You might think that e-commerce is a big wave that's going to wipe out brick-and-mortar retail, and that inevitably, shopping malls are destined to be turned into skateboard parks or golf courses. But don't count on that. According to a recent report by the business research and consulting firm A.T. Kearney, about 90 percent of retail sales still occur inside the walls of physical stores, and if you include transactions done by physical retailers with an online presence — such as stuff that's ordered online but held at a store for pickup — the share increases to 95 percent.
As a result, some online-only retailers, such as beauty products seller Birchbox and eyeglass boutique Warby Parker, have actually opened physical storefronts. Even online retail giant Amazon has experimented with "pop-up" temporary stores where customers can actually touch and feel some of the products before buying them [source: Collins]. This trend seems to be just starting, but it may be that in the future, you'll need to judge whether you should also sell your wares in physical locations, becoming a true "omnichannel" retailer.
Author's Note: 10 Skills That You Need to Run an Online Business by Yourself
This was an interesting assignment for me, because I'm old enough to remember how things were bought and sold before the Web and e-commerce existed. When I was a kid in the mid-1960s, it was a big thrill to get the Sears catalog in the mail. I'd eagerly peruse the pages full of pictures of exotic toys and gadgets that I didn't know even existed, and wish for the day when I had a checking account and enough money in it to order them. When I was a slightly less penniless teenager, I joined a mail-order record club, mostly to get the 15 free records they offered a premium. That was how I got my vinyl copy of the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street," which I still have someplace.
More Great Links
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Do you really make any money selling stuff from Mary Kay, Rodan & Fields, Pampered Chef, etc.? HowStuffWorks breaks down the numbers.