Social commerce provides a great channel for many consumers to take control of their shopping and purchasing to reshape to meet their changing lifestyles. There are however, many, many consumers that do not have the opportunity to take part in these social commerce practices due to lack of available technology. Retailers must be very careful to remember and provide an outlet for this consumer group because of the size and purchasing power of this group. The retail marketplace is in the process of redefinition and it would be mistake to ignore the group of customers that do not have the technology to take advantage of the social commerce opportunities. This group of customers is also searching for flexibility and choices to meet their lifestyle needs because they too must shop in odd hours just as consumers with the technology choose to shop in odd hours.
The lack of technology requires these consumers continue to shop and purchase through brick and mortar outlets and this requires that the consumer continue to adjust their shopping requirements to the store hours of operation. This has not stopped the reduction in consumers to malls though and it seems that many of these consumers are shifting their shopping to strip malls or generic discount retailers such as Dollar General. There has been a continuing strength in the discount retail marketplace that seems to support this hypothesis. I do not believe though that this market segment will extend outside of the current market segments though. There are other factors that promote this market segment and shopping practices including inability to deliver purchases and general desire to touch products.
There are also groups of products, such as grocery for instance, that still lend themselves to consumer shopping in the stores. Most grocery chains now offer online purchasing and even delivery to some locations as well. My experience with this is there is a general uneasiness for consumers to trust someone else to pick their produce and the meat products. Where this can success is with dry goods or even frozen goods but I think that the consumer shopping practices are changing as it relates to grocery shopping towards smaller and more frequent purchases. This type of shopping is a convenience and opportunistic type of shopping where you may stop and the supermarket on your way home from work or simply purchase for a smaller number of meals.
The point here is that there continues to be a market segment that prefers brick and mortar shopping for a number of reasons and retailers that target these market segments can be successful. This market segment though is also beginning to stratify to product types and consumer income segments. This stratification will allow for a transition of some retailers though to improve their social commerce services and should be used as such. This cannot be a long term strategy though for the majority of retailers.
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?