To understand the reasons why e-commerce agents have become essential, it is useful to quickly trace the evolution of the relationship between consumers and companies during last thirty years. The economic, political, socio-cultural changes that have taken place from 1960 to the present have led to significant changes in the level of marketing provided by companies.
At the beginning, thanks to the boom of the Sixties, suppliers did not feel the need to go beyond uniform mass marketing for all consumers. At that time, because of the strong economic expansion, companies had a rather simplistic vision of the demand. There was only one type of consumer: the "average consumer" with standard tastes and requirements.
But following the two oil crises of the Seventies, many people became aware of the important disparities between consumers. By using classic socio-demographic criteria (age, income, profession...), one therefore gradually moved on to a segmented marketing scenario where each consumer is identified according to their individual categorized group.
In spite of an improvement in the economic situation, the phenomenon did not stop during the Eighties. From then on, companies practiced niche marketing by adapting their offers not to vast segments of consumers, but to even smaller and more homogeneous entities: market niches. Socio-demographic criteria were from then on replaced by lifestyle criteria.
Finally, nowadays, thanks to computers, a company is theoretically able to know each of its consumers, and so offer them adapted and personalized products and services. This is the age of individualized marketing whose goal is obtaining perfect knowledge, not of a consumer, but the customer! From the beginning of the Nineties, companies have used computers to set up marketing databases, an essential tool for identifying, contacting, convincing, selling, and establishing a long lasting relationship with the customer. The true "memory and brain of the company", marketing databases have acquired a new strength with the explosion of the Internet, and what is known as one-to-one marketing.