Consumers and third party services have developed a model to incorporate new mobile tools and services in their shopping practices.  This model, as a general rule, does not include the retailer, aside from the mentions and notifications from the retailers.  These services come and go in their consumer acceptance based on the usability and value provided to the consumer.  These services are easy to find from a variety of offerings and all of them have incorporated an array of social networking capabilities that support two objectives; notifications to the subscribers of events and offerings, encouragement of subscribers to invite friends to the service.

We have seen the services rise to a level of community and consumer acceptance as in Yelp and we have also seen these services fail, or consumed by other services.  I find that the most interesting aspects of these services and tools is the way that the retailer, or the end target of the services has been left out of the discussions.  The retailers, restaurants, theaters, etc, all have one thing in common as far as these services are concerned, they are the target and consumers utilize the service to identify sales and deals, or rate the target.  For all intents and purposes, this model follows the same shopping practices utilized for shopping  and purchasing for decades, the only change being that technology has opened a new channel to support these same practices.  Instead of a newspaper providing sale flyers and coupons, consumers use email and location based mobile services.

Forward thinking retailers such as Amazon and Google are beginning to use these capabilities now to engage the consumer.  For instance, Amazon encourages shoppers to ask questions and will pose those questions to previous purchasers.  Google is using search algorithms developed to support their search engine to enhance the purchasing and searching capabilities of the Google Play store.  This is the type of experimentation that retailers need to incorporate into their commerce shopping support capabilities. 

These commerce shopping support capabilities do not require custom development on the part of retailers to incorporate.  The initial cost of entry is to simply expose the retailer’s internal services through a social commerce gateway to allow access through standard Internet protocol services.  The technology though is not the difficulty, the difficulty is taking that first step culturally to change the practice and the relationship between the consumer and retailer from adversarial to participatory.  This is what I reference when I say the only way to implement a change of this size and nature is one step at a time.  This first step in this case is to change the culture to engage the consumer as a partner and not an adversary.

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?