What is the future of shopping?

Not so long ago if I needed a new washing machine I would have gone to a home maker centre with a Bing Lee and / or Harvey Norman to get advice, compare models, prices and so on. After spending an hour or two thinking about the various pro's and con's of each model, I would then try with my best negotiation skills to get the price down and eventually make the purchase. 

Skip forward to today, I didn't even think about going to Bing Lee or Harvey Norman when my washing machine recently broke. I went straight to www.appliancesonline.com.au (where I've had previous good experiences), clicked on front loaders and did a sort on which models have been purchased the most, clicked on the most popular, checked the reviews, put it in my shopping cart, punched in my credit card details and clicked the buy button. I think the whole process took about 20 minutes. 

But it's not just washing machines people are buying online - recently the new Subaru BRZ Coupe, worth $37,000, sold out in 3 hours online. That's right, 5.5 million in 3 hours! Read more about the story here

No fancy black tie launch, no champagne, no fan-fare required. All the hard work had already been done by the online buzz and great reviews.

So, if people are willing to buy a sports car online without even test driving it or kicking the tires because the reviews they read online are good - what can we expect to happen to other categories in the near future and how are companies going to adapt?