A natural extension of the collaboration community is shopping and both purchase recommendations and bargain sharing. The expansion of eCommerce coincides with the growth of the collaboration community is not a coincidence but the evolution of both of these practices as a natural partnership. People have always shared shopping tips and bargains with their friends and neighbors and the collaboration community is another type of virtual neighborhood along with virtual shopping centers. These activities are a natural combination of social and economic activities that are supported by technology.
Consumers have learned to use technology in many ways that were not originally envisioned by the industry through curiosity, imagination and trial and error. They are continuously mashing technology and applications together to support their needs as they change and the technology capabilities improve. Fifteen years ago we were starting to explore the capabilities of shopping online and we have come to the point now where eCommerce is pervasive through mobile technology. The advances are quickening and consumers are driving these changes rather than being driven by the changes.
I suggest though that the only thing that is changing is the delivery methods, in other words the tools that consumers use to practice their shopping. Whereas fifty years ago goods and services were delivered physically through storefronts, today the storefronts are virtual. The consumer performs the shopping virtually however their shopping remains a social activity. The industry has invested millions in developing virtual showrooms and virtual models to show consumers how they will look in new outfits and at the same time consumers are utilizing mobile technology and smartphones to share how they look with friends for their friends’ opinion.
Consumers have shown that they will embrace technology surprisingly quickly when that technology supports their social activities. I think that the retail industry has misconstrued the consumers’ practice of embracing new technology to think the consumer is fascinated with technology and this has caused the industry to misjudge direction and acceptance of the consumer. This is the reason why the industry continues to be surprised when consumers embrace new capabilities such as showrooming.
In order to be successful in the future that is being created now by consumers, the retailer must revise their viewpoint from offering products to consumers in general to joining the community that consumers are developing virtually. Consumers are not really looking for the next killer product, I think consumers are simply looking for ways to utilize their scarce time and resources in the most efficient manner. Shopping is a social experience and consumers are using technology to infuse their virtual shopping with social community. Retailers will be successful when they embrace this desire and join the community as a member rather than their historical practice of enticing consumers through new products and sales.
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?