The other day K.C. and I just happened upon the conversation about Amazon Prime and it's amazing convenience, quality and pricing. We both marveled at the new e-commerce business model that is becoming the shopping default for both of us. Instead of traveling to the local retailer to find, research and buy an item - both of us just query the item on Amazon, read the product description, read the reviews and in two days the item appears at your doorstep (with free shipping).
Some rebutt that you will never avoid the need to visually inspect (or try on) the merchandise prior to purchase - mainly to avoid the hassle of returns. This recently happened to me when some home and garden items that Amazon shipped did not match the product advertised dimensions. But the return process was simple and painless. In fact when I requested the one time promotion code be reset for a subsequent purchase, the representative was very accommodating by issuing a gift certificate for my next purchase. WOW - this kind of customer service will reinforce my habit of turning to Amazon first for ecommerce shopping.
But what about large dollar purchases that require interactive questioning, complex interfaces and/or visual inspection? Many people go to Best Buy and talk to the representative, view the various flat screen TV's and then return to home to buy the item on the Internet for less. I can see why Best Buy is in danger of failing (like Circuit City). What's the local retailer to do?
I think they must convince the customer (if they won't match the Internet prices) that the post purchase service will be better than any Internet delivery. This could be done in many ways - warranty, free delivery and set up, future training or tuning, trade in options etc. If this value can't be "sold" the big box local retailers will slowing fade away.
And for the benefit of chatting with the local retailer? It won't be long before you know your Federal Express/UPS driver on a first name basis.