Consumers are using social networking tools and and information to support their shopping and purchasing practices in ways that change and expand on such a frequent basis that it is impossible for retailers to react and control.  Consumers have embraced these social networking tools in every aspect of their lifestyle and retail shopping and purchasing is no different.  Consumers use their social network in addition to the new eCommerce shopping capabilities introduced by Amazon to publish reviews and allow consumers to ask specific questions of other shoppers and previous purchasers of products.  With the expansion of location and subject specific advertising and third party shopping apps consumers have been able to create a virtual shopping mall that enhances their shopping capabilities and allows true any time and any where shopping and purchasing.

 

Retailers have been providing any time and any where product purchasing capabilities for a long time and for the most part they have remained focused on simplification of the purchase.  Consumers however have been searching and building methods and capabilities to shop any time and any where.  There is a big difference and the outcome of this difference is methods to support the consumer retail shopping and purchasing demands in a virtual shopping mall environment.  These social tools have allowed consumers to shop and interact with friends and family virtually in the same manner they interacted at the malls. These location and subject based tools allow consumers to streamline and focus their shopping in a manner that shortens the search and promotes additional sales based on their actual interests rather than the blanket advertising.

 

Some retailers understand and embrace this social virtual shopping trend, while others are fighting to remain in the past.  Retailers must engage in consumer social networks and provide a community site that encourages consumers to engage on the site and most importantly, to return to the site.  Retailers must utilize social networking tools and social network outlets to encourage consumers to return and shop a their site and to explore products.  The social network tools and capabilities provide a means for other consumers to interact directly with each other to provide reviews and recommendations to others.  Consumers want to engage with other consumers and provide advice based on their experience and retailers must learn to channel these actions to encourage consumers to return and linger on their site.

 

Retailers must focus on encouraging consumers to return and engage at their site in order to maintain sales and succeed in the future.  Retailers must end their focus on the purchase and enhance their focus on shopping and the consumer engagement.  Retailers can use social networking tools and capabilities to enhance the consumer experience in ways that provide an type of personal shopper experience and encourage the consumer to return and engagement with the retailer and other consumers.  Social networking tools and capabilities allow retailers to engage again with consumers and that is what consumers are searching for, someone to pay attention to their own personal needs and desires. 

 

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?