When you think online shopping pioneers, Pizza Hut likely isn't the first company that comes to mind. However, the pizza franchise claims the first thing ever ordered over the internet was the humble pizza in the early summer of 1994. (And, yes, there is third-party verification.)
"We have substantiation from 'history of the internet' type authorities that indicate that a large pepperoni, mushroom and extra cheese pizza from Pizza Hut was indeed the first thing ever ordered via the internet," said Doug Terfehr, Pizza Hut's Director of Public Relations.
Twenty years later, in celebration of the anniversary of the first online purchase, Pizza Hut is offering customers a peek into the earliest days of ecommerce. "PizzaNet" -- Pizza Hut's old-school digital order hub -- is back online for the occasion. The black-and-white, super-minimalist website is stark compared to any modern ecommerce site, but serves as a blast from the past time when buying things online was revolutionary.
Pizza Hut is also offering 50 percent off on medium or large pizzas for "Hut Lovers" members ordering online until Jan. 10.
"We want to celebrate the fact that before consumers could buy books, clothes, music or vacation packages via the internet, they could place an online order for a Pizza Hut pizza," chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut, Carrie Walsh, said in a statement. "We're doing so by giving back to our customers who have helped us lead the way with digital innovations over the last 20 years."
Pizza Hut's definition of digital innovation has evolved over the decades. In 2007, Pizza Hut began the industry's social media competition that now spans Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, as the first national pizza company to launch a Facebook page. Today, apps are a major battleground, as Pizza Hut competes for top spot with the likes of Domino's and Papa John's, all three of which are regularly listed in the top ten free apps in the Food & Drink category.
"Our biggest goals in 2014 are to reaffirm our position as the technology leader in the pizza category," says Terfehr. "As the company that first brought the online experience to consumers and introduced the first pizza ordering App, we are looking at a bunch of new breakthroughs this year, as well as generally improving the digital ordering experience for all consumers."