If you believe that all retailers do is get goods from manufacturers into the hands of consumers, then surely online retailers will destroy the industry. But good retailers are much more than that. Sephora continues to thrive, scouring the world for beauty trends and innovative products, and then presenting them to customers in a fun environment that encourages exploration and experimentation. Zara is on the forefront of the latest fashion trends, taking looks that come off the runways and translating them, within days, into affordable versions for consumers to try. In both cases, it is their clever fingers on the pulse of consumer trends that ensures they are doing what Amazon can't.
You would be hard pressed to find someone from Amazon in the front row of the Gucci fall collection show.
Bottom line: Unless online retailers keenly focus on keeping abreast of consumer trends in electronics, fashion, and the myriad of other categories they sell, with buyers, trend spotters, visual merchandisers, and all the other capabilities that retailers have, there will continue to be a place for traditional retailers in the consumer landscape for years to come.
Other voices in the conversation:
- Mark A. Cohen, professor, Columbia Business School: Amazon is unstoppable
- Kirsten Green, founder, Forerunner Ventures: Online shopping is no fun
- Stuart Appelbaum, president, retail workers union: Retail won't die, but it will change
- Joseph B. Fuller, professor, Harvard Business School: People want to see each other face-to-face