The history of eCommerce - part 4

The history of eCommerce - part 4

Introduction

Thanks for reading the final part 4 of this series.  So far we've looked back at the earliest origins of eCommerce, the 90's and the 00's.  In this post we look at the 2010's where competition really started to ramp up, and you had to work harder than ever to make your brand known.

The 2010's was a decade where we saw a huge acceleration in everything eCommerce.  Technology continued to advance at pace, built on the foundations established of the 2000's.  This was the era when it became easy for your brand to get lost in the noise, with everyone clamouring for your attention.

Social media was already popular in 2010 with nearly 1 billion users worldwide, but by 2020 this figure had tripled to nearly 3 billion.  Online ad spend increased six fold from £21 billion in 2010 to a staggering £120 billion in 2020.  This really reflects the fierce competition of the 2010's with ad spend per user doubling over the course of the decade.

Companies found they needed to again scale up their offering to stay relevant and keep ahead of the competition, and effective social media and marketing teams became even more of an essential component to engage with and retain customers.

At the same time, the meteoric rise in popularity of the smartphone changed the online landscape forever and drastically shifted shopping habits.

Amazon

Since the 90's Amazon have remained at the forefront of eCommerce, and the 2010's were no different.  This decade saw them pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved in the eCommerce market.  They introduced Black Friday for the first time in the UK in 2010, and over this decade they made faster delivery the expected standard.

Black Friday

While something that was very well established in the US, Black Friday sales only came to the UK in 2010 when they were introduced by Amazon.  It didn't take long for other retailers to jump on the trend and now yearly Black Friday sales are prevalent across the UK the same as the US.  In 2020 Black Friday accounted for £8 billion of sales in the UK, and present a huge opportunity for every eCommerce store, even those that don't sell physical goods.

Fast delivery times

Up until the 2010's, longer delivery times were the norm, and waiting a week for products to be delivered was pretty much expected.  Amazon did in fact introduce 2-day delivery in 2005, and next day delivery in 2007, but it took until the 2010's for customer expectations to shift and for faster one or two-day deliveries to become the expected norm.  Now you can even get same-day delivery on some items, and other retailers such as Argos have followed suit.

Click & collect

Click & collect is another now hugely popular method of retailers getting their products to customers.  It was first introduced by Tesco in 2011, and was soon inherited by many other retailers, also becoming hugely popular in eCommerce.  It offers the convenience of ordering from the comfort of your own home saving time spent in store, but allows you to pick up your order nearly instantly from a bricks and mortar location, or later from a delivery point if there's no bricks and mortar store.

Smartphones

Smartphones gained real popularity from the early 2010's, and their introduction and more widespread use drastically changed the eCommerce landscape, both in technological terms, and in order fulfillment as it fundamentally changed the way people shopped.

Having an always connected smartphone with ever increasing amounts of mobile data meant that the opportunity to shop was always in your pocket, not just on your desktop computer.  This greater connection to the online world marked a drastic change both in how orders needed to be fulfilled, but also for the actual storefront.

With screen sizes much smaller than a desktop computer, a standard storefront was no longer usable on a mobile device, and this introduced a whole new set of technical requirements in order to have a storefront that catered for both mobile devices and desktop computers equally well.  Principles like 'mobile first' in website design and development became widespread with the increasing percentage of users now shopping and browsing on their smartphones.

Social media

In the 2010's social media really established itself as the main way in which brands could make a more meaningful connection with customers.  Rather than a corporate style front, social media presented the opportunity to engage at a much more human level, with small and digestible snippets of content customers could consume quickly and often.

While social media didn't particularly deliver on the promise of increasing conversions, it did offer a key tool in raising brand awareness if done right.  With so many people using social media by 2020, it was an indispensable tool in every store's marketing toolkit and combined with other forms of digital marketing had the potential to reach, engage with and attract huge numbers of potential customers to your brand.

Security and privacy

With the massive increase of online selling in the 2010's, came new issues around privacy and security.  Ensuring PCI-DSS compiance was, and continues to be a key factor in maintaining the integrity of any customers payment information.

Cookie consent rules came into effect in 2011, requiring websites that stored any data in cookies to inform users and get their consent.  GDPR came into effect in 2018 to protect the way in which user data could be processed, and required users to explictly 'opt in'.

This was also the decade when we saw increased efforts put into ensuring eCommerce frameworks were secure with a greater emphasis being put on secuity testing, along with security patch releases outside of the usual release schedule.

Conclusion

eCommerce continued to evolve in the 2010's, but remained solidly based on the foundations established in the 2000's.  This is still the case today with the online share of retail sales continuing to increase worldwide each year.

Today, running your own online store is something that, to find success, can only really be approached with a high level of professionalism and good investment.  It's not something that can be attempted solo, but with right team around you, and recognition of the time and investment required, it is a venture that anyone can find success in.

Thanks very much for joining me on this four-part series, I hope you found it as interesting and informative to read as I did to write.  If you're running an eCommerce store yourself, or you develop an eCommerce framework then check out our service to find quality developers for free, or offer your development services.

See you next week!