The consumer collaboration community will only deliver benefits and meet its potential if it is built on a framework that supports and encourages the activities that interest the entire community.  There are at least two factions that must be supported by this framework, the consumer and the retailer.  These two factions will grow into more as the community grows in both members and interests.  This requires a framework to support the community that is both robust in its ability to support the demands of of the members and flexible to support the changing interests.  This framework can probably be best supported by the cloud services and technology in the most efficient manner.

I think of three areas that the community should start with;

  1. How-to, or DIY - This is where the members can post photos and videos describing how they use products and even services.  This would be available and a viable section for postings from both retailer and consumers.
  2. Shopping services and suggestions.  This is where special sales and also shopping suggestions can be provided.  This area would also be a viable section for postings from both retailer and consumers.  It is important for the concept of the community that this area be open to suggestions for other retailers for special sales.  Amazon provides an example for this implementation; provide the list of other sites offering the products and special prices to simplify the consumer shopping.  This will encourage the shopper to remain on the host’s site and the longer the consumer remains on the site, the greater the chance for a sale.
  3. Surveys and new product previews - This is where the retailer host can mine information from the consumers regarding products, services and sales.  The consumer members can be encouraged to complete surveys by offering discounts or pre-release type sales to the consumer members.  This is also where the retailer host can provide incentives and community benefits to members to encourage return visits to the community and the surveys area of the community.

You will notice that my suggestions are generic in nature and can really fits across a broad range of retailer and product offering.  This is because I want to encourage the broadest range of retailer to develop their own community.  In addition, I think it is important for the community to start with the most simple aspects, functions and features to provide the incentive for the members to participate and build a community that meets the members needs.  A key to the growth of this community, I think, is the encouragement to the community to participate to grow the community in the manners that are important to the members. 

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?