Social commerce and purchasing can and should be the most data intensive practice in the retail industry.  The data availability and variety available in the retail industry can be overwhelming causing delays and analysis paralysis in trying to determine what to collect and how to use the data.  This is real a very old problem going back to the beginning of the big data practices and the struggle will continue into the future.  The challenge really is not in the data collection aspect of the equation, the challenge is in how to use the data and what data to use.  Social commerce brings an additional variable to the challenge because the data is spread across partners and even industries that can bring value to the analysis. 

 

This turns into a bit of a detective challenge to follow the data through the social commerce process from social networks to shopping to the purchase and finally the consumer delivery.  Every step along the way there is a great deal of activity related data that can help the partners better understand and promote their relationship with consumers. The large legacy retailers must replace the data they have been capturing related to consumer shopping habit in the brick and mortar store with the data from the virtual marketplace in order to understand patterns and develop consumer collaboration techniques and practices.  As an example, Wal Mart is a master at product placement in their brick and mortar stores as a result of their consumer shopping pattern data collection and analysis, they are able to determine the best placement for products to drive sales and shoppers through the store.  Now Wal Mart has access to their web site shopping and purchasing habits which can be very helpful however they have a more difficult time determining what shoppers are doing prior to stopping at their web site in the virtual world. 

 

This requirement for data and especially consumer collaboration increases based on the type of products and retail outlets.  For instance a retailer such as Neiman Marcus would have a much greater demand for consumer touch point ability and consumer collaboration while retailers such as Sears or Wal Mart do not have the same requirements,especially when commodity type products are involved.  As the requirements for data increases the requirement for collaboration and partnerships also increases.  This is because the value of the data increases as the span and range of data increases.  The Internet provides a great opportunity to understand consumer shopping patterns based on consumer touch points and this value can only be unlocked by collaboration and partnership.

 

There is a question of consumer identify security involved in this discussion as well.  Consumer identify must be protected at all costs and this must be taken into account when tracking activities.  I would be a catastrophic problem for retailers if there was a consumer identity data breach that could be tracked back to the big data collection and analysis.

 

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?