From WSJ comes a good example of how the Internet can complement the physical world infrastructure that companies have set up:
Visitors to Maytag.com can shop just as they can at any e-commerce site, browsing for appliances or searching for specific items. When they find something they want, they add it to a shopping cart, and when they are ready to check out, they enter a ZIP code and the site recommends nearby Maytag dealers and checks for price and availability. Shoppers can then transfer to a retailer’s site, where they can complete the checkout process and arrange for delivery.
For Maytag, this has several advantages. Like sites that sell directly to consumers, it gives Maytag detailed information about its customers’ shopping patterns. But unlike direct-sales sites, Maytag doesn’t have to make big changes in the way it conducts business. For instance, it typically ships truckloads of appliances to distributors; selling directly to consumers would have meant reworking its warehouse and supply operations to handle individual shipments to households.
Most important, this approach doesn’t alienate the dealers. Indeed, it has given them a boost.