Snooze Ya Lose

26 06 2010

This just in: Major retailers are now using web sales so they can compete with pureplay online businesses!

Is that coffee I smell?

And in other news, this is 2010. Yeah. A lo-o-o-ng time after the whole Y2K non-incident. A dozen years after I started teaching e-commerce. And some 16 years after the general release of the internet as we know it.

So why did this take so long? Well, it’s not that BAM (brick-and-mortar) retailers didn’t do anything. It’s just that what they did was rather half-baked. Some (Target, Toys ‘R Us, Borders) forged relationships with e-commerce giants like Amazon (which handled the e-comm function for them). Others merely had a web catalog, but expected people to…drumroll, please…get in their cars and come to the stores to make the actual purchase. And a few…a very few…like Best Buy…actually got it and integrated their stores with the web, allowing cross platform buying and distribution.

Sure, critics can argue that e-commerce still only accounts for 7% of all retail sales in the US, but that’s $134 billion. Nothing to sneeze at, buddy. And when a recession is going on, folks tend to get a little desperate.

So today many more stores are now fully embracing e-commerce, running their own online stores, and installing web kiosks so that customers can search and/or buy online while in the store. Other chains are ditching clunky cash registers from the past in favor of PC-based POS (point-of-sale) devices that not only ring up sales, but also allow clerks to check availabilities online.

Still, I find it alarming that many large chains have, up until now, not fully embraced e-commerce. Lip service is not a commitment, and it appears all the talk of multi-channel retailing preached in text books is more wishful thinking than reality. Stores touted their online presence, but it was more hyperbole than hard selling.

More than anything, this is recognition that the big BAM retailers finally realize that Amazon-Zappos is for real and here to stay (Amazon bought the fabled online shoe retailer late last year). In 4Q of 2009 alone, Amazon’s sales were $9.5 billion. Yeah, do the math. In just three months, Amazon accounted for 7% of all 2009 e-commerce sales.

If that’s not enough to awaken a sleeping giant, maybe we need to skip the coffee and go straight for the Red Bull. Because the next headline may be an obituary.

Dr “Snooze Ya Lose” Gerlich

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