Future Shop is ready for 1997.

According to an article by Media in Canada, Future Shop, a leading retailer and e-tailer of consumer electronics with over 121 stores from coast to coast in Canada, has launched a new community forum to discuss electronics.

I know it’s difficult for companies to figure out how much to open up in these days when everyone’s collaborating online, but it seems like Future Shop has totally missed the boat.

Here’s their claim:

This is the space where Canadian technology enthusiasts and industry insiders (Future Shop Product Experts, Product Buyers and manufacturer representatives) connect to exchange and learn about technology, entertainment and the products and services available at Future Shop. It’s the perfect place for exchanging product information, tips, and of course, bragging about your new 62″ plasma display.

But when you poke around, there’s almost no collaboration, no meaningful interactivity. There are twelve buckets for information (Home Theatre, Home Office, Photo, Communications, iPod & MP3, Car Audio & GPS, Gaming, Movies, Music, Tech Services, Appliances and Off Topic) but they look and work just like bulletin boards did in the 1990s.

Why on Earth would they launch this now? A company like Future Shop could actually do something really interesting in this space and map out some new territory for themselves.

Imagine this: I go to the Future Shop Community Forum (or a someplace better named, like Gearhead Central) and what immediately surfaces are the people who have registered, my fellow gearheads. Their profiles have photos and are full of their latest gadgets, how they’ve customized them, their passions for the greatest camera packages, sounds systems, record collection, home theatre system, you name it. They can put all the tech specs and photos they want of their set-ups.

Then I rate the users and those who write posts that are useful or have systems tricked out in a completely innovative way will rise to the top and gain stature. Future Shop could leverage these brand enthusiasts and create a whole new relationship with them. Value is created for everyone.

It would be so on brand and would separate Future Shop as a company that “gets it” with this crucial niche of consumers. It could help with internal Future Shop product innovation, messaging, it could attract self-identified technology nuts and offer a great service just for them. If it was done right, Future Shop could become the A-list place to start when buying your latest gadget or peripheral.

What makes this missed opportunity so incredible is that Future Shop’s brand positioning is “Ask An Expert”. If they had started with that, it would have led them in a whole different direction: decentralizing what it means to be an expert. Blurring the lines between a Future Shop-employed expert and a whole army of lay experts ready to share advice and brag about their configurations.

They could have leveraged the power of crowdsourcing, and created a truly social place where technophiles could run rampant and connect over shared passions.

Instead they have this:

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