An interesting phenomenon that I am seeing is that a company can go bankrupt and yet its online store can outlive the physical business. Take for example Linen – N – Things (www.lnt.com) and Circuit City (http://www.circuitcity.com/) both who filed for bankruptcy and closed their stores in 2009 have new owners of their website operations. (See http://www.circuitcity.com/sectors/opt-outv2.asp and http://www.lnt.com/content/6/help-faqs.html for the stories on the new owners.) I believe this trend confirms that your organizations website is the primary face of the organization and the customers can become loyal to your online operations. Moreover, it is possible for these online businesses either to remain as pure play online retailers or to resurrect their stores when the economy picks up.
I know this may seem like I am reaching here. However why else would the online sites survive the demise of the business? In addition, I cannot help to point out that the Linens – N- Things site still has a store locator on the homepage and when you click on the store locator, you will find a statement that Linens – N -Things is “presently” an online only store.
Now the next challenge for these businesses is to provide a superior online customer experience that makes customers want to come back for more. So as I see it, the bottom line here is make sure you website customer experience can interoperate with your stores for sales, service and marketing or else it may be the only thing left in the end.