The Importance of the channel

I was recently shopping for a new grill and given the love I've developed for smoking meant, it was a different kind of grill from what I've bought in the past (a Big Green Egg). I did a bunch of online research as I've been trained to do over the last decade and a half of buying things and found that I had a number of questions that I couldn't quite get answered by marketing materials, forum posts, or tweets.

So I went to the channel— by which I mean dealers that sell the grill I wanted along with others and who could talk to me about pluses and minuses while they showed me the bells and whistles of each option. It was a great experience; engaging, entertaining, and most of all quite useful in the purchase I ended up making.

This type of guided (or dare I say, curated) commerce has been lost in the gutting of bricks and mortar outfits in favor of easy price discovery and the convenience of buying things online. To be fair, most retailers lost this battle way before the Internet put them six feet under by choosing to employ minimum wage human drones to push crap on commission with little knowledge or passion about what they were selling (just try a Best Buy or a City Sports for that).

But I wonder if the channel isn't going to make a comeback as we tire of the limited experience which represents the "state of the art" in e-commerce today. E-commerce seems stuck at 10% of total retail sales which I used to think of as the goal of every large retailer with a multi-channel presence but it may about be the need for help and guidance instead.