Inviting consumers to participate in the product selection and quality review process is a great way to engage the consumer.  People in general are social beings and they will communicate and develop communities to share and socialize both physically and virtually.  Consumers have demonstrated through social networks and the tools supported through these networks that they are anxious to engage in the shopping experience with both other consumers and the retailers.  The retailer that channels this engagement will become very successful.  There are two challenges the retailer must overcome to successfully engage and develop a relationship with the consumer; culture and capabilities.

The capabilities challenge can at first seem overwhelming.  After all, how can one company hope to keep up with all of the varieties and types of tools that consumers use in their social networking and then add to this the mobile capabilities and tools supported that both crossover and add to the choices.  Add to this the internal culture and potential staffing requirements and the task at hand can very easily become overwhelming. 

It seems like a long time ago when eCommerce was first incorporated into the corporate and retail culture providing another channel to sell products to consumers.  When Facebook started to expand into common use by the public in general they started using the platform as a means to share views about companies.  Companies then incorporated Facebook as another marketing channel and customer service channel.  Customers embraced this channel as an electronic link to retailers, and retailers used this channel as a marketing tool.  This tool required additional levels of staff to monitor and respond.  All of this occurred however prior to the explosion of mobile technology and the resulting increased velocity of change. 

The explosion of mobile technology is allowing and encouraging consumers and retailers to extend the link and the types of interaction.  Consumers have embraced these capabilities and have been expanding their actions into a social shopping community that utilizes the capabilities and technology to create new communities.  These capabilities and technologies though are all built on a standard open framework and only really require network bandwidth to support.  Consumers have been expanding their capabilities and use of services and tools to change the landscape of shopping.  We have reached the tipping point where the acceptance and utilization of the tools has become pervasive.  This speeding of change and increased use by consumers of tools can seem overwhelming to the retail industry and generate a bunker mentality to fight these practices. 

This is exactly the opposite of the appropriate response to these changes.  Wishing it will go away and fighting the challenge will only leave the retailer further behind the curve.  The only way to overcome any challenge that seems overwhelming is to start, just take the first step to identify the capabilities and then take the next step to identify the challenges, and then take the next step…..

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?