February 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

The History of E-Commerce

Major milestones in the annals of online retailing, from the launch of Peapod to today’s battle over online sales tax.

1989
- Peapod brings the grocery store to the home PC

1992
-U.S. Supreme Court upholds 1967 ruling, effectively freeing web retailers from collecting sales tax in states where they have no physical presence
-Phone-based 1-800-Flowers plants itself on the web

1994
-A department store comes to the Internet: J.C. Penney
-Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web is renamed Yahoo
-Netscape unveils SSL encryption, enhancing web security

1995
-The future king of e-commerce, Amazon.com, launches
-AuctionWeb launches a site soon to be rechristened eBay

1997
-Dell becomes first company to hit $1 million in annual online sales
-Netflix begins operations, changing the way people rent movies

1998
-PayPal launches its alternative payment service; eBay acquires PayPal in 2002
-Google, the future king of search, debuts
-Yahoo launches selling platform Yahoo Stores
-Annual online retail sales hit $8 billion

1999
-Zappos launches web-only shoe store emphasizing customer service; in 2008, annual sales top $1 billion
-Internet Retailer magazine debuts in March
-Online grocery service Webvan starts its engines
-Global Sports, which becomes GSI Commerce in 2002, debuts fully outsourced e-commerce platform
-Levi gets hands slapped by retailers for selling direct to consumers, kills its web site
-eToys.com among first online retailers to jump into Internet IPO boom
-Heavy-hitter Furniture Brands International says furniture doesn’t fit the web; housewares/home furnishings retailers rack up $3.9 billion in web sales in 2007
-Victoria’s Secret debuts site with an online video viewed by 1 million on Day One
-Weekly web sales top $1 billion for first time in December 1999
-Annual online retail sales skyrocket 100% to $16 billion

2000
-Amazon.com and Toys ‘R’ Us announce 10-year agreement for cobranded online store
-Disgruntled customers file class action suit against ToysRUs.com for failing to meet Christmas delivery
-In Q4, quarterly e-commerce sales exceed 1% of total retail sales
-Wal-Mart introduces buy online/pick up in store program
-eToys crashes repeatedly during December; shoppers looking to buy file class action lawsuit

2000 (The Dot Com Investment Bust)
-Garden.com throws in the trowel
-Pets.com winds up in the litter
-Hyped fashion retailer Boo.com closes its closet
-The Internet falls out of favor with Wall Street, but not Main Street: online retail sales soar 81.3 % to $29 billion
-Internet grocery service Webvan runs out of gas
-One-hour delivery service Kozmo.com crashes
-eToys.com shuts its toy chest
-Despite ongoing dot-com investment implosion, annual online retail sales leap 48.3% to $43 billion

2001
-Branded retailers account for 2% of all merch­andise sold on eBay
-Amazon.com blazes a trail, launching a mobile commerce site
-Court shuts down free music-sharing site Napster; site relaunches in 2003 as paid service
-Amazon.com posts first net profit in Q4, proving pure-plays can play

2002
-Number of web users who have bought online crosses 50% mark; 52.4% aged 14+ bought on the web in 2002
-Annual online retail sales up 25.6% to $54 billion

2003
-Apple launches iTunes store for digital music downloads
-Social network MySpace launches, followed by rival Facebook in 2004
-Congress passes the CAN-SPAM Act, setting rules for marketing e-mail
-Annual online retail sales jump 29.6% to $70 billion

2004
-Credit card companies create PCI data security standards
-Internet Retailer debuts Top 300 Guide, which will become the Top 500 Guide
-Annual online retail sales up 25% to $87.5 billion

2005
-One million Valentine’s Day shoppers crash Hallmark.com multiple times
-Streamlined Sales Tax Project launches, stepping up pressure for retailers to collect sales tax on online sales
-First Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition
-YouTube launches; its massive popularity inspires e-retailers to take another look at online video
-Vendor Bazaarvoice launches customer reviews with first client, Golfsmith; customer reviews soon gain widespread popularity
-J.C. Penney becomes first retail chain to hit $1 billion in online sales
-Web 2.0 takes hold as more retailers incorporate user-generated content and new technologies that make sites more interactive
-Annual online retail sales jump 25%-again-to $109.4 billion

2006
-Google debuts Google Checkout to compete with the likes of PayPal
-Web-only Newegg hits $1 billion in sales only five years after launch
-Annual online retail sales up 25%-yet again-to $136.2 billion
-Smaller players drive online sales growth: 1-100 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide grow 19%; 401-500 grow 23%

2007
-Apple debuts the iPhone with full web browsing and downloadable apps, advancing m-commerce
-Nike CEO says he “woke up” to potential of e-commerce, charts new course to achieve “full potential” of the web
-Apparel sales exceed computer sales online for the first time
-Not-so-merry Christmas: Amazon.com, Macys.com, Overstock.com and Yahoo Stores crash during the holiday crush
-Annual online retail sales growth slips a bit, up 21.8% to $165.9 billion

2008
-Amazon.com surpasses eBay in most monthly unique visitors
-Levi is back selling online; manufacturers account for 14% of sales of Top 500 online retailers
-Amazon.com introduces TextBuyIt, enabling consumers to buy products via text messages
-Number of smartphone users nears 25 million and 3G wireless broadband subscribers surpasses 70 million; both technologies dramatically improve mobile web browsing
-The Friday after Thanksgiving, Sears.com down for 2 hours and 45 minutes due to popularity of online promotions
-Google Sites generate 85 billion searches, Yahoo Sites only 25 billion and Microsoft Sites 10 billion
-As the economy tanks, the heyday of 20%-plus e-commerce growth ends: annual online retail sales up only 6%

2009
-Amazon.com and Overstock.com lose New York online sales tax battle

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