Begs the question - where's the innovation?
The offline world has many ready parallels that haven't even started getting explored online. When I think of a purchase, a store profile/segment immediately pops into my head. Some are about VFM, some about quality, some about customer service and follow-up, some about choice, and some about "spending time in the store"! This varies by product/category. Where are those parallels online? What does a store stand for?
Then there's the whole "browse" experience. Doing grocery is also a distraction for a boring afternoon for some. How do I discover new stuff? How do I chance upon products I didn't come to buy? How do I quickly compare across 2 different produts/pacjage sizes? How do I check for ingredients? Whom do I ask questions?
Of course, products that depend on touch/feel, tryouts, experience-based research are much tougher online.
Finally, the offline world offers "extras". A coffee outlet in store/next door. A few books to browse. Neighbours to catch up with.
The carrots of "convenience" and "choice" aren't strong enough. Many stores have more choice, and in the Indian context, I usually have multiple options within a 10 minute walk, and most guys deliver.
Ecommerce needs to innovate. And quick. Burning a lot of cash and hoping some sticks is way too short sighted.
What can they do?
1. Curate.Take a stand.
Take a call. Say "these are the best phones in category X" - partner with reviewers etc for this, or evolve a democratic tool/model. Take a stand for something healthy, something green, something ethical, something thta's good value. Be visible as batting for the consumer, and making an effort for it.
2. Play Consultant.
The offline world has learned this well over the last decade. In store service and staff training has improved a lot. One tends to be a little lost when starting to look for a phone/TV/laptop/car tyre/bag/whatever. Play a friend and consultant. Include some crowdsourced wisdom if possible.
3. Get back. Stay Involved.
Get consumer feedback about products/brands they buy. What worked, what didn't. Be seen to be concerned about the quality of various aspects of the store. Bring in experts and help for conversations, advice around big ticket purchases. "Are you using your TV optiimally?" "How do you keep the battery healthy?" "Recipes to cook healthy".
4. Ancilliary Services
Stuff breaks, needs repair, tech support, cleaning, maintenance. Make sure you get involved in helping customer derive better value, longer.
Its too transactional right now, and that shows in the bargain hunting behaviour the consumer exhibits online. Someone's got to change that.