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Internet retailing: the past, the present and the future

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management
Emerald (MCB UP )
Publication Date
  • Internet
  • Retailing
  • Electronic Commerce
  • Communication


The primary aim of this paper is to critically review the literature that explicitly addresses the adoption, application and impact of internet technologies, by retailers, for the promotion and sale of merchanidise. In particular, this paper seeks to present a holistic and critical review of the early predictions, with regard to the uptake and impact of internet retailing; critically reappraise these claims in light of current trends in internet retailing; and explore where e-tailing may be heading in the coming years. The study adopts an extensive and critical review of the literature, with regard to the adoption, uptake and impact of Internet retailing, as published in the academic literature over the past twenty years. In hindsight it can be seen that many of the original predictions, made at the dawn of the Internet era, have not become a reality: retailers aren’t cannibalising their own custom, virtual merchants aren’t dominating the market-place, and the high-street hasn’t, as yet, been put out of business. By contrast other predications have come to pass: electronic intermediaries are playing an increasingly important role, ‘one-to-one’ marketing has become a reality, prices are more competitive, and perhaps most importantly the consumer has become more powerful. Providing a brief review of the past, present and future of online retailing is an extremely ambitious undertaking, especially given the vast amount of literature that has been published in this area. In attempting to provide an overall impression of the broad themes, and most important findings, to emerge from this important body of literature, it is inevitable that we will have either missed or underplayed many important pieces of work. Consequently, there is a need for follow-up studies that aim to provide deeper and richer reviews of more narrowly defined elements of this vast landscape. This study presents one of the first and most thorough reappraisals of the initial literature with regard to the likely development, implications and impact of Internet retailing. Moreover the paper seeks to break new ground by attempting to use the current literature to help predict future directions and trends for on-line shopping.

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