The Origins of Online Shopping

Ever Wondered How Online Shopping Started?

Online shopping has only grown in popularity since it started. It is a trend that many people use, and a lot of businesses and shops have dived right into it. But what are the origins of these internet shopping habits, and what would the future hold for them?

Online Shopping Nowadays

The internet has brought humanity many conveniences, from a direct link to knowledge to a bunch of stupid jokes and, eventually, online shopping sites. There has been an increase in electronic shopping in the past year due to lockdowns where people had to stay at home. So much so that physical retailers that either avoided the allure of the online world or limited their eCommerce sales had to jump to the online marketplaces to get their products out there. 

Customers had stopped going to their real-life stores or avoided them as much as they could. Therefore, a plan was to be made.  

Online shoppers would find it easier to shop in the online marketplace since everything is there within walking, i.e., clicking distance. The idea that you can order something online from clothes, groceries, toys, etc., and to have it delivered to your front door is pleasing. The world wide web has brought people together and has brought products and services to people during lockdowns. Popular sites such as: 

  • Amazon
  • H&M
  • eBay
  • Esty
  • Alibaba
  • Aliexpress
  • Walmart 

And any other apps that let you order groceries or fast food from a collection of places have certainly strived in the unsure time when some people may have unfortunately lost their jobs. Plus, there are countless online sales that some people just cannot miss.  

How It All Began

Like all the history of most tech innovations, the history of online shopping starts in a certain year with a certain person. That year was 1979, and the person was Michael Aldrich. So, electronic commerce (eCommerce) between businesses and buyers is older than 40 years. However, the easiest form and most popular example of the first online purchase only came to be in 1984. 

The online retailing ball started rolling when 72-year-old grandma, Jane Snowball (a fitting name), decided to buy cornflakes, eggs, and margarine from her armchair in front of the television. She had a broken hip at the time, and that is how she ended up as a “test subject.” 

She used the remote control to place the order from her local Tesco. It all happened in Gateshead, in the U.K. The remote control had a chip in it that allowed her to do it. And the television was just a standard model.  

She made the order using Videotex (created by Michael Aldrich) that sent the shortlist down the telephone line to Tesco. There was no web browser at the time. However, she managed to bring up a collection of retailers where she could choose the items she wanted. This was all on her screen in a format of a standard Teletext format. She would choose a retailer and then the goods.  

She paid cash since credit cards were rare. The package was delivered to her door. She thought the whole thing was wonderful, but she missed the social interaction of shopping. (Let’s call it foreshadowing, if you will…) The technology obviously grew since then, with the first online shop opening in 1994 — enter Internet Shopping Network/NetMarket.

When Did It Start Being a Way of Life?

When the World Wide Web (invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990) grew, so did online shopping. That makes sense since it was easier using a search engine with a keyboard than arrows on the remote control. Around 1998, PayPal came about, which drastically improved things.

However, online shopping only took off and became popular in about 2017. That was around the time that smartphones (aka direct, unlimited access to the internet) usage increased to about 80%. It could be pinpointed as the online retail world becoming a way of life.  

The convenience of the net showed stores the advantages of the online world, and they started selling their products there. They either sold through affirmatives like Amazon etc., or by themselves. With the growth of technology and the internet, online shopping followed and developed with the changing times. They kept up with it and are now a billion-dollar industry with more businesses and stores coming on board. 

Online Shopping Is Here to Stay

Online shopping is easy to do and convenient. These are the selling points of the models. As Jane Snowball said, it is “Wonderful!” Therefore, shopping online is not going to go anywhere. If anything, it will offer more opportunities for people and stores to sell their stuff.  

Plus, several sales are happening continuously online, which is not as much as in real-life stores. Speaking of real-life stores, the pandemic of Covid-19 hit them really hard. Many stores were on the verge of closing down and only recently were able to open their doors once more. It was during these lockdowns that the online shopping world grew since everyone was stuck at home. 

However, people still had to eat, and as their fridges became empty, their digital carts became full. The pandemic brought a spike in online shopping, certainly on the food side of things. Plus, real-life stores had to go online to sell their products just to get through the pandemic. Many are still there even with their physical doors open. Now, many people are still wary about going out to crowded spaces. Therefore, they may opt to keep to their online shopping habits.  

To the Future!

Online shopping is not going away. It may become more popular, but it may not completely take the place of physical retail. As Jane Snowball mentioned, she missed the social interaction of going to a store. This is the biggest downside of online shopping. But it does help small businesses to grow if they are good.