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Advertising Age has a story about how speed of shipping and delivery is seen by many retailers as the next great competitive battleground and influencer of how and where consumers will do their online shopping.

Here's how Ad Age frames the story:

"E-commerce sales will reach $327 billion by 2016, according to Forrester Research. Consumers will be purchasing everything from $12 shampoo to $3,000 handbags -- maybe even cars -- online. But speed of ordering and delivery is what will prompt consumer consideration.

"Same-day-shipping services are changing consumer behavior -- and fast."

Amazon is opening distribution centers around the country as a way of providing same-day and next-day delivery to its Prime customers. As reported here yesterday, Google is planning to offer competition, with a "Google Shopping Express" service that will allow shoppers to order online from a number of vendors and then have those products delivered the same day.

Among the likely results of all this behavior, according to Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California (USC) will be that a) independent retailers will have to work twice as hard to attract and keep their customers, since big online services will suddenly be more convenient, b) universal free shipping will become a cost of doing business for e-tailers, and c) promoting in-store deals will become increasingly important,with Black Friday-style promotions becoming available year-round.
KC's View:
I've been saying for a long time that I thought free delivery would end up being a cost of doing business, and I haven't changed my mind ... except that now I'd say "fast and free" delivery.

These moves are all game changers that affect how people think about convenience and how businesses think about service. Not responding to the challenge is not an option. (If you will excuse the double negative.)