ecommerce trends

20 Years of eCommerce: The History in a Timeline

Well what do you know… ecommerce has turned 20! Ecommerce has finally reached that glorious age of still being young and learning but old enough to have gained experience and wisdom. 20 Years ago the very first ecommerce sale went through, do you know what it was?

Let’s have a look at the timeline of ecommerce and find out…

eCommerce Timeline

eCommerce in 1994

In 1994 the very first online sale went through… the purchase of a Sting CD. This monumental event was made possible by Netscape, a company that introduced SSL encryption to make online purchases secure.

eCommerce in 1995

In 1995 a book by Paul Stanfield became the UK’s first ecommerce purchase. This book was purchased from the WH Smith web store which was part of the CompuServe’s UK Shopping Centre. This was defining moment for UK ecommerce and the start of a new generation of retail.

1995 just so happened to see the birth of the giant that is now Amazon. Jeff Bezos clearly spotted a gap in the market and therefore launched Amazon. Amazon first started off as an online book store and still to this day sells books but now also sells almost everything you can think of. Today Amazon has an annual revenue of $76bn.

Hold on a moment we haven’t yet finished with 1995. Another giant was born in this defining year… eBay! A computer programmer named Pierre Omidyar also spotted a gap in the market and founded what was once AuctionWeb. After selling the first item, a broken laser pointer, Pierre realised the potential of AuctionWeb and started working on the project full time. This project eventually became what we all now know as eBay.

Would you like to start selling online or improve your ecommerce store? Visit our ecommerce page to find out how we can help.

eCommerce in 1998

In 1998 a company called Confinity was founded by Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Luke Nosek, and Ken Howery. Doesn’t yet sound familiar? In 1999 Confinity launched an online money transfer service which is now known as PayPal. Confinity was acquired by X.com with the disproval of CEO Bill Harris who in 2000 left the company. It was X.com that named the money transfer service as PayPal. It was then bought by eBay for a whopping $1.5bn in 2002. I wonder if Harris looks back with regret on his decision to leave.

eCommerce in 2000

In 2000 the dot-com bubble peaked in March 2000 when the technology heavy NASDAQ Composite index peaked at 5,048.62. This figure was almost double the value of the year before. After this peak the dot-com bubble deflated at a rapid speed with many investors not making any profit. For example, Amazon.com’s stock went from $107 to just $7 per share!

eCommerce in 2002

In 2002 Google also spotted a gap in the market and started what is today known as Google Shopping. Back in 2002 Google Shopping was called Froogle (catchy right?) and was a price comparison search tool that would crawl all online products and display them in the “Shopping” tab. Froogle was a great way for smaller businesses to advertise their products for free. Unfortunately Google, the money making machine, decided to change Froogle to Google Shopping and base it on a pay-per-click model.

eCommerce in 2006

In 2006 Facebook signed a deal with Microsoft to provide and sell ads on their site so as to start making a profit. This was much to the pleasure of ecommerce businesses as they could now reach out to an audience who were mostly tech savvy and open to the idea of buying online. Facebook advertising has come a long way since 2006 with targeted ads, video ads and timeline ads.

eCommerce in 2007

In 2007 the popular ecommerce platform, Magento, first started development. The ecommerce content management system was created by Varien with the help of volunteers. eBay later bought 49% ownership of Magento and by 2011 owned 100% of it. According to the top 1 million Alexa rankings Magento remains the most popular ecommerce platform with a 26.1% foothold.

You can find out more about the future of Magento by reading our Magento Live UK 2014: What You Need to Know blog post.

eCommerce in 2014

In 2014 we saw the epic fail of security of eBay passwords. In May 2014 eBay revealed that during the months of February and March the Syrian Electronic Army had hacked all users’ passwords, usernames, telephone numbers, addresses, and payment details. This security issue resulted in eBay’s stock value crashing.

eCommerce in 2034

What will ecommerce see next or in the distant future? Personally I can see more “mCommerce” businesses, services, and platforms being founded and developed. Just think about how many people you see using their smartphone or tablet and how many of those people buy through it?

Saying that however, I would be a billionaire if I could correctly guess where the market will be 20 years from now. Will we see a dominant force such as Amazon.com but in mCommerce? What I do know and what has been proved in the past is that those that do spot a gap in the market will clearly be the leaders 20 years from now.

20 Years of eCommerce

Do you have a retail store? How has ecommerce affected your business? What do you predict will be the future of ecommerce? Let me know your thoughts by leaving your comments or by tweeting me @samanthalonguk.