Tech Smarts

Up Against The Mall

If you're in a big rush to jump on the bandwagon and set up an online storefront, consider this: Most consumers would still rather shop at their favorite local mall than on the Internet.

In fact, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm Forrester Research Inc. predicts the interactive retail market will move quite slowly for the next two to three years. A recent report found that merchants need a few years to learn how to sell effectively online-and how to find and maintain repeat customers.

What's the major hurdle electronic retailers must overcome to lure customers? Learning how to provide real value to their electronic shoppers. Online merchants have yet to exploit the substantial advantages of selling in this new medium: timeliness, convenience, ease of use and potentially lower prices.

But once retailers get a handle on these problems, watch out: A windfall of PC shipments to middle- and upper-income homes, as well as an increased technical sophistication among customers, should fuel rapid growth

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This article was originally published in the February 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Tech Smarts.

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