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Hed: A trip down memory lane


My favorite new site is called the Wayback Machine, a free digital library of more than 150 billion Web pages archived from as far back as 1996 to up until just few months ago. When a colleague first recommended the site, I spent hours clicking through its various pages to see how companies approached the Web way back when.

It reminded me of when you grow up alongside a friend or family member and you don’t necessarily notice the physical changes they go through as they happen before your eyes. The scenario is much different and the differences are more radically apparent when it comes to someone you haven’t seen in more than a decade. As I sifted my way through old retail sites, I smiled fondly at their early e-commerce attempts as though they were old baby pictures, and took note how of they grew into the rich, dynamic sites they are today.

For example, Wal-Mart’s site, dated April 1997, looked infantile. With basic text and no engaging visuals, the site felt unbelievably vacant. But by November 1999, the company had made big advancements by spicing up its homepage with more links and images, and adding a drop-down menu with some key features, including a store locator. As the years went on, the site started to look more and more familiar.

Over the past 10 years, the online world has gone through many changes as it grew into a billion dollar industry. Although a drop in consumer confidence is impacting e-commerce sales this year, Web sales are nonetheless expected to be positive as it continues to capture market share from brick-and-mortar stores, according to Forrester Research. The Web channel has remained successful during these times due to convenience and the ability to search for lower price points.

The Web is no longer the underdog of the retailing world, like it was just ten years ago. More retailers are looking toward their e-commerce departments to further develop their brand and learn key insights about their target audience, and Web teams are stepping up their game by adding and embracing new initiatives and strategies.

By now, I’m sure most people are familiar with Twitter, the micro-blogging site that has become a nationwide phenomenon in what seems like overnight. Retailers are trying figure out how to get in on the action, and how to best leverage the site in order stand out amongst competitors. Some fans even think that Twitter could ultimately replace email as a main channel for sales, promotions and coupon distribution.

As the Web continues to mature, and new initiatives like Twitter hit the mainstream, it’s fascinating to sit back and think about how much this medium has grown over the last decade, and where it is now. Even more, it’s exciting to think about where the Web will be in just ten more years.

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