What Was the First eCommerce Company? eCommerce History

Do you want to know who the very first ecommerce company was and how it all began? Come on a journey with us as we explore the history of ecommerce!

What Was the First eCommerce Company? eCommerce History

Today, eCommerce is one of the most profitable industries thriving with numerous players, and the market revenue is projected to reach $4.48 trillion by the end of 2023. As the world demands more of it, the key players in the industry are reciprocating it. But have we ever wondered how today's booming industry performed when it first started? It has been 40 years since someone started conducting business online, and the rest is a successful e-commerce history. 

In this article, we will be discussing when and how eCommerce started and what was the first-ever eCommerce company to come to business. 

What is eCommerce, and How did it Start?

eCommerce is the business vertical where products or services are sold & bought online by the customers by using the internet. As its demand and utilization skyrocketed, the roadmap of an eCommerce company has completely changed and is now being adopted by almost everyone. 

Do you intend to know when did e-commerce begin to influence our lives? The hands-down invention of eCommerce is dated to 1979, by an entrepreneur Michael Aldrich, in the United Kingdom. It started when he found a way to connect his domestic television to a real-time & multi-user transaction processing computer with a telephone line. 

The story states that Aldrich and his wife had talked about how inconvenient it is to take regular trips to the market to buy essentials. And this is when they thought of how convenient it would be for people to order goods right from the comfort of their homes. 

With his invented system, which is now known as eCommerce, goods & services were advertised on television. Hence, this allowed the viewers to call a central processing center to place orders for the needed product. Aldrich named it 'teleshopping.'

After creation, this product was made available to the market in 1980 and was put on sale as a B2B system. Several customers then purchased it in Ireland, Spain, and the UK. 

The First eCommerce Store after this Technological Invention

After the technological invention, the first eCommerce company was launched in 1982, named Boston Computer Exchange. This company created an online market for people to sell their pre-owned computers. It was not the first ever eCommerce company, but it was the first to get broad exposure, as the invented technology was already gaining demand and utilization.

As the internet knocked in, another popular eCommerce business came to light: an online book store named Book Stacks Unlimited was launched in 1992 by Charles M. Stack. It was three years before Amazon launched its online book store. Later, Book Stacks Unlimited was acquired by another famous company, Barnes & Noble. 

History of Ecommerce Timeline

Now that you have a general idea of how eCommerce came into existence let's dive deeper into its stepwise evolution in this historical timeline. Only then will we understand how its potential surpassed all heights today. 

1960 to 1968- The Early Invention Days

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) was invented in the 1960s. It is the technology that prepared the roadmap for eCommerce to survive. This is the technology that people traditionally use for sending or receiving documents without physical intervention. Moreover, it also enabled users to conduct a digital data transfer from one computer device to another. 

1969- The First Ever eCommerce Company came to light

CompuServe is technically the first-ever significant company that utilized eCommerce and made it a success. It was launched in Columbus, Ohio, and in the world without the internet. The company offered computer-sharing services to various businesses by sending data through phone lines. 

1979- Electronic Shopping was Brought to Light

Ten years later, Michael Aldrich invented and demonstrated electronic shopping by connecting a modified television to an online transaction, the processing computer through telephone lines. He called it 'teleshopping.' 

1983- eCommerce Got its Acknowledgement

Some popular electronic commerce companies were called to the California State Assembly to attend the first hearing on eCommerce technology. The companies invited to the hearing are MCI Mail, CPUC, CompuServe, Volcano Telephone, Prodigy, and Pacific Telesis. A year later, California's Electronic Commerce Act was passed with specific requirements for selling goods or services through telecommunications. 

1992- Book Stacks Unlimited was Launched

The era of the 90s was a revolution for eCommerce with Book Stacks Unlimited, an online book store being launched by Charles M. Stack. 

1995- Amazon and eBay were Launched

This year made history for the eCommerce industry as Amazon and eBay were launched by Jeff Bezos and Pierre Omidyar. 

1998- PayPal Launched its First Online Payment System

PayPal, the first-ever online payment system, was introduced for making money transfers. 

1999- Alibaba Launched its Online Shopping Platform this year

Alibaba launched its online shopping vertical in 1999 with around $25 million as its capital. Over time, Alibaba became an eCommerce giant which is renowned across the globe. 

2005-2017- Immense Development of eCommerce Popularity and Technology

All oversized and undersized eCommerce giants developed their existing technologies and eCommerce features to grab a large chunk of the consumer base. 

Some of the big names that contributed to the middle-stage development of eCommerce became live in this period. BigCommerce, Google, Square inc., Apple, Jet.com, Instagram, Facebook, etc. These companies have contributed to eCommerce advancement, in one way or another, during this period. 

Some of the giant leaps that the eCommerce industry witnessed from these companies between 2005 to 2017 are:

  • Amazon launched its Prime membership in 2005 to ensure that customers with this membership could get two-day delivery for free. 
  • Etsy was also launched in 2005, allowing small and medium businesses to sell their goods online and start small businesses. 
  • BigCommerce was brought to action in 2005 and is a leading online storefront platform today. 
  • Google launched its online wallet payment application in 2011.
  • Apple launched its online payment application, Apple Pay, in 2014.
  • Instagram introduced shoppable tags to its platforms in 2017, which allowed people to shop directly while scrolling through social media. 

Related: Shopify FBA Vs. Amazon FBA- Which is Best for Your eCommerce Business

2017 to Present

In this timeline, small, medium, and large businesses are now using the eCommerce model to reach a more extensive customer base. Operational costs of the B2B sector are now lowered, and parcel delivery costs are increased gradually. 

Social media is now the tool to increase sales for eCommerce brands, and logistics are operating with automation tools to speed up the fulfillment process. Small businesses are seeing a spectacular increase in their business, as local sellers now use their businesses from social media platforms to acquire more sales. 

Buying habits of people have also changed in this course of time. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, purchase decisions are impacted for people across the globe, and eCommerce purchase is the best mode of buying essentials and necessities for customers.

Today, sellers and eCommerce businesses are also adapting omnichannel selling or marketing approaches to ensure users can avail their products across all channels and platforms. 

eCommerce History FAQs

Who founded the first eCommerce company, and what was it called?

CompuServe was the first eCommerce company founded by Jeffrey Wilkins and Dr. John R. Goltz in 1969. They did this by utilizing a dial-up connection. So next time someone asks you when eCommerce began, tell them it was in 1969, and eCommerce has come a long way. 

How did early eCommerce companies differ from modern ones?

Early eCommerce companies used EDI and teleshopping as a prime mode of business. But today, the internet, partnering tools, and service solutions have made eCommerce operate more seamlessly than ever. 

What are some of the most successful eCommerce companies today?

Today's most successful companies are Amazon, IKEA, Alibaba Group, eBay, and Rakuten Group. Amazon started as an online bookstore in 1995 and is the biggest eCommerce giant globally. They claim to offer customers A to Z shopping experience and have justified their motto in this eCommerce industry. Therefore, among all the top companies, Amazon is the number one eCommerce company globally, with a revenue of $280.5 billion. 

What challenges do eCommerce companies face in the current market landscape?

Some common challenges that eCommerce companies face today are data security, consistency, customer retention, technology partnerships, omnichannel experience, and others. 

Apart from all of these challenges, one critical problem that eCommerce companies face is the agility challenge. ECommerce brands must be agile enough to keep evolving and upgrading to the latest trends. Sticking to the old UI, UX, products, and features often leave a brand behind the competition.  There is a big crowd of eCommerce websites across the globe, and the key to sustainability in this highly competitive industry is to be agile and consistent. 

Related: How to Set Up an eCommerce Website

How will the future of eCommerce unfold, and what implications will this have for businesses and consumers?

The eCommerce business is already on a thriving toll and will continue for a while. As stated earlier, the eCommerce industry will make more than $4.4 trillion by the end of 2023, which says convenience for consumers, whereas high-end profitability for businesses.


Our exploration of the history of online commerce has taken us all the way from the first true ecommerce company up to now. We've seen how it's evolved over time, from local storefronts to multibillion-dollar enterprises. From nostalgia for early internet experiences to our own modern day convenience and ability to access almost anything we want with just the click of a button, ecommerce has changed the way we buy and sell forever. What's more exciting is that this evolution likely isn't over yet – with technological advances happening every day, there are sure to be more remarkable innovations in the world of ecommerce. It's going to be a wild ride, so buckle up and get ready! If you're looking for help getting started or need help fulfilling orders, then Simple Fulfillment is here for you. Get in touch today and see how we can take your business journey to the next level.

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