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From online reviews to augmented reality, Ecommerce has done a full 360.

Imagine a world without online shopping and transactions. Instead, you would have to go to a conventional brick and mortar stores, get recommendations of new shops from others by word of mouth and have to visit the actual store to receive product catalogues. Sounds difficult, right?

Ecommerce involves all activities related to buying and selling products online. It has become an important part of modern businesses and a luxury for consumers. According to Statista, almost 40% of worldwide Internet users have purchased a product online. That amounts to more than 1 billion shoppers.
But online shopping has not been around for long. Today’s e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay started barely two decades back. In this article, we will look at some major milestones and developments that have shaped the current Ecommerce landscape as we know it.
  1. The WorldWideWeb (WWW):

Before Tim Berners-Lee created the first web server and web browser in 1990, the B2C Ecommerce industry was not very lucrative, commercially. In 1991, the NSF (National Science Foundation) lifted the restrictions on the commercial use of the NET and paved the way for growth of online shopping.

In a matter of few years, millions of  domains were registered and uncountable businesses had an online presence. This led to better interaction between the users and the business without the user actually having to visit the store. In 1995, Amazon was founded as an online bookstore. It was one of the first American companies providing online transactions.

2. Payment gateways:

Payment processing was vastly overlooked until startups like Square and Paypal brought new identity to the industry. Nonetheless, this breakthrough was a huge milestone for the evolution of Ecommerce.

Payment gateways connect the merchant’s website to the bank. When you put in your card details and check out, the data is assembled, encrypted and sent to the merchant’s browser. A payment gateway then collects this data and forwards it to the bank’s payment processor, where the payment is either accepted or declined. Upon acceptance, the money is transferred to the merchant’s bank account.

During the initial phase of the Ecommerce bubble, there were very few payment processing solutions. Authorize.net, founded by Jeff Knowles was among the first PC-based processing solutions.  Users were now able to shop securely and merchants processed transactions seamlessly.

Later, in 1998, with companies like PayPal, online transactions became global. PayPal users could send, receive and hold funds in different currencies.  Vendors were now able to cater to buyers all around the world with PayPal.

Infographic: How Augmented Reality is Changing Online Retail

3. Online reviews:

In 1999, three ‘review’ websites emerged- RateItAll.com, Deja.com, Epinions.com. This was a first time on the Internet that customers were asked to review and rate products. Within 6 months, more than a million reviews had been written.

Shortly, this concept was implemented directly within the buyer’s journey for online stores. Businesses invited users to rate and review their products. This system proved beneficial for both merchants as well as customers. Existing reviews enabled prospects to know about the pros and cons of the product from a customer’s perspective. At the same time, it enabled companies to address the issues faced by a customer. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that online reviews created a new paradigm of interaction between businesses and customers.

Today, such is the power of reviews that it can either make a product or break it. The old method of ‘word of mouth’ recommendations isn’t as prevalent. In fact, in 2011, a report by CONE research survey pointed that online reviews are so influential that customers tend to believe a strangers’ recommendation on the Internet rather than recommendations by friends and family.

4. The popularity of smartphones:

In 2007, Apple launched iPhone which allowed users to browse the internet and download and use apps from the iOS store. This allowed users to shop and transact on the go and started many of the mobile retail trends that are thriving today. People need not be confined to their homes, sitting on their PCs to browse the Internet. The emergence of smartphones gave customers the capability to stay connected anytime and anywhere.

Today, Mobile commerce or m-commerce is expected to cross $500 billion sales by 2017. While m-commerce took the whole ecommerce industry by storm, developing economies were the biggest beneficiaries. Cheap smartphones, combined with deeper Internet penetration has allowed businesses to reach to a whole new audience. In the present day, an array of ecommerce solutions works in tandem with social networking tools to enable customers to interact with businesses seamlessly.

5. AR (Augmented Reality):

Augmented reality is the newest innovation to bless our generation, let alone the wonders it would bring for retailers and consumers. At the most basic level, Augmented Reality superimposes computer-generated visuals on a user’s natural view of the surroundings. Complex AR technologies also allow you to interact with the visuals in innovative ways through mobile devices and (soon) headsets.

Augmented Reality in Shopping

While AR has uncountable applications ranging from military to construction and medical, its application in commerce is pretty astounding. AR is addressing the one issue that online shopping has never been able to solve — the urge to ‘try’ and ‘see’. When it comes to industries like home decor, where the buying decision of customers is mainly driven by their visualization, AR applications are an ultimate deal.

Through AR applications, like Augment, users don’t need to rely on envisioning any longer. Try brands’ products first through Augment reality to test drive different items with much more confidence before making a purchase.

AR technology immerses users in an environment with your company’s product and the user’s surroundings such as their living room. Augmented reality is the go-to tool for retailers in their omnichannel approach as well. From in-store AR installments to show how products will look when assembled, to helping shoppers see their products at home; the newest Ecommerce milestone is the most advantageous yet. Say goodbye to visualizing!

Ecommerce is a booming industry and marketers are hungry to tap the fresh markets. It all comes down to the shopping experience of the users in such a competitive marketplace cluttered with uncountable options. The evolution of this industry has left retailers and online stores with an array of tools to combat abandoned carts and increase demand. Make sure your business goes the extra mile to better your shopping experience.

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