Background Note | HBS Case Collection | December 2000

Online Retailers

by Thomas R. Eisenmann and Alastair Brown


Describes online retailers, companies that use the Internet to sell physical goods. Defines online retailers and describes different ways to categorize them. Explores their economic model and value proposition for consumers in comparison with offline retailers. Next, explores the payoff to online retailers from pursuing a "Get Big Fast" strategy--i.e., investing aggressively in customer acquisition and brand building--and identifies best practices that online retailers might employ to maximize their chances of success. Lastly, discusses implications of shopping "bots," and the prospects for disintermediation by retailers by manufacturers.

Keywords: Business Model; Internet; Retail Industry;


Eisenmann, Thomas R., and Alastair Brown. "Online Retailers." Harvard Business School Background Note 801-306, December 2000.