The retailer must be prepared to invest in the consumer collaboration community in order for this community to succeed.  This community will become critical to the success of the retailer’s sales channel by providing the community area for consumers to return and engage with both other consumers and the retailer.  The investments required to support the community are both financial and resources (people’s time and expertise mainly) and fortunately for the retailer the financial investment can be limited through the use of free or subscription cloud technology and services. 

The investments in resources can be minimized through the incremental expansion of the current team supporting the social media channels.  This is the most effective and efficient use of resources available to the retailer.  You should already have a team supporting the social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram and Pinterest.  The consumer community should be viewed as an extension of the same skills utilized to support the social media and will bring these tools and technologies under one umbrella where the consumer community becomes the ‘glue’ that binds the other social media activities.  This will consolidate the skills and the support into one team and will provide some cohesion and extend the social media support.

While the support can be consolidated into the existing team supporting social media, this does not complete the resource investment.  Generally speaking the social media team is managed within the marketing organization.  This makes complete sense because of the types of interaction and the promotion of both products and the brand.  Incorporating the consumer community into this team will require the close interaction and coordination with the sales channel and the extended supply chain.  This addition of the consumer community produces a truly cross organization framework and platform that must be supported across the entire organization. 

This produces a new investment requirement from sales, product development and the extended supply chain that was not previously required.  This is another investment of people and skills from these channels that will be a net add to the investment.  These additional requirements will, however, provide two key additional benefits; the cross organization awareness and coordination of activities.  These activities benefit from the consumer community data collect while also producing organizational communication and agility benefits.  These benefits are a significant and provide a framework for long term growth and benefits.  This will require though the commitment and support of leadership in order to maintain the required investment because the natural tendency for any organization is to revert back to its original behavior and focus on internal activities rather than  cross organization activities. 

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?