Consumer & Retail
Article image

The Next Chapter in Business-to-Consumer E-commerce

Advantage Incumbent
In This Article
  • The first chapter in the development of online retailing is coming to an end.
  • Incumbent retailers have a great deal to win by mastering new Internet skills and overcoming new logistical hurdles.
  • Consumer purchasing on the Internet is going to grow—companies that wait on the sidelines may find themselves unable to catch up.

The first chapter in the development of online retailing is coming to an end. The land grab is over; the investment frenzy has abated; many “dot-bombs” have failed. The second chapter, just beginning, will be significantly different. For one thing, the online consumer population is starting to look more and more like the mass market. For another, today’s consumers expect online retailers to give them the same kind of broad inventory and solid, reliable service that they demand from bricks-and-mortar stores. The Internet is no longer a fad. For retailing purposes, it is now a channel with its own distinct advantages and shortcomings—a channel, moreover, that increasing numbers of consumers use only when it offers them genuine value in the form of price, convenience, selection, and dependability. The next chapter in online retailing will tell a story about the basics of being a merchant—how to acquire customers, how to market merchandise, how to hold on to customers by pleasing them, and how to increase share of wallet. The next chapter consists of old material—however new the format—and it will be written largely by experienced players.

The Next Chapter in Business-to-Consumer E-Commerce: Advantage Incumbent examines the current and future landscapes of online retailing. It identifies the categories that will experience growth and the retail formats that are poised to take advantage of that growth. The report should be of particular interest to multichannel retailers, who are particularly well positioned to leverage their existing assets in the online environment.

The report relies on several quantitative and qualitative sources of data. Key among them is The Boston Consulting Group Q4 2000 Online Purchaser Survey. The Boston Consulting Group conducted a quantitative survey of 2,876 U.S. Internet purchasers during the fourth quarter of 2000. Consumers were selected from the Harris Interactive database of approximately 8 million Internet users. The data were weighted to make the sample representative of the U.S. purchasing population—defined as individuals 18 or older, living in the United States, who purchased a product online at least once in the 12 months preceding the survey. To supplement these findings, qualitative one-on-one interviews were conducted with active online purchasers.

To Contact the Authors