Consumers are creating a virtual shopping experience across platforms and partners, or content producers, and products that resembles in many ways a crowdsourcing shopping and purchasing environment.  This environment produces production suggestions and recommendations based on consumer feedback and suggestions and then allows the consumers to search on factors that influence their purchase such as price, availability and service factors.  Retailers would do well to evaluate their practices as they relate to this new consumer behavior and this crowdsourcing practices to align their strategies to support incorporate their practices to both support and then learn from these new shopping and purchasing practices.

 

The challenge with these consumer shopping and purchasing practices for retailers is to identify and then determine how to relate and support these practices.  Retailers must understand that they will not be able to control and direct these practices, which is a big change for the large retailers.  This is where we see the large retailers struggling quite frankly as well because it is extremely easy for consumers to walk away in the virtual shopping mall for any reason.  Consumers have embraced these new practices in large part because it puts them in control of their purchasing and provides a wide variety of options that can be used to support their lifestyle requirements where time and location do not hinder the ability to purchase.

 

There are a variety of tools that consumers have embraced to extend their virtual shopping with the critical factor now being the smartphone and wireless capabilities.  These two tools together are changing the way consumers interact with the retailer through apps and tools that allow them to connect and interact immediately while shopping.  Consumers are now able to mash up interactions and discussions with their social networks along with shopping apps that provide suggestions and shopping information based on both product and location.  This provides a type of continuous pop-up sales running commentary that allows consumers to extend their virtual shopping and utilize the information provided by these divergent providers to enhance their shopping experience.

 

As an example of the power of the smartphone, wireless and consumer apps capabilities Google now provides enhanced location search and notification capabilities that extend and improve the consumer experience by providing, without your specific request, location based suggestions for finding your way around.  When you go into a mall parking lot, for instance, Google will provide a map of the mall with locations of all the stores in the mall along with a summary of the products offered in the store.  Combine that with Facebook social network interaction and shopping apps such as Retail Me Not and you come up with a killer shopping opportunity for consumers that eliminates the dependency on retailers.  This is just the beginning of location based technology mashed up with social networking to improve the consumer shopping and purchasing experience.

 

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?