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The Death of Retail: Is Marc Andreessen Right?

05/02/2013 15:53 GMT | Updated 06/04/2013 10:12 BST

Marc Andreessen is on a roll. The Netscape co-founder heads one of the highest profile Silicon Valley venture firms, Andreessen Horowitz, and has made some outstanding investment calls since launching the firm in 2009, including Instagram, Twitter, and AirBnB.

In a fascinating Pando Daily interview this week, Andreessen predicts the end of high street and shopping mall retail. 'Software eats retail', he says.

This is a pretty dramatic claim, given that even in the UK, the world's leading eCommerce market, online shopping only constitutes around 15 percent of consumer spending, though that share is growing at a rapid pace.

I advise Wonga, so you might expect me to share Mr Andreessen's view. After all, Wonga is 100 percent digital, with zero presence on the high street, and an eCommerce product (PayLater) driven by precisely the kind of software that Mr Andreessen thinks will conquer all.

But this is only part of the picture. While the online shopping experience has improved immeasurably and offers fantastic range and value, our shops and high streets remain a vital part of all our lives and communities. Software can enhance our physical shopping experience, and lots of brilliant tech Start Ups (Dressipi, Square, GoCardless and Pose to name but a few), and incredible retailers like the Apple Store think so too.

There's every reason to think that eCommerce will play a bigger role, offering innovative services for online shoppers and merchants. 'Dragon' Peter Jones' conversion of Jessops into an online-only brand is part of this trend. But the competition from eCommerce can, in my view, inspire retailers and their technology partners to re-imagine the physical shopping experience and keep our shops, malls, and high streets thriving for a long time to come. Just look at the continuing, extraordinary development of Apple Stores worldwide - $6.4billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2013 alone.

So while Mr Andreessen has made many great calls when it comes to tech, I suspect the rumours of retail's death have been greatly exaggerated.