Consumers are searching for a community with whom to collaborate in both shopping and and usage suggestions.  You only need to look around at the success of sites like Pinterest to see this type of community activity in action.  The question then becomes why should a retailer develop such a community?  I think the answer to this question is to give consumers a reason to return to their sites and participate.  The more time a consumer spends on a site the higher the likelihood that they will purchase something. In addition, the more time a consumer spends on a site, the higher the likelihood that they will bring additional consumers to the site. 

Pinterest is a great example of this type of community where members share images and ideas that interest them and then link to additional members with the same interests and likes.  This social networking then grows exponentially providing members with usage and design suggestions and also the link to sites where interested members can purchase similar items.  Some retailers are taking advantage of these types of capabilities, take Ikea as an example. 

Ikea provides a great example of the types of services and activities that consumers embrace to develop a community.  Ikea also provides an example of the opportunity provided to utilize their web site to draw consumers into their brick and mortar stores. In fact, when I think about it a little more I realize that the Ikea brick and mortar store is a great physical realization of a the virtual eCommerce web site.  The Ikea store is largely made up of suggested uses of their products and then the ‘check out’ is performed through the warehouse at the end of your walk through the showroom. The physical community is also enhanced with the addition of the cafeteria lunch room and children’s playroom to encourage a family to spend the day at the store.

In addition to this physical community of the store, Ikea encourages a virtual community online and consumers then have embraced this concept in Pinterest for example to provide their followers with examples of their inventive uses of the Ikea products along with the instructions and even list of materials for others to build the suggestions for others.  These suggestions and easy to follow instructions provide another marketing and sales opportunity for Ikea’s website and brick and mortar store.  On top of all of these benefits, it costs Ikea nothing, except the stores and website that is already available. 

These types of community provide examples of what I believe to be the next wave of consumer shopping.  This also provides a real life example of how to create such communities.  The challenge for the retailer is to provide the community environment and physical and technical support to encourage these communities.  This requires the retailer to view this community environment as an enabler for future potential sales and also the retention of customers.  These enablers should be the objective of retailers to enable their future success and continued viability.  Consumers are taking control now and are no longer forced to shop at any retailer that does not meet their shopping demands. 

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?