Relationship development is all about the personal connection and social networking tools and sites such as Facebook or Google+ are the tools that support the development of that personal connection and relationship in a virtual setting.  The strength of these tools is in the way that they provide a timeline of interaction and the fact that these interactions can be accessed from any technology platform.  The challenge then for the retailer is how do you create a site that supports the social networking tools such as Pinterest or Instagram or even SnapChat to support the personal connection and provide the support for the relationship timeline.  This virtual platform requires a blend of eCommerce and social networking capabilities to allow the consumer  to create and maintain the virtual relationship in their shopping experience.


In order to blend the eCommerce and social networking capabilities the retailer will need to add an entry site, or layer, that brings together these tools and sits on top of the eCommerce purchasing platform as a new shopping home page.  This new home page requires flexibility of both capabilities and the networking tools utilization to allow for the continuous change that must be supported by the site.  As I have previously discussed, what I call the new shopping home page must focus on the social side of shopping which means it must provide the means to interact with other consumers and friends in a virtual shopping experience.  This shopping experience provides a portal into the social networking tools that enhance and create a virtual shopping experience.


A key requirement though for the success of this concept is the people behind the scenes that support the interaction and integrate new features and functionality to encourage the return and participation of the customer and their friends.  It's the people behind the tools that humanize the platform to create the virtual interaction and shopping experience.  This is a key factor and key requirement for the success of this concept, it must be continuously refreshed by a site management team in order to continuously refresh and support the demands of the customer.  Behind this site management team also requires big data strategy that collects the vast amount of information that will be available from this shopping home page to a marketing team that utilizes the data to identify trends in both shopping and purchasing in order to guide the maintenance and continuous renewal of the shopping and purchasing platforms.


I think one of the key challenges for the large retailer is to understand the importance of the human factors in the maintenance and renewal of the shopping and purchasing platforms.  While the presentation is all technology related, the human design and support provide the reasons for the consumer to return over and over again. This requires long term  commitment and continuous investment in order to maintain the freshness and interest for the consumer and this is also the factor that is easiest to overlook.


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?