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E-Commerce Ten Years Later – Changes from 2001 to 2011

Submitted by on September 13, 2011 – 1:04 pmNo Comment

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 just passing, it was a good time to reflect on things.  It made me recall, amongst many other things, exactly where I was when I heard the news.  I was face down, half awake, in a Business/Computer class.  Yes, it’s been about a decade since I picked up my first e-commerce textbook in my freshman year in College. My major of study was E-Commerce, which was unheard of in 2001, was only offered by a handful of universities country-wide. The number of students in the E-Commerce major was seven. I distinctly remember one student telling me that his Mother wasn’t sure E-Commerce would still be around by the time we graduated and he was going to switch majors. I always found this very humorous. I couldn’t understand where she thought the technology would go. Throughout history, any technology that has improved efficiency and productivity has always flourished. I mean once the Model-T was invented, did some people think we were going to go back horses? The same goes with E-Commerce. Were people really going to continue looking at catalogs and mailing out checks when they had the option to save time and money conducting transactions online?

I recently published a guest post to ProgrammableWeb about E-Commerce APIs and it got me thinking.  I come from a tech background, so understanding the technology portion of e-commerce comes relatively EC-2002-83959-Leasy. Keeping up with the rapidly changing tech environment is of course still a bit of a struggle.  But what I really need to ensure I keep up with is the changing business environment of e-commerce. The first book of importance I had in College was titled E-Commerce 2002: A Managerial Perspective.  I remember it was packed with real-world case studies and interesting tidbits.   It is now on its 7th Edition, EC-2012and for the first time has changed it’s name. The latest revision is titled Electronic Commerce 2012: Managerial and Social Networks Perspectives.  Just from the title change alone, we can see how much Social Networking has impacted E-Commerce.  I think I’ll pick up a copy when it’s released in October and return to my studies :)

So what has changed in E-Commerce over the last 10 years? A lot. But here are several major changes off the top of my head:

  • Evolution of the Web 2.0 / Social Networking / Facebook / F-Commerce
  • Shopping Cart solutions have evolved into large, robust E-Commerce platforms such as ElasticPath, Magento, Znode and others.  Plus there are now hundreds of shopping cart solutions, some are only a few lines of JavaScript, making it incredibly easy to get e-commerce setup on your own website.
  • eBay has led to the advent of similar e-commerce website concepts for niche and indie sellers. Sites like Etsy, BigCartel, and Storenvy are flourishing with everyone from professionals to hobbyists looking to showcase and sell their stuff online.
  • Stock and user-customized on demand product sites like CafePress, Zazzle and SpreadShirt have grown exponentially over the past decade. As of June 2011, CafePress has filed with the SEC to raise up to $80 million in an initial public offering.
  • Amazon has always been the cornerstone of E-Commerce, even back in 2001. But today, it has become a global e-commerce monster scaling several verticals. As of July 27, 2011, Amazon’s market cap has passed $100 billion.
  • The tremendous impact Google and SEO has had on E-Commerce growth and marketing.  Over the years many tutorials like this one from SEOMoz have been published for E-Commerce SEO best practices.
  • The continued rise in both the number of Open Shopping APIs and their complexities.  There are more than 200 E-Commerce APIs spanning several verticals.
  • Groupon became the fasted growing company ever as the focus in parts of the E-Commerce space are shifting toward geo-location, local, and consumer-demand driven.

Ten years ago, few people could have dreamed of these enhancements, certainly not my friend’s Mother. We are at an interesting time in the progression of E-Commerce.

Not everyone agrees that e-commerce has moved ahead at a speedy pace to get where we are today (read Josh Kopelman’s thoughts on innovation in eCommerce published last year).  But even these skeptics agree that we are now innovating at accelerated rate – see Josh’s prior post where he stated the following:

“the online shopping paradigm is finally changing.  Indeed, I think we’ve seen more innovation in the last 10 months than in the last 10 years.”

He mentions several areas he believed were ripe for expansion including: Mobile, SNO (Social Network Optimization), User Generated Content, Game Dynamics API’s that allow for syndicated shopping and others.

What do you think?  Was Josh right?  Have these areas of E-Commerce exploded in the last year?

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