History has clearly embarrassed the 1990s pundits who dismissed the Internet as a passing fad that would never replace physical stores. We barely remember their voices. More likely, we recall Web evangelists whose battle cry was "The old rules are obsolete; this is a whole new world"—words of equal folly in our post-dot-bomb era of "Keep an eye on the ROI."
Meanwhile, the Internet continues to grow, fed by social rules impervious to the forecasts of media pundits. More users every year. More online transactions. More broadband and wireless access. More faith in the system.
In 2005, combining this knowledge about the Internet and 25 years of marketing experience to launch a new internet business, the Sideways Wine Club. And in one short year I've decided that both camps arepartially right—both the "onliners" and the "offliners."
There are definite customer acquisition challenges for something as personal and sensory as wine. This article contrasts the efficient but increasingly expensive online acquisition channel with the more effective but inefficient offline channel. Conclusion: The proliferation of digital media brings a necessary convergence to these two channels.
A Little Background
Seven years ago, during the blazing heat of dot-com brouhaha, the phrase "clicks and mortar" was briefly popular. It was a phrase coined for a new breed of online "category killers": large old-line businesses with (gasp!) physical stores.
Such companies envisioned a retailing future that would be half real-world, half virtual. These behemoths came late to the Internet party, but they brought the brand power and resources to crush their startup competitors. Or so the theory went. The meltdown proved that this concept, too, was subject to irrational exuberance.
The proof of exactly how dead this concept is can be found at any of the online booksellers, where copies of Clicks and Mortar are no more expensive than a share of penny stock.