The next opportunity to extend the collaboration model will require the retailers to make an effort to develop a one-on-one relationship directly with the consumer.  I am suggesting this not because of any ability to predict future but because I see the consumers seeking out this relationship.  As I have previously discussed, human nature is to congregate and relate in a society of similar interests and needs and consumers have extended this tendency to humanize the technology and this is increasing and expanding with mobile technology.  In order for retailers to survive in this environment they must join these social networks as a contributing member. 

What do I mean when I say join the social communities as a contributing member?  The simple answer; a contributing member both provides value to the community and the community also provides value to the members.  This can be defined to mean many different things based on each of the members and then also based on the social community as a whole.  In order to start the discussion and keep things simple, the starting value is to provide guidance and support.  From the consumer perspective this can come in the form of suggestions for purchases, movies, vacations and also research.  From the retailer perspective this can come in the form of sales, recommendations to new customers, advice and support to consumers regarding product questions and also feedback on existing products and suggestions for new products or product revisions.

The difficulty that I see in this model is the retail participation as a member of the community. What I mean by this is that a member of the community provides support to the community and in the case of the retailer this might mean suggesting a competitor when the circumstances dictate for the consumer and the community.  Remember we are discussing a consumer community and this means that any retailer that is participating should focus on the needs of the consumers in the community.  As an example, when I shop on Amazon I am always provided additional outlets to purchase the same product from suppliers other than Amazon, whether used or new.  This is the type of behavior to which I refer when I say the focus should be on the needs of the consumer.

The benefit to the retailer member of the consumer community is that the retailer has developed a relationship with the consumers in the community and this relationship provides a sense of trust from the consumers.  This relationship and trust from the consumer will many times turn the sale to that retailer in the community.  The retailer must take into account the total value of the relationship with the consumer community and this total value provides compensation in ways that a single minded focus will never provide.  One simple fact is that the lifetime sales to a single customer will far outway any loss on a single sale.  This does not mean that you should give product away though and the consumer will understand this in their dealings also.  


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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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?