Consumers have been building virtual relationships for years while retailers have been building a virtual presence.  Consumers are now beginning the extend these virtual relationships utilizing mobile technology to support their shopping needs and desires.  This expansion of the virtual relationship is a logical progression that will dramatically impact the retailers, and especially large retailers.  Mobile technology has made this expansion easy and the consumer is simply utilizing these tools to support their shopping demands.  The interesting point is that these mobile tools were provided by another retail market segment to maintain their sales.  This shows the relationships between services and products provided by one retailer that directly or indirectly impact other retailers, or in the case of mobile technology the entire retail marketplace.

As I have previously discussed, consumers are open to building relationships with other people and organizations, you can see this from the participation in meet-up type groups, Yelp, Foursquare and also the participation in the social aspect of Amazon.  This openness should be no surprise to retailers, because consumers have been reacting on Facebook to retailers both positive and negative for quite some time.  Retailers have realized the importance of a presence on Facebook and each have developed the presence to interact with consumers.  Facebook, however, is mostly just another marketing and sales outlet for most retailers.  In addition, the younger consumers no longer utilize Facebook to the extent they once did.  The challenge then for retailers is to identify the social networks they in which they should participate.  

Retailers must focus on engaging with the consumer rather than selling to the consumer.  This is an important distinction that differentiates the retailers current use of the medium and tools from their future use of the tools in order to be successful.  What I mean by this is that most retailers today maintain a one way communication link to consumers with the key direct feedback from consumers being the service surveys that I think do more to annoy the customer than to collect actionable information from the consumer.  Retailers depend on the sales data and the industry new product events to determine what to offer the consumer.  This is fine as a starting point, is should not be the ending point though.

Retailers that spend the time to engage the consumer will realize greater benefits than they ever would have simply through the one way communication practiced today.  Retailers must realize and embrace the social aspect of the marketplace or the consumer will go to the retailer that does.  This means that retailers must change their culture from one that focuses on protecting the sale to one that focuses on the consumer desires in order to maintain success.       

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?