Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

614 posts


The consumer chain concept and more importantly the robust spoke and hub framework provides many opportunities for the entire chain to benefit. Most importantly, though, it provides the retailer at the hub a vast amount of data along with the connectivity to utilize that data to strengthen collaborative relationships, analyze shopping patterns and product selections, enhance retention of customers and provides a means to support the discontinuous change that is increasingly the norm of the retail business environment.  Obviously though, this will require investment in labor, time and technology to fully realize the opportunities and the curiosity to explore the opportunities that develop over time.   

 

The hub of this framework is the critical factor in the future success of the consumer chain and requires a thoughtful analysis and definition to start with a basis that is both flexible to allow for growth and change and then it must be robust enough to support the stress and storage of activities from many different directions with the data repository that supports big data techniques and technology.  This can seem like an overwhelming task at first look.  You must take on this task though with the understanding and the plan that the hub will change and grow as the business requirements solidify, then change and then grow continuously as the consumer chain changes and grows.  The important requirement of the hub is that it should be built on a platform that can easily grow and change with the demands of the consumer chain.  This is why I would lean towards cloud technologies to support the hub platform.

 

As your eCommerce channel grows, your opportunities and demands of the consumer chain will grow in both volume and importance.  These demands can only be supported through a robust and flexible platform to support the great amounts of data that can be collected.  These demands will increase in a continuous manner as the growth and demand grows in a continuous manner.  Cloud tools and technology will provide the methods and capabilities to support these ever growing demands in a manner that does not demand a large investment in either technology, or the labor to support the technology.  These software as a service and platform as a service capabilities are beginning to increase in capabilities and acceptance.  These capabilities and acceptance will only increase as more organizations realize the value of subscription services to support the spurts in growth on an almost immediate basis.

 

You must focus on the capabilities and services that make your offerings special, this requires focus on the consumer chain relationships and services.  Cloud tools and technology allow you to focus on the differentiating services by providing a platform as a service.  In order to maintain your success you should make the shift to focus on the services that differentiate your offerings and subscribe to the foundational services based on volume and usage.  This method allows you to take advantage of the latest tools and platforms without heavy investment, allowing you to focus investment on the success of your business.

 

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?


In order for the consumer chain to succeed there must be a framework in place that stores the data and provides translation and forwarding capabilities to communicate and share the data as necessary across the entire consumer chain.  This data is focused on an individual retailer, or retail group, and as such it is logical that the retailer be responsible for the maintenance and support of the framework.  The framework provides the means to easily add new partners to the chain without impacting others and more importantly it allows the data flow to be focused on the individual partner requirements.  Most importantly this framework must be flexible and robust to support the changing requirements of the consumer chain.

 

This data and communication framework should be architected in a hub and spoke model to provide the greatest flexibility that incorporates a robust big data model to support the data mining needs of the consumer chain.  As with most big data initiatives the value of the architecture increases time goes by and the data grows.  The framework though will support the push and pull data demands of the entire consumer chain, from the suppliers to the end customer and as the data available grows, the value to the consumer chain will also grow in kind. 

 

This will require an investment in technology, however, the hardware costs are reasonable to start and with cloud based tools and technology it can grow as the need grows without significant investments.  This will also require an investment in knowledge and research capabilities, in other words people, to perform the type of analysis that brings value along with adding new partners and maintaining and expanding the communications along with sharing data with existing partners.  This can start simple with sharing of sales and forecasting information and then this forecasting and planning information will grow in accuracy and value as the data builds from the consumer interaction. 

 

This translation and forwarding hub and spoke framework will provide the basis for the consumer chain to grow and change as the demands of the consumer change.  It can and will provide an invaluable store of information that can be mined to understand shopping and product demands to be able to focus and support the positive aspects of retaining customers and also a steady growth of business.  This framework provides the means to increase the value of the partnerships across the entire consumer chain and this will provide a return to all of the partners in the consumer chain.   

 

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


I view the consumer chain as a series of hub and spoke mechanisms that are connected by a chain of collaboration across the partners.  Each participant, or member in this consumer chain is collaborating with other members in providing and receiving value to the other members in the relationship while in most cases managing a collaborative chain internal to their own organization.  In other words, each supplier or customer in the particular retailer’s consumer chain can also be a supplier or customer in many other consumer chains and can even be controlling a consumer chain of their own.  This makes for a complicated relationship that is best managed and controlled by the organization that has defined their consumer chain, in the case of this discussion this would be a specific retailer. 

 

The retailer is in the position to identify and coordinate the needs while encouraging and supporting the collaborative efforts to support those needs.  The retailer becomes the hub in their consumer chain to develop and coordinate the execution of the collaborative initiatives while maintain the data resulting from the consumer chain activities.  This consumer chain hub and spoke concept provides the framework for the network to achieve the greatest value for all members.  In this framework the retailer, as the hub, becomes the translator and traffic cop that coordinates and encourages and maintains the flow of information and the collaborative efforts.  There must be a participant in the consumer chain that in effect owns the collaboration and the participant that will obtain the greatest value is the retailer, so it is a logical conclusion that the retailer should own these responsibilities.

 

This role of translator and traffic cop is very important to the success of the consumer chain and will require a great deal of effort to develop the framework.  This is because the retailer must first develop the consumer collaborative community that will generate a great deal of the feedback to the consumer chain.  Sales data provide a single dimension of information to the consumer chain where the consumer community will fill in the missing information and provide the color that will enhance the sales data into an increasing stream of data to the other members of the consumer chain to increase performance and accuracy of demand evaluations. 

 

The sales numbers provide the ‘what’ part of the retail channel and the objective of the consumer collaboration community must be to provide the ‘why’ part of the retail channel.  The ‘why’ part of the equation is the information that will help the retailer to maintain and grow the sales through a balanced equation rather than the hit or miss method of retail sales. 

 

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

Consumer Chain

Posted by Tom Brouillette Feb 7, 2016


The consumer collaboration community is the first step in creating a consumer chain that will link the retail supply chain from the manufacturer to the end consumer through a collaborative technology network.  The consumer chain will provide value to each member partner from one end of the chain to another by linking the the partners to support the objectives of everyone.  This consumer chain extends the linkage out to the consumer to engage and retain their participation in the community and provides the critical data from both shopping and purchasing activities along with the feedback loop from their participation in the retailer’s collaboration community.  This data is invaluable to the remainder of the chain for developing products and marketing these products to the customer base.

 

This consumer chain is made up as a hub and spoke architecture from major partners rather than links attached to one another.  This hub and spoke architecture functions with the retailer at the hub and the consumer, manufacturers, carriers and the raw materials as the key spokes of the hub.  From my perspective this hub and spoke architecture better describes the actual relationships and process of the activities.  The retailer at the hub provides the means and the connection to all of the partners in the consumer chain in a manner that provides the greatest value to the partners. 

 

The retailer at the hub provides an architecture where the retailer maintains and supports the communication framework along with the big data repository and tools to analyze the data to share with the other member partners.  The retailer at the hub provides the methods to direct and forward communications as necessary to other partner members in the relationship while providing additional value to those communications by relating and adding relating or value added information from the big data store of information to enhance and clarify the communications and the value of the communications.  This is where the collection and analysis of big data will return great value back to the consumer chain. 

 

The challenge for the retailer though is to accept the challenge and invest in the big data repository, tools and effort investment necessary to realize the value.  I believe this has been the stumbling block all along and has cause the supply chain to create islands of information that are protected by the partners collecting and maintaining this information.  The issue in the past has been that there was no one putting the information together in a hub.  My suggested hub and spoke framework provides a means for the retailer to maintain and coordinate the information from all channels and partners in a manner that will allow them to combine information from all hubs in a manner that produces the greatest value.  This is the control tower concept of managing and coordinating activities in the consumer chain.

 

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?


When the collaborative consumer community is ‘self sustaining’ by the participation of the consumer and interaction with the retailer the community will produce a vast amount of data.  This data will be invaluable to the retailer for developing marketing plans and especially for product development and sales forecasting.  This data will provide a wealth of information from both direct consumer response and especially by tracking movement through the site.  The challenge for the retailer will be the analysis of this data utilizing big data technology and techniques.  This data will feed a great deal of analysis scenarios to help the retailer to plan and execute product and marketing strategies and reduce the trial and error guesswork.

 

This consumer community will provide a great deal of information as a result of the consumer activity and travels through the community.  This information includes the path the consumer takes through the community by tracking the clicks on the page and when, and how, they leave the page.  This type of information can be invaluable in developing and formatting a community that retains the consumer and directs the consumer deeper into the community site to participate.  This hard data of the consumer path through the links and the pages on the site provides a level of confirmation and accuracy that can never be achieved through post purchase surveys.  These actual travel paths and selection of links that are interesting to the consumer, along with the sequence in which they select and explore the links will help the retailer to increase the appeal and retention of consumers in the community.

 

In addition, the consumer community will provide the opportunity for the retailer to perform early testing of products and marketing in a supportive environment before investing large sums of money manufacturing products.  Another opportunity for value from the community is encouraging ‘pins’ of different uses and combinations of products from the consumers.  This provides two value streams;

  1. It provides suggestions to consumers for different uses for the product and different combinations of the product.  The combination, or pairing, of products provides an additional strong sales and marketing opportunity for the retailer for add-on product sales.  This is especially valuable when the suggestions are provided by other consumers.
  2. It encourages both retention and return of the consumer to the site to participate.  This increases the ‘sticky’ factor of the site providing a greater potential for sales.  The more time a consumer is on the site, the higher the likelihood of a purchase.  In addition, this feature provides a great potential for word-of-mouth marketing to encourage additional consumers to investigate the site.

 

These provide a highly valuable potential for return from the consumer community that requires an investment in both time to develop the following and tools to analyze the vast amount of data produced by the consumer activities on the community.  This provides the retailer an environment to experiment and validate actual results rather than focus groups or surveys.  I believe the results provided by consumers exploring the community provides a greater level of accuracy than either focus groups or surveys can ever achieve and this is why I so strongly believe in the consumer 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?


Consumer collaboration from the retailer perspective should be viewed as the next social networking wave.  What I mean by this is that consumer collaboration is the next logical step in the retailer to consumer relationship and engagement that started with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and Yelp and then expanded with services such as Groupon and Retail Me Not.  The initial social networks and social exchange between consumer and retailer was very one-sided, sure consumers could respond through the social networks but the interaction with the consumer was in a more outward direction from the retailer to the consumer.  Consumer collaboration practices focus on reversing that direction and encouraging the consumer to actively participate and even guide the interaction between consumer and retailer.

 

I bring up this social networking aspect of consumer collaboration to highlight and reference the importance of patience and long term support for the initiative.  Social networking in the retail space requires a great deal of support from internal departments and staff in order to be successful and bring value to the retailer.  The consumer collaboration extension is no different and will also require a great deal of support from these same internal departments and additional staff in order to be successful.  The retailer must realize this is no small investment and also, even more importantly, no short term investment with a quick return on investment.  The retailer must be prepared for a long term investment in consumer collaboration in order to reap the benefits.

 

I strongly believe though that all of this effort and patience will create a stronger relationship and increased retention of the customers.  In addition, I think that there is a major difference between the consumer collaboration initiative and the earlier social networking activities in that consumer collaboration has the very strong potential to reduce the retailer labor support requirements as the community strengthens.  The main objective of the consumer collaboration community is to develop a community that will open communication and engagement between the retailer and the consumer.  This community is meant to provide a place for consumers to provide feedback and suggestions to other consumers along with the retailer.  Based on this key objective, the community can be considered a success when the consumer community members begin supporting and driving the activities themselves.

 

The most valuable benefits from the consumer community will be derived by the interaction of the consumer members with other consumers and the retailer.  This interaction of consumers will provide the retailer with a great wealth of data and suggestions on product development, and groupings along with methods and data on marketing and sales of the products.  These are the benefits that will drive value and growth for 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?


In this fast paced world of eCommerce and mobile technology delivering instant gratification and driving a pace of discontinuous change that is tiring,  it may not make sense to say you must be patient in this environment.  In the case of building and maintaining a collaborative relationship with your retail customer, however, this is exactly the case.  I know that is sounds like you are at odds with the technology and capabilities to say have patience, but developing this relationship requires a great deal patience because of the fast paced technology and the experiences of the consumer.  The consumer is being driven and enticed in so many directions and by so many distractions that you must have patience to wait for the consumer to take the time to engage in the collaborative relationship. 

 

You must maintain your consumer collaborative environment with new content and also new offers and methods and opportunities for interaction with the consumer exactly because you will only have an instant to draw the consumer in and explore.  You will need to provide the encouragement for an extended period of time while you are building the following of consumers.  This will require posting and advertising fresh content and offers on your site to encourage the consumers to return, until it becomes a habit and the become a regular participant in the community.  Remember you are developing a community and it will take a while before the word spreads about the value of the community.  This is exactly why I say that you must have patience when developing this community.

 

This patience requires the investment to develop new content on a continuous basis.  By continuous basis, I mean that you must invest in the internal resources to prime the pump of the community with fresh content multiple times a day.  You must experiment with the type of content and the time periods when you post the content to determine the most opportune content and time of delivery.  This requires patience and experimentation to develop and deliver the content over a long period of time while your community grows to a critical mass and begins to create content without your continuous involvement. 

 

This consumer collaboration community is a bit of a good news / bad news story.  The bad news is that you cannot define a time period for how long you will need for the exclusive preparation and delivery of content and the good news is that you will come to a time when you will realize that there is a great deal more content and direct consumer engagement in your community than you are creating yourself.  You must have the patience to get through the period of the hyper level, and cycles, of support with content and offers to encourage the consumer to return and participate.  If you look at the strength of Amazon now it is easy to forget the start-up period where the Amazon site required a great deal of effort to promote and engage the consumer.  You must be prepared for your consumer collaborative environment to require a great deal of effort over a long period of time to provide a return on your investment.  This return on your investment though will fuel your success for a long period of time.

 

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?


Consumer collaboration can be a very challenging and frustrating objective because of the time and patience required to develop the relationship along with the challenge to draw the consumer into the relationship.  The retailer must first determine how to draw the customer into the collaborative relationship which is in itself a series of trial and error experiments and then the retailer must continuously communicate and provide reasons for the consumer to return.  Consumer collaboration is very much a method of retaining the consumer on the site and encourage the consumer to return over and over again.  In order to really be successful with consumer collaboration the retailer must encourage and develop a consumer community that encourages both participation and maintenance of the community by the consumers.

 

The retailer should view the consumer collaboration community as a method of social shopping.  The retailer in this case is creating the environment for consumers to share their experience and usage of the retailers products which in turn will encourage the consumer to return and purchase.  This is important because the retailer cannot hope to be successful in a price competitive shopping environment.  This consumer collaboration community will provide the environment that encourages consumers to return over and over. 

 

One of the greatest challenges for developing this collaboration community is enticing the consumer to enter and explore.  This requires a commitment from the retailer to not only provide the technology framework for the community but also the content that interests the consumer to first try and then to return.  This is difficult because the content must be continuously fresh and interesting, especially in the initial development stages of the community.  While the long term goal of the retailer for the community, from a content perspective, is that the community members produce the content, the initial startup will require a focused effort on producing the content by the retailer.  This is no small investment and a primary requirement to the long term viability and value of the community.

 

Another critical challenge for the community is encouraging the consumers to return and also explore the community.  A key ingredient to encourage the consumer to return is fresh content as discussed above.  Another practice to encourage the return of the consumer is what I refer to as engaging the consumer in a conversation and encouraging other consumers in the community to participate.  This, again, is a long term goal that requires an initial investment in time, similar to the community content requirement I discussed above.  I refer to the engagement as a conversation because it is important to encourage a two way interaction that not only responds to questions but also encourages suggestions and eventually the community members creating content for the community.  This type of engagement does not result from a single tools such as surveys but it results from a wide range of tools and communication methods that allow the consumer to participate as much or as little as they desire.

 

Successful collaboration between the consumer and the retailer is difficult and requires patience to overcome the initial startup hurdles of growing the consumer participant base at first.  Then when the community is established it requires patience and support to ensure the community is fresh and interesting while at the same time safe from predators that will prowl the community.  This is not an easy task and will require the long term commitment from the retailer to establish and maintain.  On the other hand, though, the benefits can be great and provide a key factor to the continued success of the retailer.  This community and participation of the consumer in the community provides continuing opportunities and encouragement for the consumer to purchase and this can become the key factor for customer retention, rather than the fleeting search for the lowest cost.

 

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

Consumer Collaboration

Posted by Tom Brouillette Jan 26, 2016


Retailers must collaboration with their customers in order to maintain their success and sales in the new omni channel age of shopping and purchasing.  It is important for the retailers promote and support collaboration with consumers so the retailer can develop a bond or a connection between the retailer and the customer.  The retailers must provide a reason for the consumer to return to the eCommerce site and the brick and mortar store to shop and eventually purchase.  Consumer collaboration will allow the retailer to develop this bond by providing a means for the consumer to influence shopping and purchasing methods along with the product mix.  This type of collaboration creates an important bond between the retailer and the consumer that will provide the encouragement necessary for the consumer to return on a regular basis.

 

Advancements in technology and the consumer’s acceptance and embrace of this changing technology is in turn driving change into the retail market that cannot be ignored.  In addition, this change cannot be addressed through the implementation of cookie-cutter eCommerce solutions.  The consumers are driving a type of shopping and purchasing customization approach that they have also been driving into production development and manufacturing of products.  This type of customization cannot be understood or defined by consumer surveys, it can only be understood through the continuous give and take that is provided by an open collaboration between the retailer and the consumer.

 

Developing and building an open collaboration with the customer difficult and time consuming, it requires a great deal of patience to develop the type of collaborative relationship that will provide the type or long term benefits to maintain and grow the retail business.  This is kind of an oxymoron, I understand, to say that on the one hand the retailer must implement and robust and flexible technology framework that supports a quickening of the rate of change and then on the other hand you must be patient to develop the long term relationship with the customer.  Such is the relationship with the customer; they are searching for a connection with a retailer that allows them to participate in the retailer’s community and yet they are demanding changing to the shopping and purchasing capabilities based on the technology available to the consumer.  In other words, the increased rate of change in practices and technology will allow the retailer to build a long term relationship with their customers to support customer retention and sales growth.

 

Some customers will always shop based on price and some customers will shop based on their relationship with the retailer and the shopping environment and some customers will fluctuate between cost and relationship shopping.  The key to the success of the retailer in the future is to develop the shopping environment that provides convenience for a fair price and then build the relationship with the customer where the retailer becomes the first destination for their 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?


I see collaboration as a key requirement for success in omni channel retailing, as I have previously stated, and this collaboration must include the customer. I have said that the success of omni channel retailers depends on their ability to implement a continuous improvement cycle of ‘Plan, Do, check, act (PDCA)’ that supports the speed and level of change driven into the omni channel retail environment.  In order to achieve these objectives though, the retailer must embrace a collaborative improvement process that includes suppliers, their stores, customers and the operations (both fulfillment and business).  This collaborative improvement process can achieve great results with the support and participation of the key partners.

 

This collaborative improvement process will take advantage of the omni channel framework along with the integration framework that I have previously discussed to support the integration of collaboration partners in a manner that encourages participation.  The framework will support the participation by simplifying the requirements and eliminating the hurdles of participation.  This will, however, require a method for consumers to participate and another method for business partners, suppliers and manufacturers to participate.  There are many tools that can be utilized to support the collaboration of your professional and business partners.  The difficulty will come with encouraging consumers to participate and providing a framework that simplifies the participation.  For the sake of discussion the concept with which I start is a Google+ community, or a Facebook page, both of these will lay the framework of participation.

 

Another requirement to success is patience in building the relationships with consumers and participation in the collaboration partnerships.  This is realistically the most difficult requirement to achieve because there will very likely be a long period of time involved before the consumer participation builds to take on a self-sustaining momentum.  This is difficult because the retailer must be prepared to spend the time to provide content for a long period of time without a lot of feedback.  This process is similar to building a following for a blog, in that it will take a while to achieve audience, or consumer, participation.

 

This is important because the consumer participation will provide the input to deliver the value to the retailer by providing the suggestions and input to services and products that are important to them.  This consumer participation will help the retailer to customize offerings and services that meet the demands of the consumer.  This will help the retailer to focus on the aspects that their customers desire rather than just providing the same functionality and services as everyone else.

 

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 process evaluation, determination and implementation process must change and increase the speed of delivery to support the changes driven by the technology and consumer demands.  I previously spoke about a method to streamline the implementation process that will reduce the risk and the time and effort required to implement new functionality.  The final piece of the improved delivery timeline is the evaluation and determination of process, methods and tools selection.  In the past this process was long and involved to perform first the business requirements, then the tools selection and finally the implementation.  The retail market and especially the omni channel framework supporting the retailer cannot afford to take the time to follow the generally accepted selection process.  Instead they must follow an abbreviated selection process.

 

The retailer must follow a selection and evaluation process that embraces and institutionalizes the continuous improvement process of ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA)’.  This will support the need to implement new processes and capabilities incrementally, and also support the need to remove processes and functionality incrementally.  The second point that supports the abbreviated selection process is the focus on trial implementations.  In other words, a process of implementing pieces quickly to prototype and prove the value, with the flip side of the ability to remove pieces quickly if the assumptions do not come  to fruition.  This second point is the piece of the continuous improvement process that brings the greatest value to the omni channel framework and provides the practice with a means to quickly move on when a function or process does not work. 

 

This ability to remove functions and processes is important in the omni channel framework because not all functions or technology provide the same value to all retailers.  This is an important part of the success equation; the retailer must realize that what works for others may not work in their environment or customer base.  The point is to meet their customer needs and demands and not force the customer to conform to the retailer practices.  Retaiers succeed because of their product selection, availability and last but not least the shopping experience.  This shopping environment and purchase experience carries over to the online experience and must be tailored to work with the retailer’s message and shopping experience.  What works for Wal Mart will not work for Target.

 

I think that many retailers struggle with the online experience and focus on providing the same tools and capabilities as everyone else and this is a mistake.  Retailers must understand their customer’s demands and then they must meet those demands.  This is becoming more important with the expansion of mobile technology and mobile shopping and purchasing capabilities.  This means that retailers must realize and embrace the mobile capabilities for enhancing the shopping experience and include mobile capabilities in their physical store shopping and purchasing capabilities.  Retailers must also be prepared to quickly and efficiently incorporate new capabilities and just as quickly to drop capabilities that do not work. This is where the continuous improvement methodology and a streamlined implementation process will provide dramatic return on investment.

 

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 omni channel objectives are very easy to define; the ability for a customer to purchase at any time from any channel whether retail store, or via eCommerce.  It also seems to me that it is at the same time very hard to create and support an omni channel perspective that supports the objectives.  The omni channel perspective that I refer to is the support of shopping and sales via the retail store or eCommerce.  This omni channel perspective eliminates the delineation between retail store and eCommerce and simply focuses on the shopping experience and the purchase, or sales, process whether through the store or through an eCommerce platform.

 

It seems to me that the key to success in supporting the omni channel perspective is the focus on the customer experience.  From a sales perspective this means eliminating any difficulties in completing a purchase.  This is a challenge for most retailers to support from the store perspective because the focus has always been on the physical purchase by the customer.  Large retailers have committed to the omni channel framework to support consumer sales however for the most part the actual delivery of the omni channel framework does nothing to support my suggestion for the omni channel perspective.  These large retailers still present a divide and even a wall between online sales and in-store sales that results in the store associates and management focused on the action of the sale from in store inventory. 

 

This general focus on the in store sales is beginning to run at odds to the new capabilities and consumer demands supported through mobile technology and sales.  Retailers would do well to embrace the mobile technology capabilities to deliver enhanced shopping and purchasing capabilities.  I think this starts with changes to the assumption that the consumer wishes to purchase in the store to carry home when they are shopping, the retailer needs to assume that many of the mobile shoppers are purchasing online for two reasons;

  1. Price shopping where the consumer uses mobile technology to confirm the best price and product availability in the store before completing the purchase.
  2. Purchasing online and taking advantage of free shipping frees the consumer from carrying around their purchases while shopping.

The are both compelling reasons for the retailer to embrace mobile technology and grow the overall sales.

 

The results of the last holiday shopping season confirm some of my points above and especially the consumer confirms prices.  It would be a leap to try to quantify the number of shoppers that purchase online while shopping in the mall to free them from carrying packages though I think it is a very realistic hypothsis that bears examination.  The point though is that retailers with the store and online presence have a very great advantage over single channel retailers.  Retailers should experiment with this advantage to expand their relationship with consumers to increase their sales.

 

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?


eCommerce and the online social networks have become an destination for a great deal of consumers.  I just saw where the majority of consumers start with the Amazon site as a search engine.  This is quite telling in both the acceptance of the online channel as a tools and the acceptance of Amazon as more than a retailer.  Add to this mix the acceptance and consumer embrace of mobile technology and the consumers embrace of mobile tools and the message of the power of eCommerce becomes compelling.  This leaves retailers with a decision regarding how the retailer should use eCommerce to expand both their relationship with consumers and expand their sales.

 

In my opinion, retailers should focus on expanding their relationship with consumers first to enhance the consumer retention and the stickiness of the sight and this will translate into new sales.  I have discussed in previous entries the importance of consumer retention and returns to the retailer site.  Generating the returns and creating a sticky site must provide a cross section of interests that entice the consumer return; sale notifications, coupons to use at purchase both online and in the store, suggestions for product use and finally encouraging consumer response and participation on the site.  In other words, the retailer should focus on creating a social site that encourages the consumers to participate and provide a place to share and communicate with both the retailer and other consumers.

 

I believe the success of the omni channel retailers will lie in creating a social online site that sell merchandise rather than a site that sell merchandise that provides a social outlet.  Consumers are a fickle crowd that will change their favorites at a drop of the hat and retailers must provide an blended experience where each channel supports the other and the online channel provides the means to build the relationship with the consumer.  Speaking from my own perspective and what I search for in a retail experience is an engaging experience with the retailer.  When I am in a store I appreciate the clerk that acknowledges my presence to ask if I need help or to provide a spontaneous suggestion of other products that might match up with my selection.  When I am accessing the online channel I appreciate customer reviews and also search and the pop-up ads displayed based on my search habits.  In my online activities, in other words, I am looking for additional engagement and not just the continuous pushing of sales.

 

I think I represent the ‘norm’ of omni channel shoppers; people that appreciate the relationship that supports sales and not the opposite.  Mobile technology is pushing this demand by providing the means to shop from any location and any time which means that I can be physically in one store shopping for a product and use mobile shopping technology to purchase the product from another retailer.  Retailers can complain about this practice however they cannot stop and must work to embrace and overcome these consumer shopping and purchasing practices with the relationship and additional features.

 

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?


Omni channel shopping and purchasing is not a cookie cutter approach but concepts and processes that allow the retailer to mix capabilities and tools to meet the needs of their consumers and products.  For example, the apparel customer and their shopping and purchasing habits are much different than the home improvement customer.  This is true even when the same person is shopping for apparel or they are shopping for home improvement.  I see articles and webinars all the time that highlight one method of shopping or another as the method to improve consumer engagement and increase sales and the thing that I do not see is discussions on the need to evaluate the business, the customers and the shopping and purchasing desires of their customers.

 

As an example, the purchase online and pickup in the store model works great for the home improvement market.  However, I really don’t think this is a driving factor in the apparel market, I see shopping in the store and then purchasing via mobile, or simply shopping online and delivering to the customer’s home to be the most popular model.  This does not mean that what works in home improvement will not work in home improvement, it simply means that you must understand the customer desires and practices so that you can implement the model that is the most appropriate for your product and customer.

 

The next question then is - How can I determine my customer needs and desires for shopping and purchasing?  This can be a tough question because the easy response is you must talk to the customer and then measure response and the activities of the shopping and purchasing activities and practices of the customer.  This can be done through collaborative actions and practices with consumers over the online channel.  The consumer relationship must be nurtured and encouraged online with customer relationship programs that encourage the customer to register to receive perks and also provide feedback directly to the retailer.  Outside of the sales achieved online, the single greatest return to the retailer is the information that can be collected from the customer’s online activities in shopping and purchasing.

 

These practices and suggestions for collection of customer shopping information will allow the retailer to implement a practice of evaluation and selection prior to making any blanket decision and not just implementing the omni channel ‘flavor of the week’.  The value and return from the omni channel shopping and purchasing can be leveraged best by understanding the demands of the customer and then implementing those capabilities across all channels into a cohesive shopping and purchasing experience.

 

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 retailer must take a long term view in order to meet the customer demands from shopping and purchasing.  What I mean by this is that the retailer must be patient from a return on investment perspective.  This perspective is against the grain of generally accepted practices that focus on the return of the next quarter.  The shopping and purchasing practices of the consumer are undergoing fundamental and dramatic changes from even two years ago and these changes require a framework that allows for change and integration of new features and functionality.  I have covered my views on these changes recently and feel it is important to discuss the hurdles involved in delivering and maintaining this rate of change. 

 

It may seem as though I am speaking at odds when I say that the retailer must take a long term view in order to meet the changes that are demanded by the consumers.  I don’t think that I am though because I am recommending that the long term view be focused on first developing a framework that will support the rate and volume of change as the long term view.  The way to plan for a future of discontinuous and dramatic change is to implement a flexible framework that allows for quick changes.  You cannot hope to accurate forecast the future of shopping and purchasing and quite frankly you should not try because it will only lead to gambles that do not pay off and set your business behind.

 

You can, and should, however plan for change and institutionalize this practice through development of a robust and flexible framework to support the safe and quick changes that come to the business.  Every year markets present the most exciting new technologies and tools as a forecast of the changes to come to the marketplace, and every year better than half of these new technologies and tools end up cast away for many different reasons.  You cannot hope to maintain a continuously and regularly  successful business by betting on a tool, you can be successful though by betting on change and the ability to embrace the change.

 

We have learned that the only constant especially in eCommerce and especially consumer shopping and purchasing practices is change.  Due to this fundamental assumption there is really only one way to deal with the level and rate of discontinuous change and that is through a robust and flexible integration and collaboration framework.  This integration and collaboration framework must be architected and maintained to provide a simple means to add and remove functionality and applications to support the consumer demands while insulating the business and operations platforms from impact of the changes. 

 

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?

Filter Blog

By date:
By tag: