Study Examines 20 Years of Evolution in Ecommerce
It is tempting to still think of ecommerce as a new invention, but the truth is that more than two decades have gone by since Amazon first opened its doors and today online shopping is a $400 billion industry. What started out as a game of innovation and trial and error is now a sector with its own standards and metrics.
These are the conclusions drawn by a recent report from Astound Commerce, which has studied two decades of change and evolution. It examines the impact of every component of an ecommerce business, including design layout, payment platforms, digital marketing and user experience, along with the effects of customer reviews and product recommendations.
The report studied 300 metrics across 100 of the top online retailers and identified the biggest changes that have been seen across the industry in its 20-year existence.
From catalogue to virtual store
In the 1990s, ecommerce sites were a far cry from what we see today. The report notes that in the early days, retail websites looked more like an old-fashioned product catalogue. Views and colours changed only about 12 per cent of the time, compared with 96 per cent today.
Another sign of the evolution from on-screen catalogue to online store is the question of product availability. In 1999, less than a quarter of online sellers offered inventory information, while today the figure stands at 95 per cent.
The importance of recommendations
Perhaps the most dramatic findings in the report are around the importance of product reviews and recommendations. As recently as 2005, when Amazon was already a decade old and ecommerce was firmly in the mainstream, less than a third of potential buyers bothered to read customer reviews when viewing a product. Today, they are viewed by 94 per cent, proving the huge significance of peer validation among buyers.
Upselling has also become a key aspect in customer conversion and retention. Go back 15 years, and only 38 per cent of sites provided recommendations based on a past purchase. In today’s ecommerce environment, this is a standard practice for nine out of ten sites.
A vast transformation
Astound Commerce’s Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy, Lauren Freedman, remarked: “The current e-commerce experience is almost unrecognizable from that of 20 years ago. The e-commerce experience has undergone a vast transformation as technology has advanced.”
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, with innovative cloud-based applications and strategic use of big data analytics, there can be little doubt that there is plenty more dramatic change to come.