Welcome to the Age of the Super-Powered Shopper

Let's take a trip down e-commerce memory lane. Here are seven ways e-commerce has changed over time.

Yura Choung | UPS Longitudes

In 1979, Michael Aldrich connected a telephone line to a television, which connected to a computer to create a concept called “teleshopping.” In other words, people could shop from home.

Click here to view the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper whitepaper.

Almost 40 years later, we live in a world where Cyber Monday is an online shopping holiday, and augmented reality lets us look in a mirror to try on different outfits.

Today we call this e-commerce.

In this ever-evolving world of e-commerce, the power has shifted from the seller to the buyer, and businesses are scrambling to find new ways to satisfy the shopper.

Here’s a look at how e-commerce has changed in recent years:

Long gone are the days when consumers relied on salesclerks to make purchasing decisions – if they choose to interact with a salesclerk at all.

Businesses are looking to create a seamless experience in both their physical and electronic storefronts.

Welcome to the streaming generation. Music has moved from CD shopping at the record store to purchasing individual songs on iTunes or subscribing to Spotify for all the music your heart desires.

We’ve gone from renting VHS tapes at Blockbuster to renting DVDs at your local Redbox and streaming content online with Netflix.

Businesses are tapping into new consumption models, which address the needs and concerns of today’s entertainment consumers.

With advancements in e-commerce came advancements in payment gateways.

The first online bank opened in 1994, and third-party payment services for processing online sales emerged.

Paypal launched in 1998 and remains the largest payment gateway provider. In 2010, an app called Square launched, allowing businesses to use the free magstripe reader device to swipe credit cards anywhere. And the launch of Apple Pay in 2014 led to a mobile app that actually mimicked a credit or debit card.

In 2009, another game-changer picked up traction: Bitcoin. With it, a new kind of money was born. It was the first decentralized electronic currency not controlled by a single organization or government.

Businesses now accept various forms of payment to facilitate seamless transactions.

Consumers used to go to the store with an idea of what they wanted based on a friend or family recommendation. In 1999, three review websites emerged, changing who people were turning to for product advice. Within six months, more than a million product reviews were on these three sites.

Shortly after, this concept became part of the buyer’s journey for online stores. Today reviews can either make a product or break it.

Businesses incorporate product reviews on their websites for customers to share experiences, helping them understand the pros and cons of a product from the buyer’s perspective.

Social media has created a way for businesses to market themselves in a different way than just traditional advertising.

Not only are brands speaking to audiences, but those audiences are sharing that message with their followers, amplifying the brand in the process.

It has created a new relationship – a two-way conversation that bring consumers closer to the brand.

Businesses are active on social media and maintain a strong online presence to build brand loyalty.

Google can tell you exactly what you’re looking for, where to get it and when to get it. It helps mobile devices drive foot traffic to stores by providing a map with directions, contact information and special offers.

Another Google product is AdWords, an advertising service that shows an ad in Google search results related to a viewer’s search.

Google also launched a shopping service where merchants would pay the company to list their products. It also helped users search for products and compare prices between different vendors.

Businesses now evaluate how Google products enhance their marketing efforts, starting with search engine optimization (SEO), allowing them to appear in the best position within organic search results.

Online shopping had one major snag – the inability to hold and try a product.

Thanks to technology like interactive video, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), products digitally come alive.

Businesses have gotten creative with how customers can interact with their products, creating an emotional experience that sparks a purchasing decision.

While VR is a computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment, AR superimposes computer-generated visuals on a user’s actual view of their surroundings. Both are used by retailers to provide a unique way for customers to interact with products on an emotional level, increasing their desire to buy.

Companies are exploring how innovative technology can fit into their business plans and how it can grow their customer base.

These are just a few milestones in e-commerce history, but it’s only the beginning. The million-dollar question: What’s next?

You might also like:

Shopping Redefined

Winning With Shoppers in China

How To Click With High-Tech Online Shoppers

Yura Choung is a writer and editor for UPS Longitudes.

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