Illustration E-commerce: Definition, History, Statistics & Growth

E-commerce: Definition, History, Statistics & Growth

Short description of the article

  • Intro
  • E-commerce Definition
  • E-commerce History
  • Benefits of e-commerce
  • Conclusion


Nowadays people can’t imagine their lives without the internet. With the internet you can do everything: order a pizza, sell old clothes, buy a new laptop etc.

The birth of the internet happened at the very start of 1983, but E-commerce began when the first man sold goods through the World Wide Web.

E-commerce Definition

Before telling the history of e-commerce development let’s define what it means.

E-commerce (electronic commerce or internet commerce) is commercial transactions via the internet - buying and selling goods.

Although E-commerce usually means selling or buying but any kind of commercial transaction through the internet can be called E-commerce.

E-commerce History

In 1991 the Internet was opened to commercial use and from this moment the e-commerce purchases have become possible. But it was a security protocol development that allowed rapid access and a persistent users’ connection to the Internet.

The fast growth of e-commerce sales has begun from 2000 when many business companies in the United States and Western Europe started to sell on the internet. Until then the users hadn’t purchased goods via the Internet so vigorously. Both sellers and buyers realized and began to appreciate the advantages of electronic commerce.

If telling about the history, the first Internet companies should be mentioned which made electronic transactions possible for users, these are e.g. Amazon and eBay.

The most well-known Internet retail companies are Amazon, Dell, Staples, Office Depot and Hewlett Packard. And among the most popular products sold through the Internet are books, music, computers, office supplies, and other consumer electronics.

For the understanding of how quickly eCommerce is growing look at the statistic:

Fast growing retail eCommerce sales from 1999 to 2007:

Fast growing retail eCommerce sales from 1999 to 2007

In this statistic, you can see how quickly Retail eCommerce Sales were growing compared with the Total Retail Sales in the United States.
By the end of 2007, e-commerce sales accounted for more than 3 percent of total sales.

There are some additional facts on e-commerce retails you need to know

  1. The top 3 online stores' revenue was about 100 billion US dollars in 2017.
  2. In 2016 online shopping became one of the most popular online activities worldwide but it depends on the region (e.g. 19% of all retail sales in China occurred through the internet)
  3. Desktop PCs and mobile devices are the most popular devices for placing online shopping orders.

As buying or selling via the internet became really comfortable, e-commerce sales are growing each year and here’s statistics on retail e-commerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2021.

statistics on retail e-commerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2021

As you can see the expected revenue will grow.

Benefits of e-commerce

Benefits of e-commerce

Of course, there are several reasons why retail eCommerce sales are so popular and still growing.

So what advantages do the vendors and customers get from online shopping?

Advantages for customers

  • The users can quickly compare the prices, differences and other goods’ particularities while staying at home and just clicking on the mouse.
  • The big database of products and services can be searched through very fast.
  • The customers have their shopping delivered directly to the door without leaving the house.

Also read our article: E-commerce App Development: the Best Ways to Design Checkout Flow and Registration.

Advantages for vendors

  • The vendors can be found by customers easily and quickly, and in addition to it, these customers can make orders from all over the world so that even small stores and shops can come to the global market.
  • There is no need to start an expensive advertising campaign.
  • And web technology helps to find out customer preferences and to deliver targeted advertising.

Of course, above-mentioned advantages are the main ones, and there are much more benefits from e-Commerce business which will be described more precisely in the coming articles. There is an opinion that in the future eCommerce will replace all other sales’ types. There appear more and more e-commerce models nowadays.

Look at 4 main e-commerce models describing the interaction between customers and businesses.

1. Business to Consumer (B2C):
A business sells a good or service to a consumer.
For example, you buy a laptop or a smartphone from an online shop.

2. Business to Business (B2B):
A business sells a good or service to another business.
For example, many business owners order wholesale supplying from Chinese business owners. Actually, it is the biggest form of eCommerce sales and it counted $700 billion in transactions by 2001.

3. Consumer to Consumer (C2C):
A consumer sells a good or service to another consumer.
For example, one customer sells his old sofa to another customer on eBay.

4. Consumer to Business (C2B):
As it can be seen from the name, a consumer sells something to a business or organization.
For example, a journalist writes articles and sells them to the newspaper.

Also read our article: Popular Marketplace Types For Startup


E-commerce has been developing with the internet. Its history began when using e-commerce sales made possible in 1991. Each year it’s making more and more money.

Retail e-Commerce sales are projected to become in 2021 almost twice as big as in 2018.

There are 4 main e-commerce models which show the interaction between customers and businesses. If you are interested in building your own e-Commerce business or have a startup idea feel free to contact our team!

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