Of all activities online, shopping is one of the most popular. That’s because it removes the complexities of the activity, allowing you to shop anywhere at any time. The history of buying and selling online, also known as ecommerce dates back 1991 when the internet was invented. Since then, thousands of businesses have found a home on the World Wide Web, allowing customers to make purchases of any product or service online.

The term ecommerce was however used to refer to commercial transactions electronically using technologies such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). These two technologies made it possible for business to exchange information and complete transactions electronically. EFT and EDI were first used in the 1970s.

The internet began to gain popularity as soon as it was launched. But it would take at least 4 years to develop the necessary protocols such as HTTP and DSL that would allow for rapid access and continuous connection to the internet. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that businesses in the United States and Western Europe began presenting their businesses online. It was also at this time that the term ecommerce began to refer to the process of buying and selling goods online.

Things changed with the collapse of dot com in 2000. Many previously established ecommerce companies collapsed and for a brief period people went back to the “brick and mortar” concept of business. Some of the companies that fell to ruin during this time include Albertsons and Safeway, two supermarket chains that allowed customers to purchase their groceries online.

But the ecommerce market is resilient and by 2001, there had been enough recovery to accommodate $700 billion in transactions in the largest form of ecommerce, Business to Business (B2B).  This trend continued to grow and by 2007, ecommerce sales accounted for more than 3.4% of total sales.

The Advantages of Ecommerce over Brick and Mortar

There are lots of reasons why ecommerce continues this upward trend. One of the biggest advantages it has over brick and mortar establishments is that customers can easily search through a large database of products and services. They can see the actual prices of the goods or services they want, save them as a wish list and even compare prices with a click of the mouse. When the customer is ready, they can then purchase the best priced product all from the comfort of their home. There has also been an astronomical rise in ecommerce agencies across the world that aim to help ecommerce companies succeed online.

On the other hand, the online vendors also enjoy distinct advantages. The web’s search engines make it relatively easy to be found by customers without the need to spend on expensive advertising campaigns. Small companies have the capability to reach a global audience and compete on a level playing field with larger companies.

Early Ecommerce Sites

The ecommerce playing field is today saturated by so many companies, selling different types of products. But it would be impossible to think of the history of ecommerce without talking about EBay and Amazon which were among the first companies to embrace electronic transactions. These two companies along with Dell, Staples, Office Depot and Hewlett Packard make up the most popular and most successful ecommerce companies in the world. Dell, for example, was launched as a static online page in 1994 and by 1997 had become the first company to record $1 million dollars in sales online. By 2007, the Fortune ranked Dell as the 34-th largest company in the Fortune 500 list.

Ecommerce is a relatively new business model that is continuing to grow. As it does, the benefits of easy customer acquisition continue to attract more business to the online market.