Another important aspect of the collaboration community from both the retailer and the community member perspective is the shopping and services activities and functionality.  This is different than that retailer’s sales channel in that it promotes the social aspects of shopping within the community.  By this I mean that a key aspect of this functionality is the social aspect and the shopping is just one potential outcome.  Remember that one of the key objectives of the community is to provide the members a reason to return and the shopping and services functionality in the community provides the social aspect to encourage the member to return and participate in the community.

I define shopping and services as focused on the social aspects of shopping and the purchase aspect is secondary.  It is important to support and encourage this aspect of the community to provide the consumer a destination where they can meet and engage with other consumers in the social aspect of shopping.  This functionality of the community provides the consumer with the shopping mall experience.  In this case, they meet virtually with other members of the community to share shopping tips and recommendations while they participate in community interactions.  It is important to the success of the community that this aspect of the community focuses on the social aspect of shopping and provides options to purchases from other retailers.  This aspect of the community cannot be perceived by community members that it is focused exclusively on the products and services offered by the host. 

This collaboration community must focus on the community aspect and not simply as another sales outlet.  Consumers are sophisticated enough to quickly determine the intent and focus of the community and will quickly see through any insincere attempt to fool the consumer.  This will quickly kill any community because of the speed with which consumers share information across the Internet social spheres.  This is a good thing because it forces honesty from the retailer. 

I can understand the difficulty for the retailer to change their culture to develop these altruistic sites because it amounts to a culture change for them to provide a site and a service that has no guarantee of a return on investment, where the benefits are all soft benefits.  The key difficulty, as I see it, with the collaboration community is the leap of faith required from the retailer host to commit to and start the collaboration community that is focused on the needs and benefits of the consumer member rather than a focus on sales.  This hurdle relates to the horizon in which the benefits will be achieved because the benefits horizon will not be in the next quarter, they may not be realized until the next year.

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?