The common lesson in the new web 2.0 explosion has been that viral ideas trump good ideas almost every single time. Flickr, YouTube, Myspace and Techcrunch have all benefited from this; neither of these were the first to introduce an idea and yet they ended up completely dominating their respective services. So while retailers have been slow to innovate on the web all is not lost. Retailers need to build compelling online experiences that truly differentiate. If they do it right they have a chance to indulge in some serious land grabbing. If they do it wrong they would have permanently locked themselves in the house of pain.
One of the larger furniture retailers made a serious attempt at selling online. They failed and stopped. While on their website I noticed a message from the CEO that explained the discontinuation by blaming it on high costs of processing returns. Yet again, here is a retailer that’s reacting to the symptom. Instead of digging deeper to find the cause of the high returns the company found it easier to just permanently dismantle the project. I mean, what extra incentive does an online shopper have to incessantly return things as compared to someone who shops at the store?