eCommerce and the online social networks have become an destination for a great deal of consumers. I just saw where the majority of consumers start with the Amazon site as a search engine. This is quite telling in both the acceptance of the online channel as a tools and the acceptance of Amazon as more than a retailer. Add to this mix the acceptance and consumer embrace of mobile technology and the consumers embrace of mobile tools and the message of the power of eCommerce becomes compelling. This leaves retailers with a decision regarding how the retailer should use eCommerce to expand both their relationship with consumers and expand their sales.
In my opinion, retailers should focus on expanding their relationship with consumers first to enhance the consumer retention and the stickiness of the sight and this will translate into new sales. I have discussed in previous entries the importance of consumer retention and returns to the retailer site. Generating the returns and creating a sticky site must provide a cross section of interests that entice the consumer return; sale notifications, coupons to use at purchase both online and in the store, suggestions for product use and finally encouraging consumer response and participation on the site. In other words, the retailer should focus on creating a social site that encourages the consumers to participate and provide a place to share and communicate with both the retailer and other consumers.
I believe the success of the omni channel retailers will lie in creating a social online site that sell merchandise rather than a site that sell merchandise that provides a social outlet. Consumers are a fickle crowd that will change their favorites at a drop of the hat and retailers must provide an blended experience where each channel supports the other and the online channel provides the means to build the relationship with the consumer. Speaking from my own perspective and what I search for in a retail experience is an engaging experience with the retailer. When I am in a store I appreciate the clerk that acknowledges my presence to ask if I need help or to provide a spontaneous suggestion of other products that might match up with my selection. When I am accessing the online channel I appreciate customer reviews and also search and the pop-up ads displayed based on my search habits. In my online activities, in other words, I am looking for additional engagement and not just the continuous pushing of sales.
I think I represent the ‘norm’ of omni channel shoppers; people that appreciate the relationship that supports sales and not the opposite. Mobile technology is pushing this demand by providing the means to shop from any location and any time which means that I can be physically in one store shopping for a product and use mobile shopping technology to purchase the product from another retailer. Retailers can complain about this practice however they cannot stop and must work to embrace and overcome these consumer shopping and purchasing practices with the relationship and additional features.
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?