Consumer collaboration from the retailer perspective should be viewed as the next social networking wave.  What I mean by this is that consumer collaboration is the next logical step in the retailer to consumer relationship and engagement that started with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and Yelp and then expanded with services such as Groupon and Retail Me Not.  The initial social networks and social exchange between consumer and retailer was very one-sided, sure consumers could respond through the social networks but the interaction with the consumer was in a more outward direction from the retailer to the consumer.  Consumer collaboration practices focus on reversing that direction and encouraging the consumer to actively participate and even guide the interaction between consumer and retailer.


I bring up this social networking aspect of consumer collaboration to highlight and reference the importance of patience and long term support for the initiative.  Social networking in the retail space requires a great deal of support from internal departments and staff in order to be successful and bring value to the retailer.  The consumer collaboration extension is no different and will also require a great deal of support from these same internal departments and additional staff in order to be successful.  The retailer must realize this is no small investment and also, even more importantly, no short term investment with a quick return on investment.  The retailer must be prepared for a long term investment in consumer collaboration in order to reap the benefits.


I strongly believe though that all of this effort and patience will create a stronger relationship and increased retention of the customers.  In addition, I think that there is a major difference between the consumer collaboration initiative and the earlier social networking activities in that consumer collaboration has the very strong potential to reduce the retailer labor support requirements as the community strengthens.  The main objective of the consumer collaboration community is to develop a community that will open communication and engagement between the retailer and the consumer.  This community is meant to provide a place for consumers to provide feedback and suggestions to other consumers along with the retailer.  Based on this key objective, the community can be considered a success when the consumer community members begin supporting and driving the activities themselves.


The most valuable benefits from the consumer community will be derived by the interaction of the consumer members with other consumers and the retailer.  This interaction of consumers will provide the retailer with a great wealth of data and suggestions on product development, and groupings along with methods and data on marketing and sales of the products.  These are the benefits that will drive value and growth for the retailer. 


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?