Amazon has well over 500 million products for sale. Walmart, Amazon's next nearest competitor, hopes to be selling 200 million products by 2020. By then, Amazon may well have 1 billion products for sale.
Absent wide-scale missteps on its part, Amazon is unstoppable. It and its myriad of e-commerce cohorts will continue to grow meteorically, entirely at the expense of traditional brick and mortar retail. But they will not "wipe out" physical shopping, for these reasons:
- Consumers need to possess and/or be willing to use a credit card to participate in e-commerce. The cash consumer will likely remain tethered to physical stores.
- Consumers who are unable or unwilling to receive package deliveries to their home or place of work will likely remain tethered to physical stores.
- Consumers will always have a discernable affinity for "touching, feeling and trying" things that they intend to acquire. That's not to say that many customers appear hesitant to shop "sight unseen" via the internet. But some will shun shopping in that way.
Bottom line: E-commerce enterprises will eventually have to trade off future potential volume growth against substantial shipping costs and the extraordinary costs of dealing with exorbitant customer returns, which e-commerce enterprises are burdened with in contrast with brick and mortar stores.
Other voices in the conversation:
- Kirsten Green, founder, Forerunner Ventures: Online shopping is no fun
- Stuart Appelbaum, president, retail workers union: Retail won't die, but it will change
- Oscar Yuan, president, Ipsos Strategy3: Amazon spurns Gucci shows
- Joseph B. Fuller, professor, Harvard Business School: People want to see each other face-to-face