Whether you are a business owner, web designer or a consumer, it is helpful to recognize the trends and innovations in internet shopping. As a business owner, online marketing has become a key way to reach customers and generate income. As a web designer or business consultant, you must give your clients the best tools to meet their marketing needs. And as a consumer, you can benefit by getting the best possible prices and most convenient shopping experience.

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The first web page went online just a little over 25 years ago.  In one human generation, the world changed forever.  Certain key companies and innovations changed the way we shop and do business forever.

Here are a few of the highlights.

  • HTML and the web page: In the 20th century, a company advertised by a limited number of means, such as a listing in a phone directory, signs or print ads. The website gave a means to show highly detailed information about their products and services, in a way that was accessible worldwide. Instead of paying print ads that are seen and then quickly discarded, the information can be seen as long as the website is hosted and maintained.
  • The development of the shopping cart: Soon businesses were able to sell products and services directly from their websites.  Rather than custom programming the store’s core functionality, the shopping cart framework could be set up and configured for many kinds of businesses “without re-inventing the wheel,” by writing a whole new program.
  • Ebay: The online auction and direct sales platform let consumer and businesses compete with each other, to get the best deals and reach millions of clients, worldwide.
  • The E-books: The digitizing of books and other publications changed the publishing business forever.  It reduced the high initial cost of self-publishing and let authors control the rights to their own products.  Amazon.com moved into the lead to dominate the publishing business, but the format is still available to give independent authors a means to market themselves, in many marketing channels.
  • Social Media: Billions of people around the world are on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.  They have made the world “smaller” by connecting people as friends, all over the world. Businesses can now market themselves where people spend most of their time, interacting socially with their friends.
  • The online megamarts: A few companies, like Amazon in the US and Alibaba in China have grown to be places where you can buy almost anything from a single website.  They represent the products from millions of retailers.  The delivery time, in the US, for many cities has been reduced to as little as 2 hours, because of their innovations in product warehousing and local delivery service.  Amazon has recently bought its own fleet of cargo planes to increase the efficiency of the system and is testing unmanned drone deliveries.
  • Grocery delivery is a grand idea that has been a dream that has “almost succeeded” for 25 years. It has eluded us like the dreams of intelligent home robots and flying cars. However, a few companies like Peapod, are now offering grocery delivery to homes and businesses in dozens of cities.
  • Virtual Reality: Hardware for virtual reality has finally started to mature and is now hitting the market.  The next Internet gold-rush has  begun.  Game makers, media companies and other publishers are racing to create compelling content.  Now is the time for the visionary marketers to come up with the next revolutionary wave of marketing.

Knowing where we have been is important to understand, to predict where we are going. History has shown that Internet innovators and early adopters profit and thrive.  Consumers that are savvy get the best deals.  Do what you can to keep up, but it’s going to continue to be a wild ride.

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