The eCommerce platform can display its strength if viewed and utilized as a collaboration and communication platform with the consumer. Most retailers today view the eCommerce platform as a sales channel and are focused on drawing consumers to purchase from their eCommerce ‘store’. This eCommerce store is provided simply as a means to the consumer to shop and purchase. The best eCommerce retailers though have realized that this channel provides a collaboration and communication platform between the retailer and the consumer. This capability is the key strength to the platform and when retailers embrace this capability the will increase the retention of their customers which in turn will also increase the sales and the value of the platform.
The eCommerce platform displays a maturity level pattern just like other types of practices and processes from project management to business process management. This is because eCommerce is another business process that matures as the capabilities grow. Therefore, as the maturity level of the the eCommerce platform increases the business value of the platform also increases. This is where the collaboration and communication capabilities, or opportunities, with the consumer comes into play. The platform exhibits a great deal of strength in supporting these capabilities and this should be encouraged as a by-product of the sales by the retailer. For example, Amazon has developed a community with their eCommerce platform that encourages and supports communications and collaboration with the consumer through their product evaluation capabilities and one of the strongest capabilities that is part of their collaboration strategy is the ability for a consumer to ask a question about a product to all of the customers that purchased the product.
While you will never get 100% participation in these types of programs the value comes with patience to allow the participation to grow in an organic ‘pay it forward’ manner. These programs provide a value to the consumer by allowing them to ask specific questions for information that is not provided in product descriptions and they provide a value to the retailer by provide a vast range of information that can be analyzed to make both the platform and the product selection better. This type of information and resulting business value will never be gained through the brick and mortar outlet because there is never enough clerks to collect the information and more importantly the technology is not available to the clerks in most stores to collect and maintain this information.
The strength of the platform comes from the flexibility and ease of developing these types of consumer collaboration capabilities. This is where imagination and collaboration with consumers will help to new capabilities and functions that will bring value to the consumer. The second area of strength comes from the data that can be collected for future analysis. Big Data capabilities will support analysis of immense amounts of data that can be collected from the eCommerce platform activities and consumer interaction to help to improve the consumer shopping experience.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience? Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period? What was your experience in stores and malls?