Retailers seem to be struggling now with fitting into the sharing economy that has been embraced and really developed by consumers using the technology and social network capabilities to meet their lifestyle.  The sharing economy has had a dramatic impact on the way that consumers shop and interact with retailers, other consumers and ultimately the selection end purchase of the product.  In their embrace of the sharing economy, consumers have utilized technology to eliminate any friction in their shopping for products through a combination of their broad usage of Internet search and shopping capabilities combined with social network consumer to consumer purchasing opportunities.  Consumer have incorporated the retailer into these practices as they fit into the scheme from a price and availability perspective as piece of the shopping and purchasing puzzle.

 

This leaves retailers with an interesting dilemma; how do they fit into the consumer shopping and purchasing strategy as an integral piece of the sharing economy?  It seems to me that this is the important question that must be answered prior to expanding or implementing new services and purchasing options.  Retailers have worked hard to extend capabilities in the omni channel market to support what is perceived to be consumer priorities.  This focus on providing consumer purchasing options has done a great deal to incorporate real time capabilities and expansion of consumer interaction through technology.  In fact in the last year I have seen many great improvements in blending the virtual with the physical shopping practices for the larger legacy retailers that provides the ability for consumers to easily and efficiently engage with the retailer online from any location or time.  This has increased the customer service capabilities in the brick and mortar stores a great deal by addressing many of the activities for which a customer would normally search out a sales associate.

 

These capabilities are really baseline activities required as the cost of entry in the marketplace.  In addition, the methods that these capabilities have been added, in most cases through acquisition or adding separate ecommerce platforms, require an added level of complexity and support making them more brittle and difficult to change with the changing consumer demands.  Retailers have reached the first level of interaction and support to participate in the sharing economy and they can experiment with additional collaboration now with consumers.

 

Retailers must next focus on creating a pervasive, omnipresent, platform that truly supports and engages the sharing economy.  The first step in the journey is meeting the consumer demands and providing the initial version of a platform concept that can be improved going forward the next step though can be even more difficult.  The next step is the omnipresent platform that supports collaboration and integration across all partners and truly supports engagement of the sharing economy.

 

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?