E-commerce has come a long way since its inception in the 1990s. It has revolutionized the way we shop, and its evolution has been driven by technological advancements, changing consumer behavior, and the emergence of new business models.
The early days of e-commerce were marked by the emergence of online marketplaces and online storefronts. These marketplaces were created to connect buyers and sellers, and they were limited to selling a few items such as books and CDs. The first e-commerce transaction was made in 1994, when a man in New Hampshire purchased a Sting CD from NetMarket, an online marketplace. Amazon.com was founded the same year, and it quickly became one of the largest online retailers in the world.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, e-commerce experienced a boom as businesses and consumers alike started to embrace online shopping. During this time, e-commerce platforms such as eBay and PayPal were founded, and many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers started to set up online stores. However, this period was also marked by the dot-com bubble, which led to the collapse of many e-commerce startups.
In the mid-2000s, e-commerce started to become more mobile-friendly as smartphones became more widespread. This led to the emergence of mobile commerce or m-commerce. With the rise of mobile devices, consumers could shop anytime, anywhere, and retailers started to optimize their websites and apps for mobile devices. This period also saw the rise of social commerce, which allowed businesses to sell products directly on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
E-commerce has also played a critical role in the growth of cross-border trade. Thanks to e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Alibaba, businesses were able to easily sell their products to customers anywhere in the world. This has led to the emergence of new e-commerce marketplaces and payment systems that cater specifically to cross-border transactions.
Another significant trend in e-commerce is the increasing use of omnichannel retail. This involves retailers offering a seamless shopping experience across different channels such as online, in-store, and mobile. This approach allows retailers to meet the evolving needs of consumers who expect to be able to shop anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
In recent years, e-commerce has become more personalized, with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Retailers are now using AI to provide personalized product recommendations, offer targeted promotions, and improve the customer experience. Additionally, the emergence of new business models such as subscription-based services and dropshipping has transformed the e-commerce landscape.
But one of the most significant shifts in the e-commerce landscape is taking place today. The advent of ChatGPT, which set the record for the fastest growing user base, has taken AI mainstream and is rapidly changing how humans interact with the world. The launch of plugins, referred to as the “eyes and ears” of ChatGPT, allow it to connect to the internet and to businesses for recent or real-time knowledge.
This makes it possible for shoppers to search for products, receive recommendations and place orders entirely natively inside ChatGPT, without being redirected to a third party platform. This makes the whole process from search to checkout frictionless, enhancing user experience. This may benefit large marketplaces and comparison platforms such as Amazon, Klarna and Prislo that aggregate tens of millions of products and have a large dataset to offer to language models such as ChatGPT.
In the future, you may only need to interact with your AI assistant that is personalised to your taste, style and shopping behavior and asking it to place an order for you. This is quite the evolution from Dan Kohn’s order of the Sting CD in 1994 and one cannot help feel excited to see what more the future holds.