Retailer collaboration with the consumer will encourage the customer to return to the web site and the store to shop and purchase, which is the ultimate retail goal - the sale. With so many distractions now and especially since these distractions are increasing on what seems to be a daily basis, it is important for the retailer to provide the consumer with a reason to return. Social networking and the extended consumer networks are continuously changing and expanding. The mobile and smartphone technology and wireless capabilities encourage and support these expansions. Fortunately for the retailer there are many social network tools that can be utilized by the retailer to expand their reach and encourage the consumer to return.
I am a proponent of using free or subscription based tools especially in the social network and collaboration space in large part because of the rate of change of the tools and capabilities within this space. This rate of change provides the feeling of freshness and sparks the curiosity of the consumer to experiment based on the encouragement and suggestions of their friends. This is especially true of the younger consumers who are at the forefront of technology and social networking tools and capabilities. I think that retailers have made a mistake in the past by not embracing this technology and the best example of this is ‘showrooming’ where the consumer shops in a brick and mortar store to example the product but then purchases the product online.
There are two social networking tools that especially lend themselves to the retail space;
- Pinterest - where the person selects and groups photos, web sites and blogs into groups of interest to publish to the world for feedback and suggestions.
- Instagram - a Facebook with photos where the person extends their comments with photos for effect.
I think that Pinterest provides a great opportunity for the retailer to engage and collaborate with the consumer. Pinterest allows for a mix of articles, pictures and comments to engage the consumer with suggestions on usage and product combinations that provide a type of virtual method to provide the consumer with ideas and product usage they they may not have realized on their own.
The challenge with technology and virtual shopping is the loss of suggestions and combinations of products into ensembles that is difficult to put together in the eCommerce site. The social networking tools like Pinterest or Instagram allow for suggestions along with a framework for engaging the customer in a conversation and also engaging customers in a framework where they can define and build their own combinations. The key to engaging and collaborating with the customer is a framework that allows participation and ownership of the conversation from the consumer perspective. The consumer must feel in control of the relationship and social networking tools allows the control.
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?