There are many challenges for the retail social community to overcome in order to successfully meet community collaboration demands and deliver on potential benefits.  This model is much different that most existing eCommerce models because it divides the activities into shopping and purchasing.  The shopping aspect is the collaborative social activities that focus on the interaction between customers and also between the customer and the retailer. While the purchasing aspect of this model is essentially the current eCommerce, omni channel, platform. These are two sides of the retail coin and the large retailers are going to require the shopping aspect in order to maintain success and more importantly to retain and grow their customer base.

 

Consumers are already developing their own virtual shopping networks of friends and family through existing social tools. The smartphone has also increased the consumer’s abilities to network and share while shopping.  There are many software tools that collect and share retail sale and discount information that provide location based suggestions for shopping and savings while the consumers are out spurring spontaneous purchases along the way.  So far though, retailers have not incorporated any of these social tool capabilities into their eCommerce solution.  This misses a great opportunity to improve their relationships with the individual consumers and enhance their experience and retain their interest. 

 

It is a well known assumption that the more time a consumer spends in a store or on an eCommerce site, the higher the likelihood they will make a purchase.  The large department stores have taken advantage of this within their brick and mortar locations by providing refreshments and special events to draw the consumer into the store.  Malls and shopping centers also have followed this practice of events and coordinated events to draw in the consumer.  The challenge now for the retailer is the consumer has less time to spend on these events and on top of that, the consumer’s available free time is falling more and more outside of the peak shopping periods. 

 

This is where the retailer must create a virtual shopping center that supports a new method of asynchronous shopping.  This asynchronous shopping allows consumers to share with their friends shopping product suggestions and questions and supports response in a manner and time-frame that fits into their friends schedule.  Consumers can also shop in a synchronous manner using messaging and Facetime type applications along with voice communications.  I see these practices more and more while shopping in a department store and it is time for retailers to embrace these types of virtual shopping so they can retain customers and more importantly take advantage of consumers suggestions and questions around products.

 

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?