Dan Gillmor of the Mercury News wrote an article on “lessons learned” from the first wave of e-commerce called “Don’t write off Internet commerce.”
I agree with the five points he raises — especially the first one about the Net adding value to retailing. I think this is an under-played aspect of the value of the Net. Especially when you consider that research suggests that 2/3 of web-influenced purchases happen offline.
I’d add that when looking at the likely success at e-tail of various products, it is important to assess the amount of information needed to make a purchase, the real-world availability of the product, and the desirability (demand) for the product. If information need and desirability are high while real-world availability is low, I think you’ve got a potential winner. At least from a sales standpoint. To make the business a success you’ll want to add high gross margins and low cost to ship. A unique branded product doesn’t hurt either!