E-commerce has come a long way since entering public consciousness in 1994. This year, global e-commerce sales breached the US$2 trillion mark, with more than 20 percent of the world’s entire population making an e-commerce purchase in any given month. It is a phenomenon best underscored during 11 November which is Singles Day in China – the world’s largest 24-hour online sale. During Singles Day in 2017, sales smashed records with figures amounting to US$25.3 billion, an increase of 40% from 2016. In US, Black Friday sales have also been picking up momentum over the last few years. This year, both Amazon and Walmart are riding on the event, having a pre-sale before the main event kicks off on the 24 November.
E-commerce has indeed proven to be a resilient industry, surviving through an ever-evolving technological landscape, as well as industry-wide collapses, such as the dot-com bubble bust of the early 2000s.
Today, e-commerce giants are part of our daily lives. Take Amazon, for example. Founded in 1995, it continues to be a pioneer on many fronts, using data to improve the retail experience for consumers, opening up innovative advertising avenues, and incorporating artificial intelligence through the launch of computerised personal assistant Alexa. It has become the largest Internet company in the world, with revenue reaching US$136 billion in 2016.
The dragons of Asia are also sharpening their digital claws. Chinese giants, JD.com and Alibaba, have chalked up more than US$53 billion in e-commerce sales, and their combined worth surpasses US$247 billion. JD.com has also pioneered the use of drones to deliver goods in universities and areas with safe air space.
And then there is eBay, the popular platform for both e-commerce and e-auctions. Along with its 2004 acquisition of Craigslist, eBay has democratised the e-commerce process, making it possible for anyone to sell anything – including land.