From Brick-and-Mortar to Online: The Evolution of Ecommerce in 2024 and Beyond

13 Jun, 2023 | 5 minutes read

E-commerce, or electronic commerce, has revolutionized the way goods and services are bought and sold online. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the evolution of ecommerce, its history, growth, and impact on the business sector. We will also delve into the benefits and drawbacks of e-commerce and explore future forecasts.

Definition and Scope of E-commerce:

E-commerce (or electronic commerce), powered by platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce and our very own 3Dots Commerce, is the online purchase and sale of goods and services. It includes a wide range of information, processes, and tools for online buyers and sellers, such as mobile shopping and online payment encryption. The majority of businesses that exist online utilize an online store or platform to handle e-commerce tasks such as marketing, sales, logistics, and fulfillment.

Evolution and Growth of E-commerce:

E-commerce was first introduced over 40 years ago but was initially used by early adopters. Most purchases took place in brick-and-mortar stores, where customers could anticipate customized advice, direct assistance in selecting the size, color, or products they required, and the benefit of seeing what the items looked like in person.

However, e-commerce has experienced explosive growth in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this trend, with an increasing number of people turning to online shopping.

Statistics show that:

  • Global retail e-commerce sales topped $5.8 trillion for 2023, with a close to a 39% growth projection of last year’s numbers in the coming years, according to research by Stephanie Chevalier published on Statista.
  • Despite declines in growth, overall spending will approach $8.1 trillion by the end of 2024, according to Artios.
  • There is an estimation that 20-24 million online commerce stores will be live by 2024, the majority being B2C websites.

Source: Statista

Changing Customer Expectations and Their Impact on Ecommerce

What customers have come to expect from the ecommerce experience has also changed over time. The thrill of being able to buy something online and having it delivered to your door has worn off. Online shoppers today expect many of the same services that used to be included solely in-store to be available online. They want recommendations as well as experiences that are suited for them.

Also, they want augmented reality to simulate how those sunglasses will look on their faces or how that sofa will look in their living home. They want a powerful search engine that can quickly locate what they’re looking for and recommend things they might not have realized they needed. Buy anything from anywhere, with no complexity in the purchasing process. These customer behaviors which define the trends, all point to three main objectives:

  • Reducing friction in the purchasing (and selling) process
  • Creating meaningful brand experiences
  • Selling anything everywhere and everything anywhere

In summary, experience is now an important component of purchasing online, and businesses that want to stay competitive must pay attention.

Reasons for Ecommerce Growth

As we have mentioned previously, the growth of ecommerce platforms can be attributed to several factors. One of the main drivers is the increasing number of people who shop online, which surged during the pandemic. More and more people became comfortable with shopping online, from the comfort of their homes, during this period.

These numbers spiraled and continued growing, amassing online transactions exponentially. Ecommerce platforms provide an easy way for businesses to set up an online store and start selling products quickly and more importantly on-the-go using wireless handheld devices like cell phones and tablets.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Ecommerce

Ecommerce offers numerous benefits for businesses and consumers alike. Businesses can reach a wider customer base, reduce operational costs, and provide convenience to customers. Consumers can enjoy a wider selection of products, compare prices easily, and shop from the comfort of their homes.

However, ecommerce also has its drawbacks, including security concerns, potential lack of personal interaction, and challenges in building trust with online shoppers. It is crucial for businesses to address these drawbacks and provide a seamless and secure ecommerce experience.

The future of ecommerce holds significant potential. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, personalization, and sustainability will shape the ecommerce landscape. Businesses that embrace these trends and adapt to changing consumer demands will thrive in the global ecommerce marketplace. Additionally, choosing the right ecommerce platform will be crucial for businesses to drive growth and success. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the history of ecommerce and its major milestones?

The history of ecommerce dates back to 1979, when Michael Aldrich invented online shopping by connecting a television to a telephone line. The World Wide Web’s introduction in 1991 made ecommerce more accessible, with the first online sale occurring in 1994. Major milestones include the launch of ecommerce giants like Amazon (1995), eBay (1995), and Alibaba (1999), the rise of mobile commerce in the mid-2000s, and the ongoing evolution of e-commerce platforms to accommodate business models such as B2C, B2B, and D2C.

How has the growth of ecommerce impacted brick-and-mortar retailers?

The growth of ecommerce has forced many brick-and-mortar retailers to adapt their business models and incorporate online shopping experiences. It has also led to increased competition and the need for businesses to differentiate themselves through unique products, shopping experiences, and digital marketing strategies. The impact of ecommerce on traditional retailers has been both challenging and transformative, with many businesses employing an omnichannel approach to reach more customers and stay competitive.

What role has mobile commerce played in the evolution of ecommerce?

Mobile commerce has played a significant role in the evolution of ecommerce, as mobile devices have become increasingly prevalent and widely adopted for online shopping. M-commerce allows customers to shop for products online through dedicated mobile applications and websites, offering a more convenient and accessible shopping experience. As a result, retailers have shifted focus towards developing seamless mobile experiences and optimizing their ecommerce websites for mobile usage.

How have ecommerce websites evolved over time?

Ecommerce websites have evolved significantly since the first online sale in 1994. Early ecommerce websites were simple, text-based catalogues of products with limited functionality. Today, ecommerce websites offer a rich and interactive shopping experience with high-quality images, video content, personalized product recommendations, streamlined navigation, and responsive design for mobile devices. Further advances such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and voice assistants continue to reshape and improve the online shopping experience.

What is the future of ecommerce, and how might it continue to evolve?

The future of ecommerce is likely to focus on personalization, automation, and the expansion of omnichannel strategies. Advances in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things will enable retailers to create highly personalized shopping experiences tailored to individual shopper preferences. Further expansion of social commerce, voice commerce, and new payment methods such as digital wallets and cryptocurrencies will also contribute to the ongoing evolution of ecommerce.

What’s the difference between B2B, B2C, and D2C ecommerce?

B2B (business-to-business) ecommerce refers to transactions between businesses, while B2C (business-to-consumer) ecommerce involves businesses selling products directly to consumers. D2C (direct-to-consumer) is a more recent ecommerce model where manufacturers sell their products directly to consumers, bypassing retailers and other intermediaries. B2B ecommerce sales typically involve larger order volumes and longer sales cycles, while B2C and D2C focus on attracting individual consumers and providing them with a seamless online shopping experience.

How have digital marketing strategies evolved alongside ecommerce?

Digital marketing strategies have evolved significantly alongside the growth of ecommerce. Early strategies focused on basic online advertising and email marketing, whereas today’s digital marketing encompasses search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, and more. Modern digital marketing is data-driven, targeting specific customer segments and personalizing marketing messages to improve engagement and boost ecommerce sales.