to pay 
  6. Seamless checkout experiences, reducing cart abandonment
  7. Online shopping becomes more real with augmented reality advances in e-commerce.
  8. Deeper customer insights with strong AI models 
  9. Highly individualized shopping experiences thanks to on-site personalization and big data.
  10. Increase in ways to provide customers with subscription opportunities, allowing them to keep coming back. 
  11. An increase in the number of progressive web applications used for online businesses. Providing customers with a great multichannel experience. 
  12. Increased innovation around headless and API-driven e-commerce allows continued innovation. 

While the future is bright for e-commerce brands, now is not the time to sit back and watch the cash pile in. Competition is growing, online noise is louder and advertising rates are higher than ever. Staying on top of trends and creating seamless customer buying experiences means all the difference for you and your brand. 

Contact Shopistry today to learn how we can help scale your business for the future.

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