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Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

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A key function or area of the collaboration community is the DIY, or How-To, area.  This truly provides the glue and the discussions that will hold the community together, provide the interest to retain and draw the consumer to return to the site and encourage the consumer to participate in the community.  The other areas of the site have a tendency to fall into a one sided conversation with the consumer or a private conversation with the consumer to address an issue or individual question.  The DIY area though should be the highlight and the focus of the community that provides the headlines and hook articles that will draw the consumer into the site and also provide the promotion interest through Facebook and Twitter to draw the consumer to return to the site.


This function will require the greatest effort to both start up and maintain within the community because it requires more than a passing comment to generate the interest.  This area requires some thoughtful architecture and definition as part of the definition to provide groupings or rooms of different interest for people to participate.  In addition to the architecture it also requires the ability to support different types of material from videos, to photos, to drawings, to text along with a mix and match ability for the material based on the subject matter.  This requirement is no simple feature and must be thought out and architected into the framework of the site to support the features and also the promotion of the features and the subject matter.  This will require a great deal of effort in the startup phase especially until it catches interest with the consumer community members to fully participate and populate the area with subjects of their own interest.


This one area will require the support from both the marketing team and the artistic development teams to create a site that interests the consumer and one that is promoted to generate the curiosity and the stickiness to encourage consumers to return.  In addition to this it is important that this area does not turn into another pure marketing outlet for the retailer, it must be viewed as an outlet for the consumer to discuss and demonstrate how they use the types of products sold by the retailer.  In fashion apparel it might be suggestions for pairing clothing and accessories and in hardlines it might be how to use the products in new and unusual ways.  In order to support these requirements this area must be the most dynamic of the community because it requires continuous change and updates to generate and maintain the interest.


The area should be the focus of your community with the greatest creative focus and also the most interactive area allowing for both postings of all types and also links to outside postings that are of interest to the consumer.  This must be an area that focuses on the consumer interests and not an area that focuses on the sale. 


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?


The consumer collaboration community will only deliver benefits and meet its potential if it is built on a framework that supports and encourages the activities that interest the entire community.  There are at least two factions that must be supported by this framework, the consumer and the retailer.  These two factions will grow into more as the community grows in both members and interests.  This requires a framework to support the community that is both robust in its ability to support the demands of of the members and flexible to support the changing interests.  This framework can probably be best supported by the cloud services and technology in the most efficient manner.


I think of three areas that the community should start with;

  1. How-to, or DIY - This is where the members can post photos and videos describing how they use products and even services.  This would be available and a viable section for postings from both retailer and consumers.
  2. Shopping services and suggestions.  This is where special sales and also shopping suggestions can be provided.  This area would also be a viable section for postings from both retailer and consumers.  It is important for the concept of the community that this area be open to suggestions for other retailers for special sales.  Amazon provides an example for this implementation; provide the list of other sites offering the products and special prices to simplify the consumer shopping.  This will encourage the shopper to remain on the host’s site and the longer the consumer remains on the site, the greater the chance for a sale.
  3. Surveys and new product previews - This is where the retailer host can mine information from the consumers regarding products, services and sales.  The consumer members can be encouraged to complete surveys by offering discounts or pre-release type sales to the consumer members.  This is also where the retailer host can provide incentives and community benefits to members to encourage return visits to the community and the surveys area of the community.


You will notice that my suggestions are generic in nature and can really fits across a broad range of retailer and product offering.  This is because I want to encourage the broadest range of retailer to develop their own community.  In addition, I think it is important for the community to start with the most simple aspects, functions and features to provide the incentive for the members to participate and build a community that meets the members needs.  A key to the growth of this community, I think, is the encouragement to the community to participate to grow the community in the manners that are important to the members. 


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?


Collaboration provides the background and the conceptual framework for the community to work together and the members of the community provide the drive to experiment.  This is the starting point for the collaboration community to first come together and then to grow and produce value to the community members.  The community is a key factor to the success and the benefits achieved by the members.  The community also provides the framework for the members to define and then achieve the benefits that bring value to the individual members.  This is one of the key reasons that the collaboration community concepts and practices are growing in acceptance.


The key underlying value of a collaboration community is the harvesting of benefits across the community members.  What I mean by this is that the community and collaboration generates a great number of benefits that bring value to the community and allows a greater consumption of the value.  The results of the efforts from the collaboration bring a great deal of benefits and while some of these benefits may not be valuable to all members, the likelihood of members getting value from these outlying benefits is greater in communities that are larger and more diverse.  These benefits derived from the consumer collaboration community follow the same formula and process as the benefits derived for a supplier collaboration community.


In the case of a consumer collaboration community the retailer invests time and skills to bring together the technology framework for the community with the expectation that it will achieve customer retention and also first hand experience with new concepts to support the demands of the consumer.  The consumers come to the community with the expectation that they will be provided with a place where they can learn and share new methods for product use and also a place where they can socialize with other consumers to increase their efficiencies and cost savings in shopping.  You can see that the desires from one group of members are delivered from the investments of other groups of members.


The key achievement and objectives delivered to the members of the community is a much higher and greater efficiency in resource utilization.  This requires the members to expand their viewpoints and expectations for the collaboration community in order to harvest the full range of benefits that can be achieved.  For many retailers this is a cultural change to identify the potential benefits available from the community and more importantly to accept the concept that the combination of benefits will bring a greater value than any one specific hard benefit that may be achieved on their own.


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?


Every organization strives to develop and maintain an applications and technology test bed that allows new releases, modifications and systems patches to be validated prior to migration to the production, or ‘live’, environment and retailers are no different.  Many, if not most, organizations struggle with developing and maintaining a conceptual test bed to be used to validate concepts and this is probably the most valuable test bed to deploy, especially for organizations such as omni channel retailers that interact directly with the consumer.  The concepts and interaction with the consumer is the most contentious interaction driving by a breathtaking pace of discontinuous change.


The consumer interaction is continuously bombarded with new tools, services and demands that make it very confusing and difficult for an organization keep up with the pace of the change.  Sometimes it seems that new tools and services arrive on a weekly or even daily basis and then to confuse and make the job of evaluation and incorporation even more difficult consumers themselves then morph the tools and services in ways that sometimes are not recognized from the original offering.  This makes it very difficult for the retailer to develop and maintain a strategy, sometimes I think the best strategy is simply ‘embrace change’.  With all these factors swirling around the retail environment how can the retailer maintain their place with their targeted consumers? 


This is where the collaborative community comes into play to provide a test bed stage to experiment with tools and concepts when they are available through the cloud.  This test bed provides an isolated environment for the retailer to engage both new tools and services along with the consumer experimentation.  The greatest value will be derived from this collaborative test bed by encouraging consumers to interact and engage the site with a general focus and direction of developing a consumer community of uses and suggestions for the retailer’s products.  The site provides the retailer with the ability to experiment with tools and also encourage the consumer to experiment with new services and concepts in shopping.  This experimentation concept is important to the retailer’s ability to grow and retain the consumer interest.


In general, the majority of the retailers have never been known of bleeding edge, or even leading edge, technologies.  The cost and margin generally involved in the retail environment preclude heavy investment in new technologies as experiments.  This collaborative consumer community that is based on the tools and services available from the cloud provides a cost effective manner to achieve two important objectives; a test bed to experiment with new concepts and a method to maintain consumer interest that encourages consumers to return to the community.  This community concept provides the greatest value opportunity because of the encouragement for consumers to return, a sales site encourages consumers only when they are searching to purchase something while the community encourages the consumer to return to interact with others.


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?


A major reason, or benefit, for integrating cloud technologies and services into your consumer collaboration community is the opportunity to experiment in a sandbox environment with the consumer.  The community provides the perfect sandbox environment for this experimentation because it is outside of the commerce architecture so it will not impact the sales and yet it has the consumer interest and activities in the environment to flex and test out the technologies and services prior to integrating into the commerce architecture.  This test bed concept is a key aspect of every life cycle and in this example the retailer is simply utilizing another platform to open the validation to the external consumer.


The community can provide you with a platform and framework that supports a quick turn around to implement new functionality without directly impacting the business critical sales platform.  This also will provide the  platform to support a progression from the conceptual to business value.  The challenge that I see with the cloud technologies and services is one of validation and integration to the existing business services.  Utilizing the collaborative community as this testbed platform provides both immediate and long term value; the immediacy of trying the service or technology and the long term of a process to move into the business value platform. 


This framework provides a method, or process pipeline, to quickly test new and changes features and software as it is released into and by the cloud.  The retailer could never analyzed, introduce, test and then migrate to the sales platform the volume of features and technology that is available and constantly growing and changing in the cloud.  The collaboration community, however, provides the platform to experiment with the technology and features to gauge and validate with the consumer the potential value prior to implementing in the sales platform. 


This process and utilization of the collaboration community as a test bed provides the business with the method and framework to quickly roll out new feature and functionality in a manner that allows a widespread trial.  The cloud technology cost model combined with the test bed platform of the collaborative community can provide an extremely effective process, or pipeline to quickly integrating new features and functionality into the sales platform.  The retailer may find that very few features and functionality available in the cloud will actually work in the sales platform after running through this experimentation process.  The beauty of this framework and process though is that the retailer does not need to invest a great deal to realize the results.


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?


The reason for a retailer to develop a collaborative community as an integral part of the retailer’s online presence is to ensure the participation of the members which in turn will encourage the members to purchase.  This member return and participation is the key and the retailer must be careful to focus the community on the participation and the benefits to the consumer and not a focus on product sales.  To this end, the collaborative community, and the retailer, must encourage the participation in the community management of the members and make it easy for the members to participate. 


The retailer must understand that this member participation will involve a changing level of participation from the individual members.  This will make it almost impossible for the retailer to count on the continue participation of any one member and requires the retailer to view the participation as a whole from the community and not as any one continuous level of participation from one member.  The community participation should be encouraged and measured or acted upon based on the entire community and not any one member.  This allows the community to flourish without depending on any one member.  This is important because individual members will come and go with the individual participation increasing and decreasing depending on interest and available time.  This is why the retailer must view and measure the participation from the community as a whole. 


Of course the retailer should provide the ability to easily purchase however, the focus must remain on the participation and social interaction of the members.   The first and foremost action encouraged on this site must be encouraging reaction of the members to the postings and the community conversation.  The second priority must be encouraging the participation in directing the site activities.  Then the third priority should be providing the ability to purchase.  You don’t want to make it difficult to purchase but by the same token you don’t want to focus too intensely on the purchase.  Too great of a focus on the purchase will discourage the member return and participation.  Instead focus on the social aspect of the community and the purchase will follow.


It is important to remember that community cannot depend on the continuous participation of any one member however, the community can count on the participation of the members as a group.  I believe that Amazon has learned this lesson very well, the Prime service from Amazon encourages the return of people to the community and the service focuses on the ease of participation, benefits to the consumer and community involvement.  Amazon focuses first on member retention at the site and then second makes the any purchase easy, including providing the ability to purchase from another retailer that participates in the community.


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?


A successful program requires a strong governance program and a successful governance program requires a strong and flexible framework that defines guidelines and practices.  A collaboration community is no different.  The framework provides the foundational and structure to support the governance of the community and must be maintained and thoughtfully revised to meet changing requirements.  This framework supporting the collaboration community requires a strong process to ensure the changes to the industry are institutionalized as appropriate and when appropriate without overwhelming the community.


Successful governance of a collaboration community is a tight rope act in this age of the cloud.  The environment and tools are changing so quickly that it must be a key focus to stay abreast of the changes.  The changing technologies, tools and services are critical to the collaborative social network.  Your community members are a very fickle group you run the risk of losing the participation if you do not constantly upgrade and improve your capabilities.  The silver lining related to this requirement is that you can leverage the tools and services offered through the cloud to support the constant change and improvements.


The technology environment governance is important to the success of your community but the governance of the community participation is even more critical.  Your governance program must must protect the members of the community without overpowering and turning people off from participation.  The community must be protected from the trolls and the inappropriate behavior without overpowering and discouraging participation.  The participation type of governance should also encourage and include the participation of the community members.  This will promote the participation and the sense of community ownership of the members.  This type of governance is another tightrope act, you want to protect the community and you also want to promote open participation and creativity in participation.  This type of governance will require the greatest investment in focus and time from your social networking team and these efforts need to be a full time requirement to ensure the quality of the community. 


Community governance is a very important aspect to the success of the collaboration community from three aspects; technology, safety of the members and the reputation of the hosts (in this case the retailer).  The key investment for success is the time and focus of the team supporting the governance.  Cloud technology and services provide a great framework for the infrastructure required to support the community.  The investment in time will require an increase in resources internally and then a plan for encouraging the participation of the community.  These investments in time and the governance framework will help to grow your community and this in turn will generate repeat customers, which is the key to success in the future of consumer shopping.


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?


The development and encouragement of the collaboration community by retailers will require a flexible governance that encourages participation in a safe and secure environment.  We’ve found over and over that a governance strategy and participation by key stakeholders, including internal and external partners is critical to the success of the community.  It is critical to the development and success of a governance strategy to develop a practice of inclusion from all stakeholders.  A collaborative community requires the support of the external stakeholders and participants and one of the best ways to develop this support is to encourage the participation of all stakeholders, internal and external, in the governance of the community.


This participation starts with framework that supports video, image and text posting to support all of the types of networking that would be of interest to consumers and community participants.  This is frankly where the cloud technologies and services can play an important role in providing and supporting the community framework.  This is important to both the success of the community and also critical to the acceptance by the retailer senior leadership.  The key point of these capabilities being that they can be delivered quickly to the community and there is a very low cost of entry.  I think that the cost is the critical aspect to retailer leadership acceptance.  This lowered cost of entry, and even more important cost of failure, can be the linchpin to the acceptance of the retailer leadership.  Of course this is not the only cost to implementing the collaboration community, however you can argue that the community can be supported by the same people that are currently supporting the social media management.


This social community provides another aspect and outlet to the social media management and engagement that should not be underplayed.  The social media management framework and governance must take into account all of the social media outlets.  In addition to coordinating the social media outlets it is important for the retailer to manage the submission of content to ensure there is no offensive content.  In addition to the content the retailer must manage the discussions, by this I mean they must manage the trolls and also the unrelated blatant marketing attempts by participants.  This, I believe, is probably the most important factor in achieving support of the consumer and the success of the community.


All of these activities require the focus and time of a team to provide the oversight required to ensure this collaborative community is safe, secure and supports the message of the retailer.  In addition the collaborative community with the outlets for a variety number and types of postings provides the retailer with the opportunity to focus their message. 


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?


Why should retailers spend the time and effort to develop a collaboration community when there are already so many other community outlets for collaboration?  I think the answer to that question is to provide the retailer with an outlet to connect directly with the consumer and to provide the retailer a method to promote their products.  This can be achieved in different manners depending on the product and the customer, for instance home improvement retailers can provide how-to videos, or apparel retailers can provide fashion advice.  Both of these communities though must provide a framework that encourages the consumer to participate.  I think the community should also focus on the benefits to the consumer and not so much on sales. 


I say this because I believe the sales will come when the retailer provides a framework that demonstrates how to use the products.  The key objective of these communities is to give the consumer a reason to return to the site, if the consumer makes the community a regular habit the sales will come.  The point on which to focus in the return of the consumer to the site.  By all means the retailer should copy or incorporate links to the popular online communities there is no reason to create a new method there is only a need to encourage the consumer to return to the community.


This may seem to be at odds with the objective of retailers, which is to sell products to the consumer at a profit.  So why should the retailer want to develop a community that is focused on benefits to the consumer?  The reason is simple, the community provides a method to encourage the consumer to return and consumers returning to the retailer’s site will increase the sales.  In other words, the community provides a soft marketing opportunity for sales. 


This concept becomes even more enticing because cloud technologies and services provide a very low cost method to deliver the community.  This can be delivered in a very low cost manner utilizing the same internal resources that support the retailer’s other social media outlets.  In other words, the retailer can implement a community with practically zero dollar investment and only the investment of time from resources already supporting social networks.  This framework, with the support of consumers, can be an extremely low cost with high return value solution.  The objective of this network should be that consumers maintain the site with new content and discussions and require minimal support from the retailer.



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?


Consumers are searching for a community with whom to collaborate in both shopping and and usage suggestions.  You only need to look around at the success of sites like Pinterest to see this type of community activity in action.  The question then becomes why should a retailer develop such a community?  I think the answer to this question is to give consumers a reason to return to their sites and participate.  The more time a consumer spends on a site the higher the likelihood that they will purchase something. In addition, the more time a consumer spends on a site, the higher the likelihood that they will bring additional consumers to the site. 


Pinterest is a great example of this type of community where members share images and ideas that interest them and then link to additional members with the same interests and likes.  This social networking then grows exponentially providing members with usage and design suggestions and also the link to sites where interested members can purchase similar items.  Some retailers are taking advantage of these types of capabilities, take Ikea as an example. 


Ikea provides a great example of the types of services and activities that consumers embrace to develop a community.  Ikea also provides an example of the opportunity provided to utilize their web site to draw consumers into their brick and mortar stores. In fact, when I think about it a little more I realize that the Ikea brick and mortar store is a great physical realization of a the virtual eCommerce web site.  The Ikea store is largely made up of suggested uses of their products and then the ‘check out’ is performed through the warehouse at the end of your walk through the showroom. The physical community is also enhanced with the addition of the cafeteria lunch room and children’s playroom to encourage a family to spend the day at the store.


In addition to this physical community of the store, Ikea encourages a virtual community online and consumers then have embraced this concept in Pinterest for example to provide their followers with examples of their inventive uses of the Ikea products along with the instructions and even list of materials for others to build the suggestions for others.  These suggestions and easy to follow instructions provide another marketing and sales opportunity for Ikea’s website and brick and mortar store.  On top of all of these benefits, it costs Ikea nothing, except the stores and website that is already available. 


These types of community provide examples of what I believe to be the next wave of consumer shopping.  This also provides a real life example of how to create such communities.  The challenge for the retailer is to provide the community environment and physical and technical support to encourage these communities.  This requires the retailer to view this community environment as an enabler for future potential sales and also the retention of customers.  These enablers should be the objective of retailers to enable their future success and continued viability.  Consumers are taking control now and are no longer forced to shop at any retailer that does not meet their shopping demands. 


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?


Consumers are drawn to community.  This is shown over and over again through the manner in which consumers are drawn to social networks that support and encourage engagement with others in a community environment or network. Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Youtube all provide a community environment for people to network with current friends and meet new friends through the network interaction.  These activities are going on all around retailers and most of them are so caught up in their own actions to catch sales that they lose out on the benefits and opportunities that can be achieved through a community.  Consumers have shown over and over again that they will flock to services that support a community and retailers just have to recognize and provide the environment that supports the consumer community.


Some retailers do recognize the social aspect of shopping and have been creating a community aspect, Amazon with the consumer reviews and response to shopper’s questions for instance.  This requires the retailer to want to change and to recognize this as a key issue or more importantly a key requirement to success.  However most retailers seem to be more interested in trolling for the sale at any cost without a thought about the ecosystem that will support and feed their success.  Any retailer only needs to look around at the success of various web sites and social networks to understand that the consumer is searching for community in their virtual interactions.  A great example of the success that can be achieved from a community environment is Angie’s List.  This site is just a virtual neighborhood of friends that suggest service providers to the members of the community.  The service providers win because of the word of mouth marketing and recommendations, the consumers win because they have a trusted community in which to turn for advice.


Retailers must be open and encouraging of consumer participation when developing the community and remember the old networking adage - you must make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal.  Developing a community can be very tricky because you want to encourage open participation from the members of the community and at the same time keep out the trolls that can destroy the community.  This is a difficult task because the retailer must walk a line between protecting the community and being overbearing and limiting the community development. The one thing that retailers cannot afford right now is to do nothing, they must step up and embrace the open collaborative capabilities of the cloud.  They must take the first steps to develop the community and be fully aware that where they start will be abandoned quickly.  This is a hard concept to embrace for many retailers, however the introduction of the cloud makes this concept reasonable and even enticing. 


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?


The cloud and collaboration are two terms that can be rather nebulous and mean many things to many different people.  The cloud is hard to nail down because it is changing so much and so quickly which also in an interesting turn provides additional meaning to the term cloud; the technology and services change so quickly that it is difficult to provide a solid definition and list of characteristics.  Collaboration is another term that also means many things to many people and the terms and conditions and even opportunities for collaboration is continuously changing based on circumstances, partners and the needs of the partners.  So it is rather fitting that these two terms are coming together to support each other and the needs of partners across the spectrum.


There is a second interesting factor that is provided by cloud services and technology and that is the capabilities that the individual consumer can use to extend their own capabilities.  This is one of the first times in the modern era in which the individual consumer has the same technology capabilities as the largest retailers.  Consumers have embraced these technologies and capabilities and are turning the retail industry on its ear with shopping and demands and shopping services provided by third parties. 


Retailers can counter these forces by opening up and collaborating with the consumer to turn the retailer’s market into a physical and virtual community utilizing cloud technologies and services to collaborate with their customers.  This is critical for retailers to break the low cost spiral and improve customer retention.  I believe, because it fits with my own views and desires for shopping, consumers desire an opportunity to share with the retailer in a community environment and I also believe that consumers would shop with the retailer that offers this environment even if the price is not the best price.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think consumers will purchase at a retailer offering the community environment but at the highest price of produce. 


There is another opportunity for retailers and that is the private label that is comparable but also cannot be purchased from other retailers.  The key though is to offer the community shopping environment to consumers to draw them socially to the store / website.  Remember that to the consumer the channel is unimportant and they are simply looking for the social shopping activities.  The retailer that offers a community to shoppers is leaps and bounds ahead of the retailers that simply focus on price.  The community aspect of a retailer’s environment will make up the critical difference and provide a retention factor that will not be available to the price focus alone. 


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?


Cloud technologies and services provide a significant opportunity for retailers to collaborate across their entire supply chain, from the raw materials to the end consumers.  In most discussions of the supply chain the end consumer is not included as part of this collaborative network.  I think this is a significant lost opportunity for retailers and the cloud technologies and services provide the tools for retailers to extend this collaboration to include the end consumer.  There is a great deal of competition in the retail marketplace and consumers are showing a desire for increased flexibility in shopping practices that is exerting a great deal of change in both demand and methods of shopping.  Retailers can maintain currency in the changing demands and retain customers and sales by knocking down the wall with consumers through collaboration.


Consumers, from their perspective, would also welcome the opportunity to collaborate with retailers, I say that from my own perspective and I know that I am not alone.  The cloud has provided shopping services that consumers have embraced to help them in their shopping activities from two perspectives; the opportunity to purchase and the notification of sales and discounts.  The combination of these two types of services has leveled the playing field between consumer and retailer and consumers have been using these services to support and even change their shopping practices.  Another critical factor in the consumers embracing these services is the elimination of customer loyalty which translates into lost retention and reduced sales.  As an example of the changes and the demands of the market you can look at the advertising for Wayfairs.com  who provides free shipping on ‘the big stuff’. 


Retailers are competing with all types of competition that is cost effectively supported by cloud technologies and services.  Consumers are also using these technologies and services to develop new relationships through their purchases with new companies.  Consumers are not hesitant to embrace these services and these nimble new retailers are also using the cloud capabilities to efficiently and cost effectively offer new shopping opportunities to the consumers.  This competition will just increase due to the demand of the consumer market and the imagination of marketers and the low cost of entry for new services due to the cloud. 


One method to counteract this cycle and retain customers and sales is for retailers to collaborate with their customers.  Retailers must overcome their hesitation to developing a partnership with consumers and utilize these same cloud technologies and services to develop a collaborative relationship with consumers.  This will provide the method and the opportunity to retain their customer and sales and counteract the competition from outside services.  Consumers are using the cloud to develop relationships across the retail market and now retailers are starting to realize and open up to developing these types of relationships to retain their customers.  


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?

Tom Brouillette

Cloud Networking

Posted by Tom Brouillette Jun 13, 2015


We started with Facebook and that expanded into Google+ and Pinterest and Vining and You Tube and and LinkedIn and an explosion of most likely hundreds of other social and professional networking platforms that are coming to life and dying on a basis that is quickening as technology capabilities grow.  The glue, or the one thing that ties these together now is the expansion of the cloud technologies.  Cloud technologies provide the platform and framework for social networks to come into life and expand on an almost effortless basis.  The cloud is turning storage and the network into givens, or assumptions, rather than hurdles to growth.  This is one of the most important benefits provided by cloud technologies and it is also one of the greatest impacts to the social networking and retail landscape.


Cloud technologies have expanded the capabilities of social networking by providing one framework that both networks and people can connect for communication.  The cloud is another major enhancement in technology that I see as at least as important as broadband internet access.  Think about ancient history, fi you’re old enough, when you used to dial in for Internet access at 56 kbm, I know that when I first obtained high speed cable Internet access my reaction was that it turned the computer and the Internet into a usable tool that would be more powerful than TV.  Then came high speed wireless access and now you are able to maintain high speed Internet access any where and any time. 


Cloud technologies, storage and services on top of high speed Internet access has allowed the social networks to expand into use in every corner of your personal and professional lives.  Consumers have embraces these technologies now to drive their demands for shopping capabilities.  These demands are based on the imagination of the customer and the interaction across the social networks that is made possible by cloud technologies, storage and services.  Consumers are using these tools and capabilities as a very powerful tool to drive their demands of the retailers and the shopping environment and general practices.  The cloud and social networks have allowed consumers to turn the tables on retailers and take control of the shopping environment. 

 

Retailers are just now coming to the realization of the consumer capabilities and potential impact to the retail shopping experience.  Unfortunately for the retailers, they seem to have spent the previous few years fighting these trends and trying to maintain a control over the shopping experience within their store and eCommerce sites.  These same retailers are now beginning to realize the power of the consumer and the impact of their demands on their success.  This is where the retailers should embrace the technologies, storage and services that are provided by the cloud.  Retailers can no longer depend on their own proprietary software or shopping environments to shape the consumer shopping demands, they must realize and embrace this change in control that is being demanded by consumers in order to maintain their success.


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?


The cloud technology and services revolve around providing a platform for collaboration and developing partnerships and the objective for consumer shopping matches these capabilities.  This is why consumers have embraced the technology to support their demands in social networking and also shopping practices.  Shopping is simply an extension of social networking for most consumers, of course everyone either knows or is the exception to this rule of the person that simply shops to acquire their needs and nothing else.  I think this exception however is a small percentage in the overall universe of consumer shopping.  Shopping as a social networking extension is really the key focus of consumers and must be taken into account by retailers in order to meet the demands of the consumers.


Consumers have taken to the concept of shopping as a social networking exercise and are developing partnerships and networks of services that enhance their shopping by providing guidance and notifications of special deals and sales.  I have been fascinated for quite some time with the range and focus of these services that range from Groupon providing notifications of specials to Retail Me Not which provides notifications of specials based on retailers that are near your current location.  These services all provide a means to rate your experience and also broadcast your evaluations of products and retail outlets and market channels. 


The next logical step for these services is to develop partnerships with retailers and provide their partners with the shopping data that these services have been collecting since their beginning.  These services do not need to provide information regarding individual consumers that are members of their services, however they can provide valuable trend information to retail partners.  The retailers can also then provide exclusive specials to their service partners to strengthen the relationship with consumers.  Retailers must be hungry for information and these services can provide a broad spectrum of shopping metrics to identify trends in both products and sales strategies.  These services can provide retailers with another viewpoint that is outside of the retailer’s culture and may identify trends the retailer would normally overlook.


This also provides a great opportunity to partner with the end consumer as well.  Most retailers and especially the large retailers have historically treated their customers as just that, a customer that simply purchases whatever product is offered on the shelves.  This is especially true in relation to commodity products such as detergent or paper products.  Because of the cloud and pure eCommerce retailers that can enter the market from anywhere in the world the view of the customer must change in order for the retailers to retain their customer share.  This is another area where the retailer can bring their customers closer and develop a partner relationship by including them in the decision process and actively seeking their contributions for suggestions on product, service and shopping habits.  Instead of reacting to consumer demands the retailer must seek out the consumer participation and partner with the consumer.


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?

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