Ecommerce 101 + The History of Online Shopping: What The Past Says About Tomorrow’s Retail Challenge


When it comes to ecommerce, a word that first comes to mind is growth.


Ecommerce expert Gary Hoover’s research shows that just in the last 14 years, the growth of ecommerce companies has skyrocketed across the board.


And some merchandise lines (like clothing and beauty products in particular) have achieved a remarkable 25% average CGR between 2000-2014.


This trend isn’t slowing down, either.


In fact, growth projections estimate that by 2022, ecommerce revenues will exceed $638 billion in the U.S. alone.


Globally, ecommerce growth projections are also on an upward trajectory:


They show that retail sales may exceed $4.058 trillion by as soon as 2020.


Even more data reinforces the ecommerce growth trend:


  • There may be as many as 2.14 billion digital buyers worldwide by 2021 (eMarketer)

  • U.S. ecommerce sales of apparel, footwear, and accessories projected to exceed $123M by 2022 (Statista)

  • Shoppers spend 36% of their budget online on average (BigCommerce)

But what’s exciting about this is that there’s still so much opportunity within the online marketplace.


U.S. Department of Commerce data shows that ecommerce sales currently average about 9.1% of total retail sales. That means there are still endless opportunities for brands to launch an ecommerce website and to expand their reach.


When you factor in the expanded ecommerce selling opportunities through omnichannel retail (like adding Amazon and eBay storefronts to your sales approach, for example), it’s easy to see that now is the best possible time to grow an ecommerce business.


IT’S NOW OR NEVER

There has never been an easier time in history to build a business PERIOD.


The cost of entry is lower than ever before. The ability to access & qualify experts is much easier. The ability to speak directly to your customers and make adjustments has never been easier.


– Eric Carlson, Co-Founder, 10x Factory


What is Ecommerce?

Essentially, ecommerce (or electronic commerce) is the buying and selling of goods (or services) on the internet.


From mobile shopping to online payment encryption and beyond, ecommerce encompasses a wide variety of data, systems, and tools for both online buyers and sellers.


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


Keep in mind that ecommerce has a few different spelling variations. All of these are synonymous and correct –– their use is largely preference-based.


  • E-Commerce

  • eCommerce

  • Ecommerce

  • e-commerce

  • e commerce


Types of Ecommerce

Generally, there are six main models of ecommerce that businesses can be categorized into:


  • B2C.

  • B2B.

  • C2C.

  • C2B.

  • B2A.

  • C2A.


Let’s look at each type of electronic commerce in a bit more detail.


1. Business-to-Consumer (B2C).

B2C ecommerce encompasses transactions made between a business and a consumer.


This is one of the most widely used sales models in the ecommerce context. When you buy shoes from an online shoe retailer, it is a business-to-consumer transaction.


2. Business-to-Business (B2B).

Unlike B2C, B2B ecommerce relates to sales made between businesses, such as a manufacturer and a wholesaler or retailer.


This type of ecommerce is not consumer-facing and happens only between business entities.


Most often, business-to-business sales focus on raw materials or products that are repackaged or combined before being sold to customers.


TRAINING THE NEW B2B BUYER

Training your customers to use the new B2B tools is important for adoption.


Changing the way some customers do business with you can be a roadblock or a benefit.


Position the change in a way that makes your customers’ lives easier.


– Andy Etemadi, CEO, EYEMAGINE


3. Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C).

One of the earliest forms of ecommerce is the C2C ecommerce business model.


Customer-to-customer relates to the sale of products or services between, you guessed it: customers.


This would include customer to customer selling relationships like those seen on eBay or Amazon, for example.


4. Consumer-to-Business (C2B).

C2B reverses the traditional ecommerce model (and is what we commonly see in crowdfunding projects).


C2B means Individual consumers make their products or services available for business buyers.


An example of this would be a business model like iStockPhoto, in which stock photos are available online for purchase directly from different photographers.


5. Business-to-Administration (B2A).

This model covers the transactions made between online businesses and administrations.


An example would be the products and services related to legal documents, social security, etc.


6. Consumer-to-Administration (C2A).

Same idea here, but with consumers selling online products or services to an administration.


C2A might include things like online consulting for education, online tax preparation, etc.


Both B2A and C2A are focused on increased efficiency within the government via the support of information technology.


History of Ecommerce

The history of ecommerce dates back further than you might think.


It was initially introduced about 40 years ago in its earliest form.


Since then, electronic commerce has helped countless businesses grow with the help of new technologies, improvements in internet connectivity, and widespread consumer and business adoption.


One of the first ecommerce transactions was made back in 1982, and today, it is growing by as much as 23% year-over-year.


Ecommerce Timeline:

Year Major Ecommerce Event

1969 The first major ecommerce company, CompuServe, is founded.

1979 Michael Aldrich invents electronic shopping.

1982 Boston Computer Exchange launches as one of the first ecommerce platforms.

1992 Book Stacks Unlimited launches as one of the first online marketplaces for books.

1994 Netscape launches Netscape Navigator, an early web browser, making it easier for users to browse online.

1995 Amazon and eBay launch.

1998 PayPal launches as an online payment system.

1999 Alibaba.com launches.

2000 Google launches AdWords as an online search advertising tool.

2005 Amazon launches Amazon Prime with expedited, flat-fee shipping for members.

2005 Esty, an online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods launches.

2009 BigCommerce launches as an online storefront platform.

2009 Square, Inc. is founded.

2011 Google Wallet launches as an online payment system.

2011 Facebook launches sponsored stories as a form of early advertising.

2011 Stripe launches.

2014 Apple Pay launches as a form of mobile payment.

2014 Jet.com launches.

2017 Instagram shoppable posts are introduced.

2017 Cyber Monday sales exceed $6.5B.

1969 – CompuServe is founded.


Founded by electrical engineer students Dr. John R. Goltz and Jeffrey Wilkins in 1969, early CompuServe technology was built utilizing a dial-up connection.


In the 1980s, CompuServe introduced some of the earliest forms of email and internet connectivity to the public and went on to dominate the ecommerce landscape through the mid-1990s.


1979 – Michael Aldrich invents electronic shopping.

English inventor Michael Aldrich introduced electronic shopping in 1979, which operated by connecting a modified TV to a transaction-processing computer via telephone line.


This made it possible for closed information systems to be opened and shared by outside parties for secure data transmission – and the technology became the foundation upon which modern ecommerce was built.


1982 – Boston Computer Exchange launches.

When Boston Computer Exchange launched in 1982, it was the world’s first ecommerce company.


Its primary function was to serve as an online market for people interested in selling their used computers.


1992 – Book Stacks Unlimited launches as first online book marketplace.

Charles M. Stack introduced Book Stacks Unlimited as an online bookstore in 1992 – three full years before Jeff Bezos introduced Amazon.


Originally the company used the dial-up bulletin board format, but in 1994 the site switched to the internet and operated from the Books.com domain.


1994 – Netscape Navigator launches as a web browser.

Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark co-created Netscape Navigator as a web browsing tool, and formally announced its introduction in October of 1994.


During the 1990s, Netscape Navigator became the primarily used web browser on the Windows platform before the rise of modern giants like Google.


1995 – Amazon and eBay launch.

Jeff Bezos introduced Amazon in 1995 primarily as an ecommerce platform for books.


That same year, Pierre Omidyar introduced AuctionWeb, which would later become what we know today as eBay.