Consumers have been showing a very high level of engagement with other consumers and with shopping services that offer notifications of sales, discounts and recommendations from other consumers.  These services have grown exponentially over the last couple of years as the mobile technology and capabilities have expanded.  Retailers for the most part have been left behind in these consumer engagement practices and this has impacted the relationship with consumers and the retention of customers.  There has been an interesting trend occurring in the eCommerce marketplace; the sales have been increasing while the retailer engagement with the consumer has remained flat. 

I believe this trend of increase sales is going to flatten soon because it is being driven by a cost and availability model and product cost cutting is a losing battle for retailers that cannot be sustained.  Instead, I believe that retailers should shift focus to customer engagement.  This means that retailers should ask the consumer their help in providing product evaluations, service improvements, types of promotions and frequency, promotion of the sale over social media.  In other words, the retailer should focus their engagement of their customers on activities that will tie the customer to the retailer.  I know that most retailers are saying that they already engage the customer by sending email blasts on a regular basis to the subscribed customers, they also request the customer to participate in a survey after their purchase to rate the experience.  I do not consider these impersonal actions to be engaging the consumer.

To me, activities that engage the consumer make it easier for the consumer to shop and provide a more personalized experience.  As an example, only a small handful of retailers recognize the customer when returning their web site, most retailers require the consumer to actively request to log into the site.  When I go to Amazon the site recognizes me and provides the customized ‘storefront’ that I have selected based on my purchases and stated preferences.  As another example, when I go to a social networking site for the first time the site provide options for a simplified login by using your Facebook or Google accounts.  The social shopping service Retail Me Not utilizes both login using Facebook and location based notifications for shopping services and offerings. 

Consumers are searching for the little points that show the retailer has made the effort to recognize them.  Consumers are more than willing to tell the retailer the products in which they are interested, they are more than willing to promote their purchase to their social network and they are more than willing to suggest to their network the positive benefits of shopping with the retailer.  Most consumers are interested in prices as a secondary selection option.  Retailers use frequent shopping programs to track sales and send sales offerings to consumers, retailers also incorporate mobile web sites.  Why is it so hard for retailers to combine the two into an offering that recognizes when the consumer enters a store to send customized offerings to the consumer?  

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?