If E-Commerce is So Disruptive, How Come More Retailers Have Not Failed?

Apparently, attendance is up smartly at the National Retail Federation meeting this year, with about a 60 percent increase in attendance by retailers looking for technology to improve competitiveness in the face of online and mobile challenges. 

But there is a lesson here. Firms such Amazon have been in business since 1994. Everybody seems aware of e-commerce. A growing amount of retail sales volume passes through Internet retailer channels. And yet, it is hard to point to major retailer disruption, in the form of firms going out of business. 

“If e-business is so disruptive, how come nobody died?” Gartner analyst Mark Raskino recalls thinking, back in 2000. The answer might be, as it often seems to be, that big trends in complex ecosystems take some time to take root, and then hit an inflection point.

It is quite possible that U.S. retailers sense an inflection point coming, where mobile commerce or e-commerce will cease to be an irritant, and start to be extremely disruptive, dramatically reshaping revenue patterns. 

If and when that happens, the feared wave of bankruptcies will happen. The fact that nothing quite unusual seems to have happened, on that score, is simply the period of ecosystem change that precedes the disruption, one might argue. 

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