Online shopping is taken for granted these days; however, many shoppers can remember a time before e-commerce. How did we get from brick and mortar stores to shopping online? The history of e-commerce and the evolution of the modern day storefront dates farther back than you might imagine — all the way to the Neolithic Period in 10,200 BC. Check out the Evolution of the Storefront infographic from Robofirm that highlights this journey.
Commerce in Ancient Times
Prior to the Neolithic Period, people hunted and gathered to acquire the things they needed. The dawning of a new era brought agricultural innovations that allowed early man to not only produce enough food to survive but also to sell and/or trade with others. Household storefronts and trading hubs began appearing in rapidly growing numbers, becoming more sophisticated throughout the years.
The First Shopping Mall
In ancient times, the birth of sales and trade led to other innovations like the invention of currency and the development of record keeping. Storefronts were tightly crammed next to each other, with separate shopping areas designated for the sale of luxury goods. Trajan’s Market — a shopping center in ancient Rome dating back to 100 AD — has the distinction of being history’s first shopping mall.
The Industrial Revolution
One of the most pivotal times for commerce throughout history was the Industrial Revolution. Spanning from 1760 to the mid-to-late 1800s, this era introduced an amazing number of innovations that directly impacted how goods are not only sold but produced as well. Textile manufacturing, steam power, and improved iron production are just a few advances made during this time. The first plate glass display window was created in 1840, giving merchants the ability to showcase their wares to passers-by. This time period also saw the debut of two leading department stores in London and New York — Harrod’s in 1824 and Macy’s in 1858.
The Precursors to e-Commerce
Brick and mortar stores have undergone their own evolution, with the corner store dominating early 1900s culture. Shoppers usually walked to their local corner store, buying only what they could carry home. Inventions like the refrigerator and the automobile made it not only possible to store more food on a longer basis, but also to transport a greater quantity of goods from the store to one’s home. Department stores and malls became the norm for shoppers; however, the emergence of big box stores in the 1970s changed the game once more — giving consumers even more choice when it came to shopping and eventually leading to the downfall of many small businesses.
The 1990s — Dawning of a New Age
There is no question that the 1970s and 80s were pivotal times for commerce. However, the 1990s ushered in a brand new era — the era of e-commerce. Many experts point to Amazon as the domineering force that changed the face of shopping forever. The Internet became a 24/7 shopping destination where individuals could buy anything they wanted or needed without ever leaving home. Despite how things have changed, they’ve also remained much the same. People still haggle for the best price as they did in ancient times — the unflagging popularity of auction giant eBay is a testament to mankind’s desire to snag the best price.
What’s Next for Online Retailers?
Online shopping isn’t going anywhere. E-commerce offers a level of convenience and selection that is unparalleled by the brick and mortar storefront model. How advances in technology will affect e-commerce remains to be seen; however, it is likely that online shoppers will enjoy even more features and advantages in years to come. Does this mean the end of the brick and mortar storefront? Not likely, although shoppers can probably expect a greater level of connection to arise between online stores and their physical counterparts.