I believe that consumers are demanding a social shopping experience that will allow them to interact with their friends and family in a social networking perspective to turn the eCommerce channel into a virtual shopping mall experience. This virtual shopping mall will be made up of retailers and service providers that compliment each other and support a virtual social shopping experience and provide the consumer with a value network of retailers, services and social networking capabilities that produce the virtual shopping mall. This is a new space for retailers however consumers have been developing their own value network through combinations of location based product search apps, social networking tools the consumer is comfortable with and the most important tool for the consumer is the mobile technology.
The challenge for retailers is breaking through real and imagined barriers to developing the consumer value network and produce the virtual shopping mall. Consumers will always stretch the limits of technology and utilize technology in new ways that simplify their lives. Now the large retailers must also incorporate these new technologies to develop a consumer value network that simplifies the consumers shopping and to provide the one-stop capabilities that consumers have been putting together on their own. Consumers will return to the retailer's’ site that provides the search tools, the social networking tools and the chain of partners that simplify the consumer’s shopping and brings value to the consumer through simplified shopping and reductions in searches. Consumers return to Amazon not only because of the variety of products, they return because of the value network that Amazon provides to simplify shopping and the purchase.
In order to produce the consumer value network I suggest that large retailers reproduce their brick and mortar strategy for mall development in a virtual shopping home page site. The objective here is to create a consumer value network that provides a starting place for consumers to meet and share ideas and suggestions regarding products, ways to use products and style discussions. The consumer interest is high in this type of activity and service which you can see from the types of interest and following that Pinterest boards that focus on Ikea product hacks. These sites and the interest in these boards provides proof of the consumer interest and the potential for the consumer value network potential.
Development and support of this concept will not be easy, there are many hurdles to overcome. This must be viewed as a long term strategic objective to build the network and support the interests of the consumer. Consumers have shown their interest in these value add services by their embrace of an array of social networking tools that they are using in many imaginative ways to support their interest. The retailer must provide the site that harnesses these tools and interest to encourage consumers to participate. This must be taken on though as a long term strategy and provided the support and time to develop and attract consumers.
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?