In 1973 I needed a microscope, as one does in Standard 8 in Fish Hoek. I scoured the local library to find a supplier. I wrote to a firm in London. Their reply arrived three months later. They wanted a formal order, along with a bank draft for the device and p&p.
My Dad saw the price, went bald, and chose not to pay.
In 1999, in Melbourne, I needed a printer. At 5 PM one evening I ordered a small HP laser printer from the website of a Sydney store listing better prices than my local store. The unit arrived 16 hours later at 9 AM the next day.
This past year I’ve ordered dozens of Kindle books from Amazon. Each has arrived within seconds.
The world is speeding up and getting smaller as our reach extends further. All of my extra PC kit, like SSD drives and RAM upgrades, comes from OWC in the USA. It always arrives in Norway a few days after ordering. My pens come from Cult Pens in England. They too arrive a few days later. (Norway offers almost no choice in fountain pens, and absolutely no ink.) In both cases more choices and lower prices make this a no-brainer.
Buying online is now the norm for hundreds of millions of us. But each online purchase takes a sale away from a local supplier who has a “real” shop or office nearby.
Setting up a website shop costs much less than that “real” shop. No rental, no deposit, no contract, no shopfitting, no insurance, no security, no sureties, and no regulatory hurdles.
Zero setup risk, in other words. Yet that website shop reaches the world, while the “real” shop down the road can only reach people within a small local radius. Honestly, who is going to win this contest?
In 1998, I was invited to Mauritius to address an association of travel agents. I spoke about email marketing. Very soon, I said, people would be buying air tickets directly from the Internet. This didn’t go down well. Especially not with the SAA team who assured all present that this would never happen. Quite so.
The Internet keeps eating offline industries. Almost every aspect of travel, displacing travel agents, hotels, and even taxis. Almost every aspect of publishing, displacing magazines, newspapers, books, and all of their supporting players (printing, advertising, distribution). Almost every aspect of consulting. Movies, music, training, venues, software, hardware, …
The Internet makes it easier for each of us to buy. None of us wants to go back to being held to ransom by a local, monopoly store.
On the other hand the Internet also makes it easier for each of us to sell. The question I’m interested in is: How will this relentless rush online affect you and your business?
Hardly a week goes by without a person telling me he is safe from such intrusion. In the same breath he will complain about how tough selling has become. That’s not because rivals are bribing the buyers. It’s not just because the economy has stalled. It’s because a buyer with a PC has choices he’s never had before.