The logical conclusion
This (having low volume customers order "self-service" via a website) is only the first step. In the picture the author paints, it's difficult to see exactly what value the online retailer is adding. Wouldn't it be more efficient for the manufacturer to cut out the middle man, set up their own website and fulfillment operation and sell direct to the public?
I can see that most would rightly say "We're makers, not sellers - we don't have the skills." In which case the answer is outsourcing, a la Amazon Marketplace and all the other "etailers" like it.
The only value that a retailer has is when they can offer advice (even though it's never impartial advice) and provide a modicum of after-sales support. If the retailer is on the highstreet AND customers are prepared to pay the premium attached to being able to hold and/or fiddle with the merchandise, then fine. However these days most shops seem to be populated by cashiers, rather than salespeople. - Ask them a question and all they do (while avoiding eye contact) is mumble "I'll get the manager".
Even for items or spare parts that you need RIGHT NOW, most retailers fail. With the pressures of profitability and limited shelf-space, they probably don't have specialised items in stock - or you have to drive 80 miles to find the last item in the county (and then another 80 miles to exchange it when you find they sold you the Mk2 and you need the Mk3).
So, shops are still viable for people who's hobby is buying stuff, or retail therapy to try and put a worthy spin on it (blind consumerism would be a less generous observation). Where the goal is just to buy something - anything; not because you want it, but because it feels nice to have an assistant fawning over you. However those aren't really shops; they're massage parlours for the ego and as such require a completely different online solution.
So, if this is the way of the future, the trick is to recognise which way the wind is blowing. Either as a retailer and buy-out your suppliers, or as a manufacturer and take over, or build your own, web based outlet. Either way, it looks like the shakeup in retailing has barely started.