Online Shopping E-commercee-commerce

A quick look at the history of online shopping

Online shopping is fast becoming the most preferred buying mode for many Filipinos, and it’s easy to see why. It’s convenient, provides limitless options, and offers immediate gratification. 

Gone are the days when you had to coax relatives or friends living abroad to source your favorite international products and wait for several months before you could receive and enjoy them. Now you can shop at online stores in the United States, the United Kingdom, and practically anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own home and simply rely on companies that offer international shipping to the Philippines to deliver your purchases. 

Getting what you want, whenever you want, with a mere click of a button is now an ordinary part of many people’s lives, but it wasn’t always this way. Online shopping wasn’t born overnight. It took some time before it became the convenient and hassle-free experience that you enjoy today. If you’re curious about how it all began, continue reading for an overview of the history of online shopping.

The inception of online shopping

Did you know that electronic shopping has been around for over 40 years? It was invented by English inventor and entrepreneur Michael Aldrich in 1979, a few years before the birth of the internet. Aldrich used a modified television and a transaction-processing computer to create the first-ever secure data transmission, thus setting the foundation for online shopping.

In 1984, Aldrich pilot-tested an online shopping application of this technology. Using a TV that he connected to retailers’ computers via a domestic telephone line, a grandmother from Gateshead picked up her TV remote control from her living room and successfully ordered groceries from a local supermarket. This experiment paved the way for the first business-to-consumer home online shopping system.

The creation of the first World Wide Web server and browser by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 is another notable event. Thanks to the internet, the development and creation of online marketplaces and ecommerce platforms accelerated and evolved into the seamless experience that consumers enjoy today.  

Launch of online marketplaces

The next major online shopping milestone after the launch of the early grocery service happened in 1994, when then-21-year-old Daniel M. Khon created the online marketplace NetMarket. This marketplace was hailed by the New York Times as the company that performed the first secure retail transaction on the internet. 

Other noteworthy advances in the online shopping space in 1994 included the launch of Pizza Hut’s online pizza shop called PizzaNet and the introduction of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption by Netscape, which remains a crucial safety feature for secure online shopping. During that same year, Jeff Bezos quit his job and founded Amazon — arguably the world’s largest online marketplace today.  

In September 1995, Pierre Omidyar started the online marketplace eBay, where people could purchase and sell different items. With the belief that online shopping is the future, Japanese businessman Hiroshi Mikitani followed suit and founded Rakuten two years later. Rakuten is now Japan’s biggest and most trusted e-commerce marketplace, with operations extending to the rest of Asia, the United States, and Europe. 

In 1999, Jack Ma, with several friends and students, launched the China-based business-to-business online marketplace Alibaba. All these major ecommerce firms essentially set the stage for a better online shopping experience characterized by state-of-the-art technology, consumer accessibility, and diverse product offerings.  

Other developments 

Aside from the establishment of numerous online marketplaces, various players introduced technologies, systems, and upgrades to make online shopping more convenient, accessible, and attractive to both consumers and merchants. Here are a few of the more significant ones:

  • PayPal. Established in 1998 by Max Levchin and Peter Theil, PayPal provided a simple, efficient, and secure way for consumers to pay for their purchases online.
  • AdWords. In 2000, Google introduced the first-ever self-serve online advertising platform called AdWords. This advertising system helps online marketers and businesses to reach and connect with their target audience on a massive scale.
  • Shopify. Founded by Tobias Lütke in 2006, Shopify is a subscription-based software that allows anybody to set up an online shop in minutes. This technology probably changed the landscape of online shopping, as it opened the door for sellers with low capital to create their own digital stores and sell their products. 
  • Square. In 2009, Block, Inc. introduced the financial services platform Square, which allows small- and medium-sized online retailers to readily and conveniently accept and process debit and credit card payments for the first time.

Online shopping developed for decades before it became mainstream. And there’s little doubt that it will continue to evolve to meet the consumer’s changing needs and expectations. If online retailers can satisfy the demands for better service and stay on top of their game, e-shopping will most likely continue to prosper and attract more loyal patrons, especially in the Philippines.