The reason for a retailer to develop a collaborative community as an integral part of the retailer’s online presence is to ensure the participation of the members which in turn will encourage the members to purchase. This member return and participation is the key and the retailer must be careful to focus the community on the participation and the benefits to the consumer and not a focus on product sales. To this end, the collaborative community, and the retailer, must encourage the participation in the community management of the members and make it easy for the members to participate.
The retailer must understand that this member participation will involve a changing level of participation from the individual members. This will make it almost impossible for the retailer to count on the continue participation of any one member and requires the retailer to view the participation as a whole from the community and not as any one continuous level of participation from one member. The community participation should be encouraged and measured or acted upon based on the entire community and not any one member. This allows the community to flourish without depending on any one member. This is important because individual members will come and go with the individual participation increasing and decreasing depending on interest and available time. This is why the retailer must view and measure the participation from the community as a whole.
Of course the retailer should provide the ability to easily purchase however, the focus must remain on the participation and social interaction of the members. The first and foremost action encouraged on this site must be encouraging reaction of the members to the postings and the community conversation. The second priority must be encouraging the participation in directing the site activities. Then the third priority should be providing the ability to purchase. You don’t want to make it difficult to purchase but by the same token you don’t want to focus too intensely on the purchase. Too great of a focus on the purchase will discourage the member return and participation. Instead focus on the social aspect of the community and the purchase will follow.
It is important to remember that community cannot depend on the continuous participation of any one member however, the community can count on the participation of the members as a group. I believe that Amazon has learned this lesson very well, the Prime service from Amazon encourages the return of people to the community and the service focuses on the ease of participation, benefits to the consumer and community involvement. Amazon focuses first on member retention at the site and then second makes the any purchase easy, including providing the ability to purchase from another retailer that participates in the community.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors. How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience? Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes. In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas. How can you support these continuously changing requirements?