Your browser will redirect to your requested content shortly. Toward the end of 1994, MONEY magazine published a story about the sharp rise in consumers shopping from home. 60 billion worth of purchases from home, nearly all of it through phone orders prompted by mail catalogues and TV shopping channels. Some companies even let shoppers pick out the wrapping paper via computer. That’s pretty much how people talked about e-commerce in 1994, when it was brand-spanking-new, not to mention weird, sorta how To Make Money Online Without Inserted, and totally unfamiliar to most consumers.
In honor of the big anniversary, we thought it would be fun to look back at how the birth of online shopping was viewed in 1994, a year before Amazon. Mostly, though, what’s amazing is that, in retrospect, so much of what was said and written in 1994 about online shopping was pretty much right on the money. From the get-go, many people realized that e-commerce would revolutionize shopping, by making it cheaper, more convenient, and more customizable than traditional shopping in physical stores. 20 years ago, back when it was just a baby. Online shopping was as hip as the Marlboro Man. An end-of-the-year article from USA Today featured a side-by-side list of trends that were In and Out for 1994. You need one of these to use the Internet and possibly buy stuff, you see.
People had no clue where or how to buy stuff. QVC told a publication called Network World. At the time, home-shopping networks like QVC were viewed as potentially huge players in online shopping. Interestingly, the article also pointed to CD-ROMs as another online shopping option at the time. There was plenty to be scared about—privacy, fraud, porn, and more. If you think your private information is easy for scammers and marketers to gather now, just think about the Internet circa 1994. It was assumed advertising would ruin everything.
What was then a niche group of users wanted the Internet to be a place where ideas and information could be shared quickly and openly. And many Internet users weren’t happy about it. Internet for exclusive use by advertisers, but companies haven’t figured out how to get netsurfers to look at them. Efforts to plant ads in the network’s 2,500 newsgroups have caused an uproar. Another prophetic assumption: Online shopping would make stuff cheaper. Without the need for salespeople or even a physical sales space, it seemed inevitable that online shopping offered sellers a means to lower overhead costs—and therefore lower the prices charged to customers.
Sure enough, they didn’t—and they still don’t like how e-retail giants like Amazon are pushing around the competition and product makers alike, usually with the idea of getting prices lower for the customer. People saw the upsides of customization and convenience, too. Overall, they knew online shopping would be a huge deal. UBS analyst said to Reuters in 1994. 5 billion sales channel in a few years. Money may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.
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