Consumers have been using social network technology and sites to develop and maintain a virtual community and with the growth of mobile technology these communities are exploding in reach and use. It is only natural that consumers will expand this virtual community concept to the world of eCommerce to really create new meaning to the term omni channel retail. The growth of mobile technology has dramatically changed the consumer conception of omni channel retail and the consumers are have been attempting to drag major retailers to support these new expectations and demands. The concept I suggest to describe these new expectations and demands is omni channel shopping community.
As further proof of this redefinition of eCommerce into an omni channel shopping community you need look no further than Facebook. Facebook has incorporated community sales channels into their model to allow members to offer products in a type of ‘garage sale’ model using photos to offer products to friends and family and even the general public in your area. The addition of mobile technology in this model expands the capabilities to virtually shop at any time or place and coordinate your sales through messaging. This feature is a natural extension of the social community fostered by Facebook and provides an easy to use interface and communication model to shop and finalize the sale. This is a great example of the benefits of social networking and commerce converging across technologies, however it still only really focuses on the purchasing side of the transaction. It offers products to an audience from Facebook and uses the social networking technology to promote to the audience.
The next step in the virtual shopping community is to bring the social network as a layer on top of the purchasing transaction to provide the tools and opportunities to share and request advice from friends. Social networking tools have come to the point now where they can provide real-time video interaction that streams as part of the shopping experience. These real-time videos can also be saved and shared across the consumer network to gain reactions and suggestions for purchases. Combine the video aspect with the shared instant chats and you stand the omni channel market on its head while providing new reasons for consumers to shop and purchase. This truly blends the retail experience across channels while providing reasons and encouragement for consumers to return. This will be a difficult transition however the return provided especially to the early adopters can be dramatic.
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?