For a Retailer, embracing communities can help build better services and boost customer loyalty. Through online communities, customers can participate in defining new features and services. They can also be the source of real-time feedback to help change the way the business works. Customers are a bigger source of innovative ideas than R&D and can help organizations become more competitive and customer-centric. I love the way that Starbucks and Dell jumped into building online communities to tap into the collective wisdom of their customers.
Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007 provides a lot of the functionality required for building Online Communities:
Retailers can also create Social Sites where fans of a product or service can get together (these could be fan sites that are highlight specific products/services like in the case of Harley Davidson Ride Planner. Other Examples: IKEA. Another approach that a lot of retailers are taking is to set up a Fan site on Facebook.
Newsgator has some power extensions to Sharepoint for setting up external communities. See details of the Newsgator solution here: http://www.newsgatoronline.com/solutions/external-communities.aspx
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