Consider how people decide to purchase a television set. One person shops in three or four stores, compares, and makes a choice, while another person relies on the ratings of television sets by Consumer Reports before making a decision. A third person reads the newspaper advertisements looking for a sale while another person walks into a local store and buys a television set without investigation. Consumer buyer behavior is difficult to predict.
More recently, Internet selling and niche retailing have had a profound impact on the way consumers buy. By purchasing books over the Internet, consumers have forced companies to change the way they sell. Amazon.com, founded in 1994, is the leading retailer of books in the United States. Amazon.com has a long-range vision to become the Wal-Mart of the Web. Besides books, Amazon.com sells CDs, videotapes, audiotapes, greeting cards, and toys. Even electronics stores such as Rex Stores, Circuit City, and Best Buy have established Web sites to respond to changing consumer purchasing behavior. Traditional retailers, in the drugstore sector such as Walgreens, in the home improvement sector such as Home Depot, and in the specialty-clothing sector such as Gap, all offer merchandise online. Some 38 percent of Americans shop online, compared to 25 percent of Britons, 24 percent of Canadians, and 20 percent of Japanese.
In the past decade, there have been changes in consumer buying behavior that have encouraged the growth of niche retailing. The