Why should retailers spend the time and effort to develop a collaboration community when there are already so many other community outlets for collaboration?  I think the answer to that question is to provide the retailer with an outlet to connect directly with the consumer and to provide the retailer a method to promote their products.  This can be achieved in different manners depending on the product and the customer, for instance home improvement retailers can provide how-to videos, or apparel retailers can provide fashion advice.  Both of these communities though must provide a framework that encourages the consumer to participate.  I think the community should also focus on the benefits to the consumer and not so much on sales. 

I say this because I believe the sales will come when the retailer provides a framework that demonstrates how to use the products.  The key objective of these communities is to give the consumer a reason to return to the site, if the consumer makes the community a regular habit the sales will come.  The point on which to focus in the return of the consumer to the site.  By all means the retailer should copy or incorporate links to the popular online communities there is no reason to create a new method there is only a need to encourage the consumer to return to the community.

This may seem to be at odds with the objective of retailers, which is to sell products to the consumer at a profit.  So why should the retailer want to develop a community that is focused on benefits to the consumer?  The reason is simple, the community provides a method to encourage the consumer to return and consumers returning to the retailer’s site will increase the sales.  In other words, the community provides a soft marketing opportunity for sales. 

This concept becomes even more enticing because cloud technologies and services provide a very low cost method to deliver the community.  This can be delivered in a very low cost manner utilizing the same internal resources that support the retailer’s other social media outlets.  In other words, the retailer can implement a community with practically zero dollar investment and only the investment of time from resources already supporting social networks.  This framework, with the support of consumers, can be an extremely low cost with high return value solution.  The objective of this network should be that consumers maintain the site with new content and discussions and require minimal support from the retailer.

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?