Social networking tools such as Instagram or Facebook or even Google Hangouts should be incorporated to support virtual shopping from the retailer’s collaborative shopping home page.  These types of tools support the ability of consumers to virtually shop with others through the use of messaging, group conversations and even group videos.  The interesting concept for this type of virtual shopping are the ability of the tools to create a virtual session for friends and family to participate in the session as a group.  This virtual shopping capability adds a new dimension to the services offered by the retailer that will encourage return of consumers and their friends to the site to gather for the social aspects of shopping. 

 

The social aspect of shopping has always been a powerful draw for consumers that was encouraged and expanded through the development of malls.  The mall started as a place to concentrate consumers for purchases and quickly turned into a social gathering destination.  Consumers changed the concept and the original premise of the mall as a place to concentrate stores in order to simplify and increase sales for all of the retailers involved when they used the mall as a social gathering place.  This took many forms, from family outings (especially during holidays to visit Santa for instance), a place for teens to gather and hang in the suburbs for convenience, or a place for exercise by ‘walking the mall’.

 

It seems to me that retailers have always focused on providing a means to simplify the purchase of products and consumers have changed these means to meet their own demands and imagination.  Consumers on the other hand, have changed the the retailer’s tools and means to purchase to support their social interaction with friends, other consumers and family.  Sometimes these changes dramatically change the original retailer offering in ways that could not be foreseen.  For instance, I don’t think that retailers developed malls to provide a place for consumers to congregate and walk in comfort to get exercise.  Consumers have also been changing the eCommerce purchasing methods with the same goals, to make the tools meet their own needs for social interaction and shopping. 

 

Retailers in this case though must actively participate in these changing demands of consumers in order to encourage the retention and continued participation and purchases from consumers.  The virtual shopping and purchasing world requires interaction and support from the retailer in order to ensure the retention and return of consumers.  In order for the retailer to retain consumer interest they must support the social interaction demands of the consumer.  The retailer cannot rely on consumers to build this interactive relationship like the retailer could rely on the brick and mortar mall to draw consumers to the store for sales.  This means that the retailer must develop and maintain these social capabilities themselves in order to retain the consumer’s continuous return to the site.

 

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?