The numbers don't tell the real story with business-to-consumer commerce on the Web. Online retailers have done a lot of work behind the scenes to make the Internet a viable channel by addressing the problems that turned off consumers during e-tailing's first wave of popularity.
First, more reasonable expectations exist for Web commerce. Many dot-com companies had boasted that they would put traditional stores out of business. Remember all those Web grocers? Like many of their dot-com peers, most went out of business or were taken over by traditional grocers. They now form the online channel to complement physical supermarkets.
Likewise, e-tailers seldom think of themselves any more as the entire sales channel. However, they're not disappearing altogether. Instead, they form one part of a larger selling strategy.
Second, the Web channel strengthens other channels and makes a multichannel approach more effective. You can buy something online and return it at a store, or browse in a store and make the transaction online. The Web improves the buying process for consumers. When it's done right, retailers benefit from the multiple interactions with customers and potential customers.
See news story:
It's a happy holiday for e-tail sales
Consumers and retailers will rely on the Web as one of many channels that can be used to interact with each other. Accordingly, business-to-consumer companies should view the Web as a mainstream channel--not an experimental or standalone channel--and integrate the Web with physical stores, the call center and catalogs in a comprehensive channel strategy.
(For a related commentary on how better Web usability can boost online sales, see Gartner.com.)
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