The cloud technology and services revolve around providing a platform for collaboration and developing partnerships and the objective for consumer shopping matches these capabilities.  This is why consumers have embraced the technology to support their demands in social networking and also shopping practices.  Shopping is simply an extension of social networking for most consumers, of course everyone either knows or is the exception to this rule of the person that simply shops to acquire their needs and nothing else.  I think this exception however is a small percentage in the overall universe of consumer shopping.  Shopping as a social networking extension is really the key focus of consumers and must be taken into account by retailers in order to meet the demands of the consumers.

Consumers have taken to the concept of shopping as a social networking exercise and are developing partnerships and networks of services that enhance their shopping by providing guidance and notifications of special deals and sales.  I have been fascinated for quite some time with the range and focus of these services that range from Groupon providing notifications of specials to Retail Me Not which provides notifications of specials based on retailers that are near your current location.  These services all provide a means to rate your experience and also broadcast your evaluations of products and retail outlets and market channels. 

The next logical step for these services is to develop partnerships with retailers and provide their partners with the shopping data that these services have been collecting since their beginning.  These services do not need to provide information regarding individual consumers that are members of their services, however they can provide valuable trend information to retail partners.  The retailers can also then provide exclusive specials to their service partners to strengthen the relationship with consumers.  Retailers must be hungry for information and these services can provide a broad spectrum of shopping metrics to identify trends in both products and sales strategies.  These services can provide retailers with another viewpoint that is outside of the retailer’s culture and may identify trends the retailer would normally overlook.

This also provides a great opportunity to partner with the end consumer as well.  Most retailers and especially the large retailers have historically treated their customers as just that, a customer that simply purchases whatever product is offered on the shelves.  This is especially true in relation to commodity products such as detergent or paper products.  Because of the cloud and pure eCommerce retailers that can enter the market from anywhere in the world the view of the customer must change in order for the retailers to retain their customer share.  This is another area where the retailer can bring their customers closer and develop a partner relationship by including them in the decision process and actively seeking their contributions for suggestions on product, service and shopping habits.  Instead of reacting to consumer demands the retailer must seek out the consumer participation and partner with 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 consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s 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?