Would you believe that it’s been barely over 20 years since Amazon sold their very first book? As one of the most well-known companies worldwide today, it’s incredible that they got their start a mere two decades ago.

But their growth is reflective of the industry as a whole. Over the course of 20 years, e-commerce evolved from a novel new idea to an industry that’s now a major part of the world’s economy. In fact, in 2015, Americans spent over $341 billion online.

So how did it get this far?

This infographic from WebpageFX answers that question with an overview of some of the major milestones in the industry’s development, as well as its growth in terms of both sales and its share of the retail industry as a whole.

The Evolution of E-Commerce: Major Milestones

In 1991, the World Wide Web was created. Although the Internet is now a major part of most of our daily lives, it’s important to recognize that it’s still a relatively new development compared to the overall retail industry.

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Then, in 1994, Pizza hut officially became the first major business to offer online purchasing. One year later, eBay and Amazon were founded. Many people view this is as the start of ecommerce as we know it today.

By 1996, online sales surpassed $1 billion. This is an incredible jump given that the Internet was still only 5 years old – and it certainly forecasted the industry’s later growth. Even so, no one could’ve predicted the $25 billion in sales that took place in 2000.

By the next year, e-commerce solidified its place in the retail industry with 70% of Internet users making an online purchase during the holiday season. In 2005, the term “Cyber Monday” was coined, and the Monday after Thanksgiving officially became the biggest online shopping day of the year.

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E-commerce sales have continued to grow steadily, with the total sales increasing 135% from 2009 to 2015.

The E-commerce Industry Today

Today, there are more than 800,000 stores online. 78% of US adults have made a purchase online, and 69% of adults with Internet access shop online at least once a month.

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Of these online sales, the most commonly purchased items are electronics (22%) and clothing (17%).

Auto parts (10.4%), books, music & video (9.1%), and furniture (6.7%) also make up significant portions of online sales.

Looking to the Future

The e-commerce industry is continuing to grow and evolve. Two of the most important trends for online retailers looking to stay ahead of the curve are mobile commerce and personalization.

30% of e-commerce sales in 2015 took place on a mobile device, and mobile commerce is expected to grow 2.58x faster than total e-commerce sales.

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This means that your e-commerce store needs to be mobile-friendly and make it easy for users on smartphones and tablets to browse your products and make purchases.

It’s also important to note that 56% of consumers say they would be more inclined to purchase from retailers who offer a personalized experience, and 74% of online shoppers get frustrated when websites show content that has nothing to do with their interests.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your e-commerce site and stay ahead of your competitors, personalization could be the perfect solution. Customer experience personalization is one of the top themes we saw in E-Commerce events all over the industry, and should be a top priority for innovation over the next  year.


Where do you think e-commerce is going? Tell us below, or tweet us!

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