I have been discussing the impact of technology on consumer shopping practices recently.  I believe that the mobile technology capabilities are changing the way consumers shop and these new shopping practices must be supported by retailers in across channels in order to retain the customer and sales.  I have come to the realization that we should be viewing and supporting these consumer shopping practices as a collaborative marketplace.  This conveys the concept of shopping and a gathering of both consumers and merchants into a location to shop and socialize and collaborate. 


Amazon provides a good example of a collaborative marketplace.  When you shop at Amazon you are offered reviews of products and also a selection of products that other customers ordered when they purchased the same product.  Amazon takes that another step by inviting consumers that purchased the product to submit a review of both the product and the order experience.  This is really nothing remarkable because everyone provides product or service review capabilities.  What makes the Amazon service stand out is the continued consumer collaboration they encourage through the shopping process.  The service that stands out for me is the ability to submit questions about a product to the consumers who previously purchased that product.  This simple value add encourages a conversation across shoppers when searching for a product. 


The second key factor contributing to the collaborative marketplace is the additional merchants that are supported and even advertised when shopping for a product.  For instance, when I shop for a book or even a vacuum cleaner, the product display returned includes other merchants selling the same product, whether its new or used and even the price they are asking.  This type of service turns the consumer experience into a shopping experience and not just purchase experience.  Amazon has created a marketplace that supports both consumers and other merchants with the goal of providing the consumer with the product they want from a merchant of their choosing. 


Amazon not only understands the importance of the return customer, they have implemented a marketplace that fully supports this concept.  They are not being altruistic in this offering of course, Amazon gets a percentage from any sale for providing the marketplace and they also will charge to provide the fulfillment services. 


This marketplace model is generations ahead of other retailers because Amazon starts with the viewpoint of the consumer.  Consumers are embracing and incorporating mobile technology to support their shopping shopping desires and the marketplace is a format of capabilities that matches up well to fit the consumer needs.  The shopping mall was embraced by consumers because it met two human needs; to aquire goods and services and also to gather as social outlet.  The collaborative marketplace provides these same capabilities in a virtual format and retailers would be wise to embrace this concept before they are left in the cold by market leaders. 

 

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?