Posted by: nickgerlich | September 7, 2007

Traffic on the E-Way

When the dotcom revolution was underway in the late-1990s, futurists predicted that we would all give up our offline shopping ways, and we’d migrate en masse to the electronic realm for our shopping needs. And so e-tailers offering everything from pet food to living room furniture and wheel barrows sprouted in the fertile online soil.

That soil is now appearing to be parched and dry, according to a report at MSNBC.com, showing that the growth rate of e-commerce is indeed slowing.

ecommerceOf course, this does not mean that the future of e-commerce is grim. It is not like someone over at amazon.com is saying, “Will the last one to go under, please turn off the computer.”

No, what it means is that a consumer behavior phenomenon is playing out before our very eyes. Those who have already embraced e-commerce will continue to do so, and will likely continue to buy a higher percentage of their goods online, while those who have not yet embraced it probably never will.

Like my parents.

The funny thing is, many people still think that e-commerce is not safe. Think again. The identity theft problem that has plagued the Amarillo Zoo-Kini’s restaurant this summer (and reported swiftly by email this week to hundreds of local folks) means that using your Visa to shop online is no more dangerous than using it to pay your bill for dinner.

So there, you dinosaurs!

While I do not argue with the facts reported by MSNBC.com, I do take issue with those who argue incessantly that e-commerce is inherently unsafe. But please do not get me wrong: I also do not predict the end of brick-and-mortar retailing as we know it. I still enjoy browsing shelves, just like I enjoy browsing the wares of my favorite online retailers.

I just do not see what the problem is.

Unless the resisters have a change of heart (which one would predict as our population evolves, with a greater percentage of computer-literate people), e-commerce could be relegated to an important yet limited market niche. This market no doubt will be highly educated and well-off, and thus a sought-after demographic for e-tailers, but most retailers of all stripes would like to reach more than just a sliver of the overall market.

And while our online merchants may be upset with the sobering news of flat growth, I cannot help but wonder how the folks feel at Zoo-Kini’s here in Amarillo. Their system was hacked into, probably through no fault of their own.

It is enough to make you want to go somewhere else for dinner, though.

Dr “How About Red Robin Instead?” Gerlich

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