Retailers will eventually recover from the consumption tailspin that threatens this holiday season. But quite apart from the recession, there are other, profound changes underway in the retail sector. As the evidence mounts about the power of social networks to reconfigure individual behavior, the crucial question facing industry is: How to leverage this phenomenon into actual profits?
The second generation of Internet ("Web 2.0") companies such as MySpace, Facebook, Linked/In and YouTube exploded upon the scene three years ago. Today, MySpace and Facebook together have more users than the entire U.S. population; and the online community concept is already becoming a powerful tool for everything from creating customer loyalty, to assistance in product design, to a sounding board for company strategy.