Consumer collaborative activities and practices must be developed and while the first step is a flexible and robust collaboration program that is just the beginning of the story.  Collaboration with consumers must be nurtured and developed overtime because the consumer has no obligation to the retailer to participate.  The retailer must perform the heavy lifting of developing and then maintaining a collaboration program with consumers that continuously grows and changes as the consumer interaction and collaboration dictates.  In a similar manner the collaborative partnership between consumer and retailer must be developed and nurtured in order to not just maintain but most importantly to develop a collaborative relationship that encourages and rewards participation by the consumer. 


Consumers will participate if specifically requested as shown by the continued growth and abundance of surveys.  There seem to be surveys for every type of consumer interaction now and these surveys are bombarding the consumer to request feedback for every part of the consumer interaction.  There are other types of collaboration and interaction as well that have been developing and expanding over time such as customer reviews, FAQ listings and a type of product specific FAQ where the customer is encouraged to provide feedback to other customer questions.  While each of these offer a means to provide additional feedback for the questions, each of these interactions are specifically focused on a set of questions and a specific topic.  There is no freeform interaction between consumer and retailer and this freeform interaction is the secret sauce of collaboration that provides the spark for the interest to return. 


All of the social networks provide an open forum for members and contacts to respond to postings in a freeform manner that develops a conversation.  The retailer must provide this type of forum that encourages development of collaborative interactions and interactive discussions between other customers and the retailer.  This forum will develop the collaborative practices that will encourage customers to return to participate.  The retailers can then mine these interactions to develop new collaborative programs and interactions to expand the interactions and encourage increased participation. 


The collaboration program is the foundation, or framework, in which the retailer will develop collaborative consumer relationships.  The effort still lies in the actual development and maintenance of these relationships.  This is where the effort for the retailer must be focused and along with the effort the retailer must also apply a great deal of patience and determination in order to nurture and develop the collaborative relationship.  This relationship is fragile at first and must be nurtured until the consumer participation level reaches a critical mass of participation.  However the retailer can never put the collaboration development on ‘auto pilot’ the retailer must always monitor the forums to ensure they remain a safe and secure environment.


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?