Retail is dead!

At least, that’s how Marc Andreessen sees it. The entrepreneur and tech investor was recently quoted saying that all physical retail stores will die, succumbing eventually to the vast sea of online competition. According to Andreessen, there will be one way to shop for everything and that way will be e-commerce. It’s also fair to say, given that Andreessen co-founded Netscape and is invested in a number of online properties, that he might be just a little predisposed to this extreme position. Nonetheless, his opinion caused some unrest in the retail community and should be taken seriously.

On the other hand…

I have been a vocal proponent of a somewhat different future; one that includes both virtual and physical stores. You see, if I believed that humans shopped for no other reason than to acquire goods, I might be more aligned with Andreessen’s view but in fact, we don’t shop just to get stuff – any more than we go to restaurants purely for nutrition. In fact, we often shop to fulfill other deeper needs as well – the need to disconnect, to socialize and to commune – and at times to simply be out in public. Why else would celebrities brave the hoards of paparazzi to shop for things they could undoubtedly have delivered to them on a silver platter? The physical, human experience of shopping is in some ways of far greater value than the goods that come along for the ride. So, while shopping is a means of acquiring the things we want and need, it’s also a meaningful social activity that appeals to our deepest, human tendency to gather in tribes.

That said, I’m convinced that between the futures that Andreessen and I describe, lies the truth. But one thing is quite certain; that retail stores will be much different in the years to come than they are today.

  1. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing it.

  2. csdykeman says:

    I agree with your position that the retail stores as we know them will be quite different in the future. As having a Website for your business becomes easier and cheaper, retail businesses small and large will thrive when they have both the “brick and mortar” and e-business access for their customers. Shopping can be a social experience and a “get it done” need. With both worlds available, loyal customers will keep coming back.

  3. levdaniel says:

    Most of the retail will die. The reason is more people find it more convenient and time consuming to shop online. There are few exceptions though. I agree about what you said about the shopping experience and belive is the main factor. Expensive boutiques will stay for rich people love the treatment and the process. Plus, some things you can’t buy just looking at the picture, unless you already saw it or tried it on. We have to understand that women is the drivng force in consuming world. No creater in the world like as much attention as women; therefore, online store don’t always satisfy the need.

    With the way economy is going to small business retail stores is not an option. Average small business is looking to manage their budgets and creating more efficient way to organize sales process. Online store resolves these issues. No need for leasing space, hiring managers, creating special retail/shipment plans. Virtual world makes it simple. It is clear that more stores offer online service now and I see less and less retail stores but it’s hard to imagine virtual reality taking over – kind of scary.

  4. ncordero4 says:

    I really do not want to see retail die. I work in retail and I see all kinds of different people that come in. Most of them browse and if they see something they like they end up buying it. Shopping is pure impulse and visual. You really cannot get a look at something from a computer screen.

    I have tired to shop online. I do not like it. I am the type of person that needs to see it in person to see if it does look good on me after all. Sometimes I look at things online and then I go to the store to try it on and it does not look the way I thought it would. I really do not think retail stores will go away completely and the reason I say that is becuase companies will not want to process a whole lot of exchanges. I do think that certain retail stores will go away and some will change the type of products offered.

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