The collaboration community provides a place and a method for the consumer community member to provide product reviews, answer questions about product uses and capabilities or weaknesses and a method to gain customer feedback through these interactions and also surveys directed to gain feedback for new products and services.  The retailer host gains by mining this information from the consumers regarding products, services and sales.  Consumer community members gain by receiving real world advice from other consumers regarding products and services.  Both the retail host and the consumer members also mutually gain through increased participation and engagement in developing the social aspect of the community. 

There are two sides to this framework or functionality from the community perspective:

  1. The retailer gains a great deal of product and service information to help them make future decisions and revisions to improve products and services.  The retailer should not overlook the value in this information and the consumer interchange.  The benefits to the retailer are broken down into three categories; the valuable direct feedback, the support of community members in recommending products to other members and consumers and the engagement of the member to spend more time on the site.
  2. The consumer community member gains because they receive valuable consumer feedback regarding products and services from unbiased sources.  In addition they can receive early notification of products and services on a trial basis for their feedback. This can provide a powerful draw to the community for consumers that are searching for information in addition, it also provides a powerful encouragement to participate. 

An important feature to the community would be the ability for members to submit questions regarding products and services to the community forum other members are encouraged to respond based on their previous purchase or activity.  A great example of this feature is provided by Amazon.  Amazon encourages ratings and reviews of products, then as a second and more value add function for the community Amazon allows and encourages consumers to submit questions regarding products that are then distributed to customers that previously purchased the same product.  The retailer host can also encourage consumer members to complete surveys by offering discounts or pre-release type sales to the consumer members.  This is another feature that allows the retailer host to encourage participation and provide incentives and community benefits to members to encourage return visits to the community.

This aspect of the collaboration community provides the greatest opportunity for long term benefits and retention of consumer members.  This is where the value will be generated and this is also the most difficult to justify due to the nature of the functions.  In other words, none of these specific functions will directly deliver value, however each of these function are key contributing factors to a critical objective to sales, the retention of the consumer on the site and participation in the community.  This will require a commitment from the retailer host to allow and encourage the community to grow and produce the results and benefits.

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?