20 years of buying online


I was recently trying to explain to my kids that once upon a time you couldn’t buy exactly what you wanted exactly when you wanted it online. My kids can’t imagine that world, but really it wasn’t that long ago was it? I took a quick trip down memory lane (later backed up by wikipedia) and realized it’s nearly been twenty years since the birth of shopping online.

In 1994 Pizza Hut was one of the very first companies selling online. That was the same year that Netscape introduced SSL and a year before Amazon went online. Even if you could find something to buy (besides pizza) buying online was scary business. But bit by bit the technology evolved, the experience evolved and then our expectations evolved.

In the mid 90’s I was just happy that buying online was an option, but now I’ve got choices and my expectations guide my buying habits. These are the things that matter to me when I’m doing business online:

Who am I doing business with?

I now know more about the people I do business with online than I do about my neighbors. In this social media age we’re all public figures (for better and worse) and this means I can get to know the people behind the companies I do business with. I read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, and check out other products and ideas they recommend.

What they do is important, but so are how and why.

People who are passionate about what they do build better products, processes, and services. Period. I look for people and companies that are focused, engaged, and passionate about what they do.


Who can I trust with my data? Data Security has come a long way and is always evolving. I want to know that the people I do business with take my trust seriously. Do they follow the latest industry best practices and government regulations? Are they independently audited and certified PCI compliant?


I want to know that if I have a problem I can get help, right away. Since I live online being able to help myself via their website is important to me. I want to quickly be able to get the answers I need. But it’s also nice to know that if I can’t help myself someone that wants to help me will answer the phone or an email.

A lot has changed in the last 20 years. In upcoming posts I’ll highlight some of the major advances. I’ll also share some thoughts on what is going on today to improve shopping online.

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