While the collaboration community, in the long term, will require a significant investment in technology to build the infrastructure, the consumer facing software, however, can utilize a great deal of open social networking tools in building out the community.  The investment in time and resources to support the community will, by far, represent the greatest investment in the community.  It is important for the senior leadership of the retailer to understand this up front so that these resources can be provided with the skills, the numbers and also the understanding that this investment will continue as a cost of doing business in supporting the community.


I find it interesting that as businesses have begun to utilize social media and networking marketing and consumer relationships, the use of technology has required an increase in the number of people required by the businesses to support these requirements.  The requirements for the consumer community adds to this requirement for an increase in people and in this case it is not just an increase in people with customer relationship skills, this increase requires skills in technologies such as big data along with skills in marketing and design.  This increase in the number of people required is especially important in the beginning stages of constructing the community because it is important to continuously monitor the results and feedback from the consumer to adjust and improve the community features and capabilities. 


The challenge for the retailer’s leadership is the commitment and patience required to support the resource and skills requirements for the collaboration community to succeed.  This is a very big challenge because it requires a long term investment in people that can take quite some time to provide a return.  This can be off-set somewhat by utilizing cloud technology and open source social networking tools.  However the time required to develop the community and build the consumer participation in the community requires long term human resource support. 


The requirements for large chain retailers is changing and requires investment of skilled resources to monitor and manage these new strategic tools and initiatives.  The challenge in these investments is the potential duration of the investment prior to a return.  The benefits though of these tools and initiatives is the direct connection with consumers to guide actions and products and, possibly more importantly, the ability to deliver a focused strategic message across all changes and all regions.  These new tools will allow the large chain retailers to finally deliver on a true omni channel retail shopping and purchasing experience.


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?