The History of eCommerce: How It All Started

Jul 27, 2022 12:41:46 PM

Ecommerce (or electronic commerce) is the buying and selling of goods or services on the Internet. It encompasses a wide variety of data, systems and tools for online buyers and sellers, including mobile shopping and online payment encryption.

Most businesses with an online presence use an online store and/or platform to conduct ecommerce marketing and sales activities and to oversee logistics and fulfillment.

However, ecommerce history is relatively recent—it began just over 60 years ago. Early innovations in technology, such as electronic data interchange and teleshopping, were introduced in the 1970s, and they prepared the way for the modern ecommerce business as we know it today.

But where did it all start?

1960 – 1982

One of the first developments in the 1960's was electrical data interchange (EDI). This allowed for the digital movement of data from one computer to another, replacing the traditional mailing and faxing of documents.

Even though it seems far away now, computer time-sharing services evolved in the 1970s from email providers to enable teleshopping. The Boston Computer Exchange, a bulletin board system-based marketplace intended to allow the sale or trade of used computers, was founded by some tech savvy users at the start of the 1980s, when the rest of us were just starting to appreciate the wonder of cable television.

CompuServe drove the initial emergence of the online service industry since its launch in 1969.

  • 1979: CompuServe became the first service to offer electronic mail capabilities and technical support to personal computer users.
  • 1980: CompuServe broke new ground again in 1980 as the first online service to offer real-time chat online with its CB Simulator.
  • 1982:  The company had formed its Network Services Division to provide wide-area networking capabilities to corporate clients.


Early 90’s – The arrival of the world wide web

Ecommerce operated quietly for many years, but in 1990 the first web browser with the fitting name "World Wide Web" was released. Even though it was released in 1990, it was not until 1993 that it became available to the public.

There were a lot of worries about online shopping's security from the start. However, a secure method of sending data over the internet was developed with the help of the secure socket layer (SSL) security protocol, which was introduced by Netscape in 1994. Today, version 3.0 of the SSL encryption protocol, which is a key component of web security, is the norm for the majority of web servers.

Mid 90’s

Major improvements in the market's commercial utilisation occurred in the middle of the 1990s. The dot-com revolution's energising force had contributed to one of thee longest stretch of continuous economic expansion in the US’s history. Dotcom’s are businesses that conduct transactions online. For example, Amazon, which made its debut as an online bookstore in 1995 before expanding to become the biggest online retailer in the world, was one of the earliest ecommerce websites.

Shortly after, in 1997, as the first ever online video rental service, Netflix was introduced to the world. By intentionally raising the bar for customer care among all aspiring online retailers and upending the entertainment business, Netflix built their name on the premise of flat-fee unlimited rentals without due dates, late penalties, shipping and handling fees, or per-title rental fees.

Just one year later, in 1998, PayPal made its debut as a mechanism for money transfers under the name Confinity. The business now operates as a bank, processing payments for internet retailers, auction websites, private individuals, and businesses.


Due to improved technology as well as increased consumer interest and involvement, e-commerce has dominated the last 10 years. 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. eCommerce has continued its upward trajectory and will account for 20.4% of global retail sales by the end of 2022.

A large portion of this eCommerce growth has been fuelled by rising customer trust in online transactions. Additionally, the simplicity of comparison shopping, the availability of 24/7 shopping, and the opportunity to purchase unique or hard-to-find items have all helped eCommerce sales expand consistently since 2010.


Keeping up with eCommerce Growth

Although the growth of eCommerce is not new, the pandemic has unquestionably accelerated it therefore, organisations that offer logistics, warehouse, and supply chain management services are directly impacted by the growth of the eCommerce sector.

Online retailers are increasingly outsourcing logistics to complete orders accurately and on time. It seemed natural that demand for simplifying yet another significant home expense would increase when everything you could possibly want became available online. According to several reports, the largest problem for retailers is maintaining a perfect supply chain. 

For more information on eCommerce, check out our other articles:


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Topics from this blog: ecommerce ecomm