Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Retailing 2005: Electronic Malls, Virtual Shopping Carts

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Retailing 2005: Electronic Malls, Virtual Shopping Carts

Article excerpt

TODAY'S Christmas rush at the mall will become tomorrow's on-line stampede.

Buyers will order more goods remotely: from catalogs, home-shopping television shows, and on-line computer services. They'll visit stores proportionately less. It amounts to a significant change in the retail industry. If it happens quickly enough, it will be a revolution.

Michael Killen, president of his own market-research firm in Palo Alto, Calif., believes in revolutions. This year, he estimates that the world has spent roughly $4.6 trillion buying goods and services. Nearly nine times out of 10, people and businesses bought these things in the traditional, face-to-face manner. That's why today's malls and retail stores are doing a booming business, and newfangled on-line shopping services are not.

But don't grab for that shopping cart. By 2000, Mr. Killen says, more than one-quarter of consumer shopping will be conducted remotely; by the year 2005, one-third will be.

Many retail analysts agree a transition, albeit a slower one, is under way. "I wouldn't sound the death knell of retailing right now," says Maxwell Sroge, a catalog consultant based in Evanston, Ill. But "when on-line shopping becomes available ... it's going to have tremendous impact on the nonstore marketing business."

Retailers, catalog companies, on-line providers, and telephone companies all seem to agree.

Many are lining up for Killen's report on electronic commerce, which is due out in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, they are announcing a raft of new experiments.

For example:

* Next month, MCI Communications Corporation in Washington will offer an on-line shopping service called marketplaceMCI. Running on the Internet, a worldwide web of computer networks, the service will allow shoppers to use a computer to push a virtual shopping cart through an electronic mall. They'll be able to buy a toy for Junior and select bed linens from their home computer. Purchases, made by credit card, will be secured using special encryption technology.

* Three weeks ago, America Online launched its own shopping service - 2Market - in partnership with Apple Computer Inc., in Cupertino, Calif., and Medior, a software firm. The service allows shoppers to view offerings on-line or on a CD-ROM catalog. (CD-ROMs are similar to audio compact discs and carry computer-readable sound, video, and text.) Cutting-edge retailers, such as Lands' End and The Sharper Image, have already jumped on board.

* Several cable-television companies are also jumping on the on-line bandwagon. Time Warner Inc., in New York City, plans to deliver marketing brochures to the home via a printer that sits on top of the TV set. QVC plans an on-line service called Q-Online. Comcast Cable Communications in Philadelphia is reportedly considering offering shopping among its upcoming introduction of Internet service via TV. …

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