Two way communications is an important building block within the framework of social shopping and it is also one of the most difficult and especially for large retailers.  Two way communications is a powerful method of customer engagement and it is also a very difficult method of communications because of the effort and focus required to maintain the conversation.  Two way communications requires both sides be engaged in the conversation and actively participating, which includes active listening.  This is the most difficult aspect for large retailers because it requires maintaining the continuum of the conversation and this is very difficult when multiple representatives and systems are involved from the retailer perspective.

A major challenge is to create a method to capture the continuum of the contacts and conversations with customers.  When I think about my contacts with companies, not just retailers but any contact with a company I realize that the most successful contacts are due to the companies ability to maintain the string of the conversation from previous contacts.  This ability to access the previous communications and contacts with the customers is the factor that makes the contact personal and maintains the relationship with the customers.  All customers realize that they cannot hope to maintain the contact with the same person over and over throughout their relationship with a company, customers do expect however that the person that they are dealing with will have access to the information discussed previously and also have all of the previous purchase information for the individual customer.

As I have previously discussed, active communication requires that the retailer listen and respond to the specific customer comments and questions and not respond with ‘canned’ responses.  This is why it is so important for the retailer to maintain records and transactions related to the customer to support the communication.  Perception is critical in the communication and in order for the customers to perceive that the retailer is listening and engaging their customers the retailer must maintain all contact and purchase information.  Think about your relationship with a local small specialty retailer, or even hair dresser, one of the important aspects is the retailers memory of your interactions, they remember your name or remember what you purchased, or remember you conversation.  This memory of the relationship allows them to build the personal relationship and two way communication.  This memory also makes the customer feel like their business matters, it makes the relationship personal and encourages the customer to return over and over again.  The trick is for larger retailers to create the same ‘memory’ of the customer relationship that can carry over from contact to contact.

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?