Consumers are drawn to community.  This is shown over and over again through the manner in which consumers are drawn to social networks that support and encourage engagement with others in a community environment or network. Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Youtube all provide a community environment for people to network with current friends and meet new friends through the network interaction.  These activities are going on all around retailers and most of them are so caught up in their own actions to catch sales that they lose out on the benefits and opportunities that can be achieved through a community.  Consumers have shown over and over again that they will flock to services that support a community and retailers just have to recognize and provide the environment that supports the consumer community.

Some retailers do recognize the social aspect of shopping and have been creating a community aspect, Amazon with the consumer reviews and response to shopper’s questions for instance.  This requires the retailer to want to change and to recognize this as a key issue or more importantly a key requirement to success.  However most retailers seem to be more interested in trolling for the sale at any cost without a thought about the ecosystem that will support and feed their success.  Any retailer only needs to look around at the success of various web sites and social networks to understand that the consumer is searching for community in their virtual interactions.  A great example of the success that can be achieved from a community environment is Angie’s List.  This site is just a virtual neighborhood of friends that suggest service providers to the members of the community.  The service providers win because of the word of mouth marketing and recommendations, the consumers win because they have a trusted community in which to turn for advice.

Retailers must be open and encouraging of consumer participation when developing the community and remember the old networking adage - you must make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal.  Developing a community can be very tricky because you want to encourage open participation from the members of the community and at the same time keep out the trolls that can destroy the community.  This is a difficult task because the retailer must walk a line between protecting the community and being overbearing and limiting the community development. The one thing that retailers cannot afford right now is to do nothing, they must step up and embrace the open collaborative capabilities of the cloud.  They must take the first steps to develop the community and be fully aware that where they start will be abandoned quickly.  This is a hard concept to embrace for many retailers, however the introduction of the cloud makes this concept reasonable and even enticing. 

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?