Will the Online Retail Sector Outstrip Traditional Brick-and-Mortar Businesses in the Future?

  • 1 year ago
Will the Online Retail Sector Outstrip Traditional Brick-and-Mortar Businesses in the Future?

It is estimated that 380 new websites are created every minute!  While many of these are designated for personal use, we need to point out that a sizeable portion are also intended to be used for retail purposes.  Thus, we have witnessed the rise of the home-based business.  Individuals and entrepreneurs from all walks of life are beginning to leverage the numerous benefits associated with these opportunities and the fact of the matter is that we might only be scratching the surface in terms of what the future has in store.  This situation has some analysts wondering if we will ever witness the day when traditional retail outlets fade into memory.  Let's take a look at what we can expect to witness in the next coming years as well as why this threat is likely overrated.

2019 and Beyond: A Brave New Digital World

Some of us who can still recall the commercials from the 1980's are likely familiar with the work-at-home opportunities of the time.  These mainly included mundane tasks such as bookkeeping, legal services and telesales.  It is therefore not much of a surprise that very few individuals were enticed by the possibilities.  Even if they became involved, they would be immediately limited by their working hours as well as how much money could be made.  All of this changed with the advent of the Internet during the 1990's.  

We have now evolved to the point when there are innumerable possibilities for those who are looking to start a home-based business.  Not only are there a host of great startup ideas available, but the do-it-yourself nature of e-commerce sites has opened up an entirely new retail opportunity for those who are looking to embrace the digital edge.  International payment gateways, secure interfaces, detailed product listings, 24-hour customer support and intuitive sales analytics are all literally a click away.  We should expect 2019 to represent the year when online retail sales truly makes its mark upon the international markets as a whole.  


Still, this has some firms worried.  With a growing number of employees seeking life elsewhere and abandoning the traditional 9-to-5 work routine, will businesses be able to cope?  Are they doomed to experience downsizing in the future or is the virtual retail sales trend blown out of proportion?  In order to successfully answer these questions, we need to embrace a wider point of view.  Let's use the role of artificial intelligence as an example.

One Piece of a Much Larger Puzzle

Some individuals feel threatened by AI; predicting that it will one day overtake traditional human activities and behaviors.  However, we need to remember an extremely important aspect of artificial intelligence.  AI can be distilled to a single principle: algorithms created by humans in order to augment their current capabilities. Notice here how we did not use the word "replace" in the last sentence. In other words, AI is simply intended to enhance the experience of the end user as opposed to replace it entirely.

The same holds true when referring to the online retail sector.  While there is no doubt that this community is growing at a breakneck pace, it is also a fact that the human presence will always be required.  let's also not fail to mention that manufacturing and production are still required in order to create appealing products.  Truck and planes are needed to ship these items and naturally, even the most advanced AI-inspired chatbots will not be able to replace the human touch. Now that we have taken a dose of reality, we should point out how some traditional sectors are likely to be modified by the presence of e-commerce platforms.

There is no doubt that "smart" e-commerce solutions will cause some positions to become redundant over time.  For instance, of what use is a large in-house marketing staff if improved algorithms can perform processes in half of the time that would be required by humans?  What we are more likely to see is the implementation of more specialized staff members in order to address discrete roles.  "General" sales reps and similar positions are likely to experience a bit of downsizing and in truth, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Such movements will force individuals to further hone their skill sets; enabling them to become more appealing to a potential employer.  

The bottom line is that the overall impact of the online retail sector is certainly impressive to those who are looking for an additional source of income.  Still, we should not expect brick-and-mortar enterprises to go away anytime soon.  There is no doubt that technology is continuing to advance and those who are willing to look towards the digital horizon are likely to do extremely well in the future.