Summary of Location Is (Still) Everything

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8 Overall

8 Applicability

9 Innovation

7 Style


Online start-ups sometimes view the Internet as a discrete realm of opportunity, free of any real-world impediments to commerce. Wharton Business School professor David R. Bell argues that even online retailers must study their clientele’s real-life circumstances to be able to market to them successfully online. With such data, you’ll know whether to target rural areas where consumers yearn for choices or to cultivate city dwellers who share their experiences with friends and neighbors. This entertaining and often funny book is full of compelling findings that range from the blindingly self-evident to the head-scratchingly counterintuitive. Although Bell isn’t always specific about how a retailer might act on these findings, getAbstract recommends his research-driven insights to business professors and students, web entrepreneurs, investors and managers of traditional businesses with e-commerce operations.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How people in different locations and circumstances use the Internet differently,
  • How to choose the best locations to target for your online business, and
  • How to reach customers who have varied reasons for shopping online.

About the Author

Wharton School of Business professor David R. Bell, PhD, researches retailing on the Internet and through other associated technologies. An angel investor in online ventures, he created Wharton’s first virtual-commerce course. A New Zealand native, he is a “fan of all things Kiwi.”



Two Worlds

For retailers, one of the coolest things about the Internet is its reputed ability to “make the world flat.” As a virtual retailer, you’re supposedly free of real-world “frictions” or impediments, such as distance to stores, restricted business hours and limited product selection. Your online store is always open and customers can reach it instantly from anywhere. Because your merchandise doesn’t take up valuable display space, you can stock and offer a variety of niche products. This rosy picture is only partly accurate. Virtual commerce does eliminate or reduce some real world frictions. It erases the travel time to stores, makes it easier for customers to research products and comparison shop, and, in many cases, it also eliminates sales tax. Yet, “even though the Internet has the potential to make the real world flat, this potential is not always realized.”

Consumers’ decisions to shop online don’t occur in a vacuum. The buyer’s location remains a critical factor. To succeed, a virtual retailer needs to integrate both the real and online worlds. Factor your customers’ real-world circumstances into all stages of your strategy: where you aim your...

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