The consumer community provides an invaluable framework for consumer feedback and research related to consumer reaction and response to product and marketing plans.  This framework will also provide a model that can replace the consumer surveys and focus groups that currently are used for new marketing programs and product research and will provide more accurate reaction and response because the analysis is based on the actual consumer responses.  This framework will require support and encouragement though from from the retailer in order to grow into its full potential.  The potential though should encourage the retail senior management to invest and explore and encourage the nurturing of the consumer community to reach the potential.

 

There are two key capabilities provided or resulting from the consumer community that come together to produce the potential;

  1. The traceability of the consumer actions and flow through the consumer community and the eCommerce site.  These actions and sequence of actions provide the detailed data of the actual and unbiased consumer reactions and shopping patterns.  These types of reactions are subconscious and natural without the rationalization or justification the consumer would interject into a survey or a focus group.
  2. Big data technology and storage capabilities provide the means to collect the data and then the means to analyze the data.  These capabilities are essential to the ability to analyze the results of the consumer shopping and purchasing habits in the consumer community and the eCommerce site.  There is a very strong and very real possibility that the cost of these tools and then the people to maintain and use the tools can be recovered by the savings in eliminating the consumer surveys and focus groups.

These capabilities are not a slam dunk, though, they will require the support and encouragement to maintain the consumer community as the gateway to the consumer chain.  This will require monitoring and also continuous updates of not only material but also community services such as offerings and product information and product pairings.  The community must be continuously maintained and updated in order to encourage the regular return of the consumer.  Initially this maintenance and updated material will need to be provided by the retailer staff, however as the consumer returns and engages in the community the retailer support activities can be reduced.

 

There is a very real opportunity for the retailer to directly engage with the consumer through the community site to encourage a real relationship with the consumer.  This may be the last opportunity for the large chain retailers to engage directly with consumers considering the results of cost reductions and additional operational responsibilities required of the clerks in the stores.  The retailer objective must be to reach a point where the community is more self maintaining in the attraction and retention of the consumer.  The consumer must accept and own the value provided by the community in order to ensure the value can be achieved.

 

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?