The way we shop nowadays is completely different to the way in which we shopped 20 years ago. It’s even quite different to the way we shopped 5 years ago, and we will be saying the same thing in the next 5 years.
As is common practice now, it’s hard to think of when online shopping wasn’t a think and it might be even harder for some to remember a time when there weren’t any credit cards. The latest infographic from Collect+, the parcel collection providers, has looked at 9 of the inventions that have managed to cause a massive impact amongst the shopping industry and revolutionised the way we shop at the same time.
Not necessarily such a big deal nowadays with online shopping being so convenient for customers but back in the day the introduction of catalogues and mail order was a pretty big thing. The idea behind the mail order was that people could select their favourite items from a catalogue and then send a form back to the company along with a payment, with the item eventually being delivered to your address of choice. Initially introduced in Venice, Italy in 1498, the first catalogue featured a list of books and was hand-lettered.
Coupons have been around since 1887 and are still popularly used today – either in actual physical form or in the form of a discount code for online purchases. The co-owner of Coca-Cola created the first coupon when looking for a new way to market the soft drink and was redeemable for a free bottle in the United States.
Another US invention, the idea of self-service was introduced in 1917. Back then, clerks would collect the desired items for customers and bag them up at the counter. Clarence Saunders patented the idea of a ‘self-serving store’ and allowed customers to take items from shelves themselves.
- Credit cards
The US has a tradition of revolutionising the shopping industry and was the home of the first credit card. The Diners Club Card was introduced in 1950 after a business man under the name of Frank McNamara had forgotten to bring his wallet to dinner with him and then came the idea of a formalised system.
In 1948, work began on a symbol that would be able to be translated by a computer and be identified as a product. The idea was patented in 1952 in America by Joseph Woodland, yet the idea wasn’t fully realised until the 1970s when IMB properly introduced the symbol to the world.
- Plastic bags
Invented by Sten Gustaf Thulin, a Swedish engineer in the 1960s, the method of a simple and strong bag which had the capacity to carry a high load has become an institution of the shopping world since the packaging company Celloplast patented the idea worldwide in 1965.
- Online shopping
Despite feeling like a very recent addition to the world of shopping, the idea of being able to go online and remotely do your shopping has actually been around since 1984 – six years before the internet. A grandmother in the United Kingdom was able to try out Mike Aldrich’s Videotex system which turned her TV into a computer terminal. She was able to use her TV remote control to order groceries, which would then be relayed down her phone line.
- Contactless payments
Mobil Gas stations in the United States can claim the first example of a form of contactless payments. In 1997, they offered their customers the option to pay by SpeedPass – a form of device that was clipped onto key rings that customers could wave by a gas pump to instantly pay for their gas.
- Click and collect
Click and Collect has boomed in popularity over the past few years and is the youngest of the inventions, as it has only been around since 2000. The idea behind click and collect meant that customers were able to fit their online shop around their busy schedules and collect their order when it suited them.
What does the future of shopping hold for us? Well, it’s pretty evident that on-demand delivery is no longer a thing of the future. Companies like Amazon are already successfully trialing out the idea of delivering items via drones and it looks set to become only bigger as more and more companies realise the potential and demand for such a service.
With 3D printing also becoming increasingly popular, the idea of people being able to go into a shop and have their own product designs downloaded and produced into a physical product could become very real.
Take a look at the infographic below and go through the journey of shopping inventions via CollectPlus.