Skip to content
Online Shopping: Key Events in the History of E-Commerce

Online Shopping: Key Events in the History of E-Commerce

E-commerce platforms have gradually settled into our daily lives over the past few decades. Online powerhouses like Amazon and Alibaba are now renowned for their fantastic discounts and flexible payment methods. E-commerce has clearly had a fascinating history.

Before 2005, there was no such thing as Cyber Monday, but these days it is considered to be the internet equivalent of Black Friday. Given the continued development of the e-commerce sector, it is not surprising that comparable marketing tactics aimed at online consumers are widely used today.

Sales increased by 15.5% in the third quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year, bringing the total to $115 billion. While brick-and-mortar stores had a 3.1% increase in retail sales, internet stores saw a 4.3% increase in total sales. (It's crucial to remember that e-commerce includes services like online bill payments.)

And so, as e-commerce continues to be a rising platform from small businesses to large companies, it's best to understand the key events in its history to acknowledge its contribution to the world further, and how it may revolutionize the overall pace of the business industry as a whole.

But First, What Is E-Commerce?

The exchange of products and services through the Internet is known as e-commerce, which includes a wide array of information, programs, and resources for online buyers and sellers, such as mobile shopping and encryption for online payments.

The majority of businesses with an online presence use an online store and/or platform to manage logistics and fulfillment, undertake e-commerce marketing and sales operations, and more.

In 2022, worldwide retail e-commerce sales will reach $5 trillion for the first time, making up more than a quarter of all retail sales. And despite slowing growth, overall spending will surpass $7 trillion by 2025.

Why E-Commerce is Most Preferred Today

E-commerce is now the most popular method of conducting business due to its quick and simple access. In contrast to conventional stores, buyers may quickly browse through a huge product database without having to leave their homes.

Customers who shop online have a ton of information at their disposal, including selections, prices that are competitive, and reviews from previous customers, which gives them almost everything they need to decide what to buy. If they choose, they can even buy the item right now.

Putting a company's goods online has further advantages. E-commerce may help both big and small businesses gain more exposure by accessing even global audiences via the internet and search engines.

In comparison to conventional paid advertising efforts, marketing and customer support via websites, social media, and blogs are less expensive and more innovative options. Delivering targeted messaging and tracking customer preferences have become simpler thanks to analytics.

A Brief Timeline of E-Commerce Key Events

1960s: The Early Days

The creation of the Electronic Data Interchange [1] can be credited to the beginning of e-commerce in the 1960s. Because it enabled data interchange by digital transfer, free of the requirement for human intervention, it was intended to displace mail and fax.

Trading partners may send orders, invoices, and other data in a format that complied with the Accredited Standards Committee X12 of the American National Standards Institute, the region's set of standards. A Value-Added Network conducts additional analysis before sending the data to the recipient's order processing system.

Some people assert that the first known instance of an internet transaction occurred in 1972. Stanford students used an Arpanet account to sell marijuana to MIT students. Arpanet, also known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, was a packet-switching network that used the TCP/IP protocol suite and is considered to be the predecessor of the Internet.

1970s to 1980s: Humble Beginnings of Online Shopping

Soon after, in 1979, the idea of online shopping was said to have been created by an English innovator Michael Aldrich [2], when he had the idea to use television to transport their groceries after returning home from running errands at the store with his wife.

Aldrich created teleshopping or shopping from a distance when he used a telephone line to connect a TV to a transaction processing computer. A year later, this teleshopping system was promoted as a business-to-business system, despite the lack of any proof that it was ever used for consumer retail.

Finally, a hypertext project called World Wide Web [3] was created in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau. The original web server and browser were both written by Lee using the NeXT machine. The web made its debut as a freely accessible service on the Internet in 1991. He later created the URL, HTML, and HTTP by fusing hypertext and the Internet.

1990s: Gradual Rise of E-Commerce

Around this time, the globe witnessed the first safe online transactions, two of which stood out: a massive Pizza Hut order and a Sting CD.

A group of young cyberspace entrepreneurs rejoiced over what was reportedly the first retail transaction conducted online utilizing a strong data encryption tool that was easily accessible and guaranteed anonymity, wherein on August 12, 1994, this transaction made its debut in an article in The New York Times.

Charles M. Stack launched Book Stacks Unlimited, one of the first online stores, in 1992. In 1994, it changed its name to and subsequently joined Barnes & Noble. Dell established the first firm with $1 million in internet sales in 1997.

The Secure Socket Layers (SSL) encryption certificate was also created around this time. Better security was offered for data transmission over the Internet by the security protocol created by Netscape. Before deciding whether to trust a website, a web browser would first verify it for a legitimate SSL certificate.

This followed client's reluctance and worries about online shopping. The SSL encryption protocol is now a requirement for the majority of web servers, making it an essential component of web security.

1995: The Emergence of the Big Dogs

E-commerce continues to develop, especially with the rapid growth of technology. Two websites helped establish internet commerce for good in 1995. When it first launched, Amazon, today's most well-known online retailer, provided more titles than its rivals in the physical world. They debuted their first mobile website in 2001.

65 million people shop on Amazon each month. Before its Prime Day Sale this year, Amazon was said to have record-high share prices, a $900 billion market capitalization, and an 80% rise in stocks from the previous year.

Amazon has expanded significantly from its early days as a bookshop to include DVDs, CDs, MP3 and eBook downloads, gadgets, clothing, furniture, food, and toys.

Through Amazon, the effectiveness of e-commerce category pages was made known to the globe. But more significantly, the website was defined by the scale of user reviews and ratings. Undecided purchasers were assisted by this feature in learning more about their selected product from existing customers. With reviews generating an average increase of 18% in sales, it is now regarded as one of the most successful social media strategies.

The same year that Amazon began, eBay was also launched. Even though it also permitted online purchases, it is best known for developing online auctions. These two websites paved the way for Victoria's Secret and Zappos to launch their online stores in 1999.

Consequently, search engines started to appear in 1995, with Yahoo! coming first, followed by Google in 1998. Google Shopping and Yahoo! Auction are now both e-commerce subsidiaries, demonstrating the growing importance of e-commerce as a source of revenue.

1998 to 2004: Creation of Payment Channels

In 1998, PayPal, an acquired bank that processes payments for online vendors, auction websites, and business users, enabled international e-commerce. In 24 different currencies, customers can send, receive, and hold funds. Today, the checkout conversion rate for PayPal purchases is 79% greater than it is for non-PayPal transactions.

With the establishment of the Payment Card Industry Protection Standards Council in 2004, further security for online transactions was implemented. The council's job is to make sure that companies are following security regulations. They also developed, enhanced, circulated, and put into practice security rules for the protection of account data.

As previously mentioned, the advancement of technology cleared the door for improved e-commerce, and in 2003, more than 20% of Americans had broadband Internet access in their homes, which is faster and available round-the-clock (24/7) than dial-up.

Now that high-speed connections are available, internet stores are easier to reach. E-Commerce Times claims that in that year, online sales rose by 26%, with Amazon alone reporting a 28% year-over-year sales rise. For potential purchasers, faster internet connections and greater penetration have made it easier to investigate products, as well as to look for alternatives and comparative costs.

2000s: Widespread Monetization

Around the beginning of the new millennium, monetization strategies and platforms started to advance as the novelty of the Internet began to fade.

Google released Google AdWords in 2000 as a platform for online advertising that companies could use to market their goods. The pay-per-click era began as a result of this.

Amazon launched its Prime membership program five years later, giving members benefits like free expedited shipping and special discounts. Users of Prime were and are still subject to a yearly membership fee.

2010s: An Established Cyber Monday

By the 2010s, eCommerce had witnessed rapid growth. For the first time ever in the history of online purchasing, the United States Cyber Monday sales in 2010 exceeded $1 billion.

New digital payment tools that were introduced at the same time contributed to stoking the flames. For instance, the introduction of Apple Pay in 2014 made it simple for customers to make purchases using their iPhones.

2020s: E-Commerce Continuous Innovation

E-commerce has taken over the market in recent years, thanks largely to improved technology as well as rising consumer interest and involvement. China generated sales of almost $900 billion in 2016, while the US brought in more than $423 billion. In 2016, the e-commerce sector made about $1.915 trillion.

Meanwhile, these trends are the possible reason for the e-commerce industry's continued growth:

  • M-Commerce
  • You're not alone if you've ever made an online purchase using only a smartphone or tablet; in fact, the number of US mobile subscribers increased in 2008, and 62% of them reported making a purchase.

    M-commerce, or the exchange of goods and services via mobile devices, is regarded as one of the most important advances in e-commerce. Without having to visit a real store, it has made it possible for customers to explore products, compare information and pricing, and shop through websites or applications using a smartphone or tablet.

    Mobile device sales made up 30% of all e-commerce sales in 2015, and they are projected to increase 2.58 times faster in 2016. By 2020, sales are expected to increase to $319 billion. However, all it takes is to pay attention to public opinion to realize how mobile usage has taken over e-commerce in recent years.

    Mobile is used by 48% of individuals to search for product reviews or promotions. Meanwhile, 56% agree that the shopping experience has improved as a result of mobile shopping. In addition to these advantages, push notifications give mobile marketplaces extra opportunities for interaction and participation.

  • Social Shopping and Digital Marketing
  • Marketing is the best example of how customer behavior and mobile influence e-commerce. Utilizing platforms or apps where users are more likely to be present or spend more time has allowed businesses to reach directly to consumers through digital marketing.

    In addition to reaching a larger audience, online marketing has given companies the flexibility to adjust advertising dynamically for personalization and to embrace client-specific marketing and nurturing through behavioral data.

    Online conduct is particularly beneficial for the youthful population who frequently use their mobile devices. Research reveals that millennials' shopping habits are dependent on the current status of a product's availability, which will affect their decision on which stores to visit.

    Online shopping is now available on social network platforms and as of today, it is expected that an adult uses their devices for 5 hours each day, with social, messaging, media, and entertainment apps accounting for 50% of their time. Customers spend time on social media to learn about new products (43%) and make direct purchases (18.2%).

    While Instagram has recently introduced actionable adverts, which are another opportunity for users to learn about and purchase things in real-time, Twitter already has the "Buy Now" button.

  • Online Marketplaces
  • These platforms are now a highly practical option for retailers to sell on, for marketers to advertise on, and for customers to shop. Thanks to a variety of product offers and brands, pertinent testimonies, and the option to compare and buy, it has given customers an extra layer of ease and confidence.

    Currently, 63% of vendors only offer their products online, and of them, 55% have profit margins of at least 20%. Large marketplace platforms like Alibaba, Flipkart, and Magento have experienced a three-year growth of about 51.7% since 2014.

    Present Day: E-Commerce Recovery from the Pandemic

    Businesses were obligated to close their physical locations because of the global pandemic, and lockdown precautions caused customers to shop online. eCommerce sales had increased by 77% year over year by May 2020 to $82.5 billion.

    Even if the world has begun to open again, online shopping is predicted to keep increasing and gaining market share; by 2023, it is predicted to account for 22% of all global retail sales.

    Future of E-Commerce

    Online sales appear to have a promising future, but it's important to remember that historically they haven't been dispersed equally. In fact, more than 50% of all American internet retail transactions were made by just five retailers in 2020.


    Proportion Of All U.S. Retail Ecommerce Sales (2020)









    The Home Depot


    Others (Estimated 1.3 million companies)



    It can be difficult for small to medium enterprises to stay up and compete with the major players in the online market given how quickly it is changing. Nevertheless, various b businesses can level up their eCommerce game and remain ahead of the fast-evolving online retail industry by adapting and understanding the resources available today. 

    New information and technology have made it easier for buyers and sellers to complete the entire purchasing process and have even paved the way for brand-new ways to buy/sell goods and services. And as e-commerce continues to advance, consumers will have more and more reasons to support it.


    1. Electronic Data Interchange. What is the Electronic Data Interchange.
    2. Michael Aldrich. Wikipedia.
    3. World Wide Web. Wikipedia.
    Previous article The Complete Guide to Cosplay in 2022 | Legendary Costumes You Should Know
    Next article EShop New Buyers and Sellers Blog Pages | Making Content Easier to Find

    Leave a comment

    Comments must be approved before appearing

    * Required fields

    Compare products

    {"one"=>"Select 2 or 3 items to compare", "other"=>"{{ count }} of 3 items selected"}

    Select first item to compare

    Select second item to compare

    Select third item to compare