The History of Ecommerce

History of Ecommerce

History of Ecommerce

Marketing Executive

I create content, publications and adverts for Wired Plus.  When I’m not writing, reading or blogging I enjoy road running.


Reading Time: 4 minutes

The History of Ecommerce:  An Introduction

Ecommerce allows people to buy and sell products online.  Since the internet became public in 1992, ecommerce has been possible and has grown rapidly in popularity.  The introduction of the internet expanded the reach of marketing campaigns, thereby increasing their effectiveness.  In this post we take a look at the history of ecommerce and how it has changed consumer behaviour and increased opportunities for business.

What is Ecommerce?

Ecommerce is the process of buying and selling goods electronically.  Michael Aldrich invented teleshopping in 1979 by connecting a television to a transaction processing computer by telephone line.

Ecommerce is a popular development because there are many advantages to both the customer and companies.

Benefits of ecommerce to the customer include:

– Convenience:  Shoppers can make purchases much more quickly and do not have to attend a store in person in some cases.  People turn to ecommerce as they can have the products delivered or pick them up from a convenient collection point.  They can also use methods such as contactless card payment machines and Apple Pay to make purchases quickly.

– Comparison:  Since Ecommerce began on the internet after the expansion of the World Wide Web, users have access to more choice than ever.  Consumers have the option to compare similar products online and choose the best one for their needs.  This increases competition between brands and can be a contributing factor to driving prices down.

– Price:  If consumers are looking for the cheapest product, ecommerce gives them the opportunity to compare details from different companies.  Companies are also keen to compete with each other meaning that customers can benefit from discounts and extra promotions as competition for custom increases.

Similarly companies benefit from:

– Increased Reach:  Local companies are not confined to a small geographical area when advertising their business.

– Revenue:  Companies have increased revenue opportunities from the development of new technologies.

– Competing with Larger Brands:  Smaller companies have the opportunity to compete with larger brands as they have the opportunity to get their message in-front of the customer online.

There are many different ways for consumers to make purchases online.  It is now commonplace for businesses to set up an online shop to entice consumers to make purchases.


The Development of Ecommerce

Ecommerce began with teleshopping in 1979 but has developed significantly since this point.  Although ecommerce existed before the internet, the creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee allowed companies to advertise online at scale.  This gives companies a worldwide reach whereas before their appeal may have been confined to a small geographical region surrounding a physical store.

In the 1990s, secure connections were developed along with the internet to make online ecommerce possible.  A secure connection is required if users need to enter their card or bank details into a system.  Use of security connections and transfer protocol gives consumers confidence in the security of their purchases.

Large ecommerce websites began to emerge in the 1990s as companies saw the opportunity to reach a large target audience.  Amazon and Ebay were both set up in 1995 and established themselves as market leading product selling platforms.

The Guardian reported that Chinese Singles Day resulted in a whopping $25 billion in ecommerce revenue.

The Role of Mobile in Ecommerce

Since 2011, the number of online sales from mobile ecommerce has increased rapidly according to Statista.  The report predicted that 38% of retail ecommerce sales revenue would come from mobile in 2018.  If true, there will have been a 34% increase since 2011.

Moving forward, mobile is becoming more prevalent in eCommerce.  It is increasingly important to optimise email campaigns for mobile devices as over 40% of all ecommerce sales in the UK take place on mobile devices according to Internet Retailing.

The introduction of contactless payments in 2007 demonstrated a big step forward for the ecommerce industry.  Increasing the contactless payment limit to £30 in September 2015 reflected the increase in usage of contactless payment methods.  The contactless payment reflects a move towards a more convenient and quicker payment method.  ApplePay was introduced in 2014 and demonstrated another step forward for ecommerce.  ApplePay allows Apple Product users to make a contactless payment with their devices.

The Role of Email In Ecommerce

Email can be used to supplement ecommerce websites in today’s marketplace.  Targeted emails can be used to drive customers back to websites they have recently visited to encourage them to complete a purchase.

Email campaigns can be set up for ecommerce for:

– Abandoned Cart:  You can use abandoned cart emails to drive customers back to a website where they can complete the purchase they were part way through making.

Cart Abandonment Wired Plus

– Abandoned Browser:  Send emails based on users browsing your products to suggest products that they may be interested in, encouraging them to make a purchase.

– Product Recommendations:  Make product recommendations based on customer behaviours and purchase history.

– Renewal Notices:  When a customer is coming towards the end of the customer lifecycle, you can send a renewal notice to encourage them to make a repeat purchase or renew their contract with your company.

– Upsells:  Send customers product recommendations to supplement purchases that they have already made.


Ecommerce has come a long way in the last 40 years.  As opportunities for ecommerce continue to increase, we can expect it to continue evolving for years to come.

If you have enjoyed reading this post on The History of Ecommerce, why not download your copy of The Complete Guide to Email Marketing.  The guide will give you comprehensive information about how you can be successful in the world of email marketing.

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Marketing Executive

I create content, publications and adverts for Wired Plus.  When I’m not writing, reading or blogging I enjoy road running.

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