Just like a physical community, the virtual consumer collaboration community requires construction of virtual buildings, rooms, highways and transportation methods to support and grow the virtual community.  This construction requires starting with the foundational framework and infrastructure that will robust and flexible to support the demands of the community.  The construction on this foundation must also be flexible and robust to support the demands of the community.  An open floorplan concept of the community construction is the term that comes to my mind to describe this flexible and robust virtual community. 

 

The key to success is starting with a flexible and robust foundation and any retailer would be severely hindering the long term success if they do not start with a robust and flexible foundation.  A key focus should be building the flexible foundation because the flexibility will allow the the foundation to be extended and enhanced and grown as necessary to support the changing demands.  One very important factor to remember is that the consumer community requires flexibility to meet the changing demands of the consumer.  The consumer has shown over and over again that their demands change and in many ways these changes may have been unpredictable prior to the change.  This factor highlights the need for flexibility and ability to change and improve the foundation to support these demands.

 

On top of this robust and flexible foundation the retailer must then focus on delivering the types of services and apps that consumers have embraced in their social media.  This is a type of portal of services and apps that  help the consumer to share ideas, collaborate with other consumers and most importantly to follow through to close the purchase.  This portal concept is only possible when coupled with a robust and flexible foundation.  The portal connects and provides a sandbox for consumers to land that is focused on the consumer’s shopping needs and allows the portal to become a community that draws consumers to return over and over.  The measure of success for this community should be the number of returning consumers, their return cycle and then how long they remain and follow through to purchase.

 

It would be a mistake for the retailer to try to force a purchase every time a consumer returns to the community because it will actually drive the consumer from the community.  The retailer must expand their definition of success to include the information and intelligence that they will obtain from the robust interaction with the consumers.  This interaction with the consumer will lead to increased sales as the consumer shares their activities with other consumers outside of the community and their reaction to suggestions from other consumers.  This builds an organic growth cycle that is much stronger than a focus on low cost and is more sustainable. 

 

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?