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Retail

E-Com’s Killer Advantage, and What It Means for the Store

Thinking about the store – and asking, in this age of Amazon.com, how the physical environment can create and deliver sustainable, differentiating value. It might be that the answers are found within the digital walls of e-commerce.

First, in all its various forms, e-commerce offers remarkable convenience – in time, in selection, shipment options, even prices. Can’t find it on one site? You’ll find it on another. Don’t want a new one? Would a used one do? Do you want to receive it tomorrow or next week?

E-commerce, in all its various forms, is also steadily improved through detailed analysis of shopper behavior. Total site visits, unique site visits, site navigation, abandon rates by page by product, and on and on.

Finally, e-commerce – and this, I think, is the real killer advantage for net-based retailing – offers a remarkable breadth and depth of content: What-it-is, how-to-use-it, how-good-it-is, what-they’re-saying, and what-else-you-might-like.

According to the Pew Research Center, Internet & American Life Project (2010), available retail content – more than convenience, more than price – is the reason why 83% of all broadband users in the US researched products online in the last year. On a typical day, 21% of US adults search for product information: Scan a top-quality site. Note the peer reviews and ratings. Product comparisons. Recommendations for accessories. Advice from designers. How-to-use-it videos. Quick connections to product experts. References to manufacturer links. On and on and on.

Content creates knowledge. Knowledge creates confidence. Confidence translates in retail to conversion and repeat business.

Envision Amazon.com for a moment without the breadth and depth of content. What if it gave its customers the standard experience of . . . a standard-issue store?

The challenge going forward for brick-and-mortar merchants: how to create convenience, enable behavioral analysis, and integrate content with the store’s inherent advantage of immediate product.

In the days ahead, it may be the difference between retail life and death.

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