While eCommerce is a way of business now, it is actually a relatively recent development. Today, we buy everything from clothing to automobiles on the Internet. The technology and processes that were put in place to facilitate this evolved over a period of several decades. The invention and growing popularity of the Internet made the idea of eCommerce possible, but it took years of advancements and the inventions of many people to make it a reality.
The original concept behind eCommerce did not involve everyday people buying and selling things over the Internet. It was originally developed as a way to facilitate business transactions. Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, was one of the forerunners of eCommerce today and was developed in the early 1970’s. Developed to allow business to electronically exchange things like purchase orders and invoices, EDI allowed the practice of ‘just in time’ delivery to flourish. Successfully practiced by industries like the auto industry in Detroit, EDI streamlined the ordering, shipping and payment process by removing the need for faxed transmissions or telephone calls.
Also developed in the early 1970’s was electronic Fund Transfers or EFT. These allowed payments to be processed online. This was a necessary step in the evolution of eCommerce, as we know it today. Again, originally intended to be used on a business-to-business playing field, EFT allowed eCommerce to develop into the gigantic economic player it has become.
Actual online shopping didn’t come into being until 1979. It was invented in Great Britain by Michael Aldrich. Jane Snowball, a resident of Gateshead, England has the honor of being the first person to make an online purchase….ever. These early transactions in the 80’s relied heavily on the Aldrich model and dial-up capabilities of the current Internet service. Large automotive companies like Peugeot, Ford, Nissan and General Motors used this system extensively, but it was slow and cumbersome.
Over the next few years, several more key inventions made the real boom of eCommerce possible. Data warehousing and mining were important to the process, but even more important was a little invention called the WorldWideWeb – an Internet browser. Invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, this system made the Internet accessible to the common man, not just the academician. In 1991, eCommerce became possible over the web, but didn’t truly gain popularity until many of the security issues and modem speeds significantly improved. Other features that followed include instant package tracking, access to product reviews and integrated customer service
Over the years, everything from make-up and diet pills to adult magazines and high definition televisions have been added to the Internet market and it continues to grow. Several large carry out restaurants, like Pizza Hut, have added on-line ordering to their process. eCommerce has grown so much that the sales figures for 2008 were somewhere in the area of $204 billion. Deep discounts, international payment systems, free delivery and more make shopping online one of the most popular and economical systems available.
Purchasers go online, more often than not, to purchase products and services as their first stop in the process; even if they eventually will go to a brick and mortar location to actually buy it or pick it up. It’s about control, efficiency and making the best informed decision possible. eCommerce is now main stream; it is more unusual for a site to not have a shopping cart for consumer durables and non-durables. Business to Business online transactions are the most common way to transact business now. The future for eCommerce is bright as more become comfortable with security and become excited through new innovations that will make choosing products online even easier by becoming less virtual. See our recent writing on Augmented Reality just to increase your awareness for what is in store.