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Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

652 posts


A key factor to the retailer’s collaborative shopping portal is collaboration and the flexibility to support changing consumer demands.  No one can tell with any certainty the next consumer demand or mix of demands and the only way to support these changing demands is through a platform that has the flexibility to support these demands.  Another requirement of the retailer is a focus on the shopping portal to maintain a fresh and vibrant portal that draws and maintains the interest of the consumer.  So the retailer must present a robust and flexible platform that is maintained in a manner that is continuously providing new functionality and content to encourage the consumer to return over and over.

 

I have said previously that a successful consumer shopping portal will encourage the consumer to supply and update the portal with new content that interests them.  This maintenance by the consumer though is developed through continuous maintenance and content provided by the retailer.  This content though must be maintained to provide fresh reasons for the consumer to return.  This requires a site management plan from the retailer that must be maintained to deliver the type of portal that encourages consumers to return and participate by providing comments and additional content.

 

The shopping portal can encourage consumers to provide content and return over and over through the tools that are available on the portal.  For instance, providing links to Pinterest and You Tube provide an opportunity and the encouragement to provide content for the portal.  There are a great deal of social tools that can and should be incorporated in the shopping portal to interest and encourage the consumer to return and participate and shop.  These social tools require both a robust and flexible architecture for the platform to support the incorporation and usage of these tools.  The social media and tools environment require flexibility though even more that a robust architecture for the simple reason that it is hard to plan with any certainty the ‘next big thing’, you can only be open and encouraging to support this ‘next big thing’.

 

This is where the portal management becomes important in the success of the portal.  The portal provides the platform for consumers to participate and because there is no formal requirement for consumers to participate on a regular basis, it is important for the retailer to continuously review and refresh the portal.  The portal management provides suggestions and encouragement for the consumer to participate and then the consumer reacts to the encouragement to expand the interest and engage in the platform.  The trick and the reason for the success of the platform is the continuous participation of both the site management and 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


Retailers and especially large regional and national department stores must develop and implement a virtual collaborative shopping strategy that supports and encourages consumer collaboration with both the retialer and other consumers.  As I have stated previously, this collaborative shopping strategy is critical to the long term success of the retailer for the long term and this requirement is being driven by the consumer demands for more flexibility in shopping and demands for a more inclusive virtual community in which they can share and interact with both other consumers and the retailer.  The key to success in this effort is flexibility in the retailer's ability to support current demands and flexibility to change and support future demands that haven’t been identified yet. 

 

Flexibility is a key to the success in supporting the consumer demands for shopping tools and capabilities and these demands will only speed up and increase in the future, thereby increasing the requirement for flexibility.  In my opinion, the requirement to support consumer demands for new apps and options in their interaction with the retailer while important still comes second to the requirements for flexibility.  Without flexibility, the retailer cannot hope to support the continuously changing consumer demands.  The second and probably even more critical key to the ability for retailers to support the demands of consumers is a stable and robust technology architecture and foundation that can support the flexibility requirement. You cannot plan for the types of changes that will or even may be demanded by consumers, but you can lay the foundation and provide the building blocks that will allow you to be able to support these future demands.

 

You only need to review the landscape of apps and consumer influenced offerings to see that the single greatest influence in these demands is mobile technology.  Over the last couple of years mobile technology has expanded until now it is one of the key methods for eCommerce purchasing.  In looking back you can easily understand the draw and the reasons for the increase in mobile technology use by consumers.  In my own experience with my family we have embraced mobile technology for three purposes;

  • The first is to perform price comparisons while shopping.  I have apps on my smart phone that provide sales and discount offers directly to based on location.  This is an important and compelling feature that is offered across all social platforms for recommendations of services, stores, restaurants and even suggestions for purchases in those locations.
  • Virtual shopping with our family where we may see a product that we think other family members would like and we reach out through instant messaging and photos and videos to share thoughts and receive opinions before we purchase.
  • Obtain special pricing and discounts at the time of purchase based on location from shopping apps.

 

These are benefits that my family has derived from mobile and social technology and we haven’t even tried to explore potentials, just think of the options and capabilities that the retailer can drive in social and mobile technology!  This is why it is so important for the retailer to prepare and embrace these technologies to ensure future 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 collaboration community is bringing about a new method for shopping that will change the retailer requirements to support the consumer demands.  Collaboration community shopping is the social interaction between one-to-many friends to learn about products, obtain feedback from these friends and obtain suggestions where to purchase products. In other words, it is the social side of shopping that is generated by the interaction and encouragement of other community members.  This is the type of shopping that brings the social aspect that has been missing from eCommerce and omni channel purchasing into the equation and this is what will also encourage the consumers to return to the community over and over again.

 

There are definitely some types of products that would not benefit as much from the community shopping practice, such as home supplies and hardware and home improvements.  Although even these products and the market in general are becoming more fashion minded and influenced by the reactions and suggestions of friends and family.  The areas though that will initially benefit the most from this community shopping practices are apparel, specialty stores and electronics, basically any type of store that does well in a mall will benefit greatly from this virtual community shopping.  These are product types and markets that are encouraged by feedback and suggestions by friends and family. 

 

The collaboration community provides a venue that extends the FourSquare social networking concept to the next level.  This social interaction is important in creating the total social shopping experience that most consumers just do not have the time or the energy in many cases to encourage.  Most consumers do not have the time to coordinate and then participate in a day of shopping due to the demands of their family and jobs.  This provides a community that can participate and provide feedback in a manner that is asynchronous in nature and not require the ‘in the moment’ reactions to products and questions. 

 

However, there is also a spontaneous nature to this type of community shopping that allows friends and family to participate in shopping in the spur of the moment.  The community shopping must provide tools and capabilities to allow the consumer to build their own contact lists and then provide the tools to support immediate sharing and communications across your contact list to support your interaction with contacts during your shopping.  I know that almost everyone has at one point or another reached out through Facebook or instant messaging to friends and family while shopping to ask for their opinions.  I know that when I shop it is not unusual for me to call, text and send photos of products to my wife for opinions and suggestions.  I think there is a huge untapped opportunity for retailers to generate interest and retain consumers on their sites by offering the means to virtually shop with their friends and family.

 

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 large regional and national omni channel retailers are at a crossroad where they must decide how to create a customer centric shopping experience that crosses channels.  For almost 20 years the purchasing experience in the retail industry has progressed to allow the consumer to purchase from any place at any time.  This progression and the changes it has driven into the retail experience have been dramatic to say the least considering the rise of Amazon and the consumer complete acceptance of eCommerce.  The one area that I would argue has not progressed as a result of retailer focus is the shopping experience. The shopping experience has also changed dramatically, however this change has been driven by the consumer and Amazon and not the large omni channel retailers

 

The retailer has focused for the most part on the purchasing experience and not on the shopping experience while the consumer has been focused on the shopping experience.  This can be seen by the use of third party apps on the smartphone that provide hints and direction for sales and special offers to the consumer based on their location.  This can also be seen by the proliferation of product usage and hacks on Pinterest and Instagram showing how to use the products in new ways and new combinations.  These new uses for social media tools have been embraced by the millenials and baby boomers alike to share concepts and thoughts that would have been shared 25 years ago in the store by a sales clerk or in the backyard at a barbeque.  Today however, most sales clerks focus on ringing up the sale the the backyard barbeque experience is declining due to the rise of other activities.  This will continue to decline as future generations incorporate social technology into their activities at a greater pace.

 

Let me take a moment to define my perspective of shopping - it is the social interaction between one-to-many friends to learn about products, obtain feedback from these friends and obtain suggestiosn where to purchase products.  You can see that from my perspective eCommerce retailers, for the most part of course, have simply scratched the surface of shopping.  Its great that retailers provide online sizing and allow the consumer to virtually try on clothes for instance, that is not shopping though!  The retailers must support a community that allows the consumers to share with others in the community to develop the true shopping experience.  Retailers cannot provide the shopping experience, they can only provide the tools that allow the consumer to develop their own shopping experience that meets their definition and needs.

 

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?


There is an interesting and large difference in technology utilization between large retailers and small local retailers.  This difference is not just the type of technology but the social technology usage itself.  The large regional and national retailers must depend on social technology to develop a sense of community and relationships with the consumer.  On the other hand, the small local retailer uses social technology to provide an extension of the community already developed from the retail brick and mortar store.  This is an important difference and should be understood and accounted for by the large retailer because it requires a robust and flexible framework and the staff to maintain the community.

 

The small local retailer will have a web site along with a Facebook page and potentially Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and even Yelp and Foursquare accounts that they use to extend their message and promote sales and events in the store.  In my experience these are generally managed and maintained by the same person and that person can be an employee or it can be outsourced,depending on the store and the internal capabilities and interest.  These are all maintained separately and then the person maintaining logically relates them by updating a common message across the sites.  There is no automation involved and the customer interaction is limited to one of the social media sites.  When crossing over there is simply a link provided on the site, or even email broadcast messages.  This is all very manual and organic based a great deal on the customer interaction and the time the retailer spends on maintaining the sites and the messages.  This can be a very cyclical maintenance based on interest, availability and even season and sales peaks however because of the community and relationships the retailer develops with customers in the store it works for them.

 

The large retailer on the other hand requires a more directed approach to developing the collaboration community because they do not have the personal relationship from the brick and mortar store on which to build.  In fact, the message from the retailer is reversed, in other words, the retailer starts the message and the relationships from the collaboration community and pushes to the stores.  This is a huge difference and requires the focused coordination across the social networking sites to ensure the message is consistant and persistant across the sites.  This is where the community portal comes into play, it will bring together the links to related social networking sites sites in one easy to use portal that allows the consumer to participate in all aspects and more importantly the portal promotes all of the sites to project the message.  The large retailer cannot depend on organic growth of the community and the portal allows the retailer to promote the community and a consistent message across all platforms.

 

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 collaboration community requires a mobile friendly version of the community in order to increase the draw and retention of the consumer.  This is simply a price of entry and must be provided in order to continue to support the consumer any time and any where.  The simple fact of the matter is that retail sites; shopping, purchasing and consumer interactive, must provide the mobile friendly version because more and more people are only accessing via mobile device.  In addition, most people interact with social media accounts more often than not from their mobile device, and this holds doubly true for millennials.  This leaves the retailer with no choice but to support and encourage a mobile friendly version that allows the consumer to cross between versions easily and without losing any features.

 

The key to success for your mobile collaboration community is to not lose any features in the mobile version and more than that to provide additional features on the mobile friendly version.  There are many features derived from location based capabilities that will make the mobile community more fresh and exciting that are related location based capabilities.  Some of these features would include:

  • Allowing you to search for contacts near your location so you can connect and shop or meet for additional activities like lunch or dinner. 
  • Notification of specials when you are within range of a store.
  • Notification of specials in store departments when you are in the store and shopping.
  • Special offers during key seasons to provide free shipping on purchases over $100 from the store.  I am particularly passionate about this service because of the convenience when Christmas shopping for example.  This can also be particularly valuable in home improvement stores as well.

 

The consumer focus on mobile technology will only increase over time as more and more features are developed and the hardware and network technologies improve.  The expansions in social technology are growing faster and faster with new capabilities offered on a more frequent basis, and the location based opportunities is one of the greatest potential values on the near horizon.  The velocity of change in technology is increasing and consumers, and especially younger consumers, are to a very large extent driving the change with increasing frequency.  Small and local specialty type retailers such as locally produced artwork and clothing are somewhat immune to this drive because they have developed a customer base that frequents the store on a regular basis.  It is the large regional and nationwide retailers that must adapt or die from the technology.

 

As technology and the consumer demands change, the large retailer must embrace these changes in order to survive.  The collaboration community can provide a great advantage to the ability of the retailer to adapt and provide new offerings to 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?


The collaboration community provides a portal into the retailer’s shopping and sales channels and the goal of the collaboration community is to encourage customer return and retention in the community. This focus on the community is important as it provides a differentiating factor to the relationship between the consumer and the retailer.  This portal concept provides a method to develop relationships between consumers and the retailer that cannot be developed in a shopping and sales architecture.  The portal though provides a direct link and the encouragement of the consumer to continue into the community and eventually shop in the retailer's shopping and sales site.

 

The portal concept provides the best method to architect the community with a framework and format that brings value to the consumers and encourages their return.  This portal provides access and can be used to highlight the tools and features of the community that may be of interest to the consumer.  The portal also provides a means for the retailer to highlight features and offers to encourage the consumer to stay on the community site and continue on to shop and purchase.  Finally the portal should also provide a link from the shopping and purchasing sites to easily return to the community for feedback on purchases and products.  I see that many retailers are simply viewing their electronic channel as a means to advertise merchandise and provide sales, discounts and coupons to consumers to use when shopping, whether online or in person in their stores.

 

Online retailers are already using their sales website as another marketing and advertising channel to encourage consumers to purchase online or in the store.  The collaboration community can provide a portal framework to encourage the consumer to return for activities that develop a stronger relationship with the retailer and with other consumers.  This relationship will build the retention and result in additional sales based on the time spent by the consumer in the collaboration community and also the encouragement to return to the community to participate and interact with other consumers. 

 

The portal provides a means for consumers to return and explore activities that interest themselves and by doing so it provides another method to increase retail sales.  The sales derived from consumers as a result of their participation and return to the collaboration community provides the reason for retailers to develop and maintain the community.  This portal allows the consumer to easily navigate between and across activities and functions that support their shopping needs and the longer the consumer stays and participates in the community the higher the likelihood the consumer will purchase.

 

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 to reap the potential values from the collaboration community the retailer must engage the consumer and encourage them to return and participate in the community.  This can be a very difficult because it is not a one-and-done type of activity, it is a process and a program that is continuously focused on engaging the consumer and providing new reasons for the consumer to return.  This requires a dynamic site and dynamic activities, discussions and offers that give the consumer a reason to return.  This requires a long term view of the challenge and a continued investment of time and people from the retailer to encourage that the community especially in the start-up phase maintains dynamic and changing offerings to encourage the consumer to return.

 

The collaboration community will eventually reach a point where it is relatively self maintaining and this is where the value will really be delivered.  This does not mean though that you can simply provide a site with a set of current activities and tools and expect the consumer to engage and grow the community.  The start-up phase of the community requires a focused and continuous effort from the retailer to maintain the community and the activities and offers that encourage the consumer to return on a regular basis.  This is really very difficult and requires a long term investment to prime the pump of the community.  The start-up of the community is especially fragile and requires a large investment from the retailer to maintain the fresh aspect of the community.

 

There comes a time when the community achieves ‘escape velocity’ where the consumers are driving content based on their own interests by engaging community tools.  This is the point in the life cycle where the retailer can turn to a maintenance strategy, where the investment in time and people can be reduced because the community is now driving content and engaging the return of consumers.  This does not mean, however, that the retailer can walk away from their support and maintenance activities.  In this phase of the community lifecycle it is important for the retailer to monitor and maintain the community to ensure that the content remains fresh.  It is also important that the retailer continue to provide incentives for the consumer to save and continue to shop and purchase.

 

The consumer interest and participation in the community will go through cycles and it is important that the retailer shore up the content and activities when consumer interaction drops.  The content must remain fresh in order to maintain the existing consumer participation and also draw new consumer interest and participation in the community.  The community is the entry portal into the retailer’s shopping and purchasing site and it is important to maintain a continuously fresh and interesting community to encourage the consumer to return again and again.

 

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 collaboration community provides the large national chain retailer the opportunity to connect directly with the individual consumer in a way that is not normally possible for the large retailer.  The small and local retailer has the ability to develop a personal relationship with consumers because they are focused on the experience of the consumer and developing this personal relationship.  The small retailer has control of their message and the communication with their customers allowing them to focus on their message and relationship with the consumer in a way that is not really possible for a large chain type retailer.  The large retailer message is very difficult to ensure consistency because of the many different locations and the number of employees.

 

The small retailer has the opportunity to focus on their message and control the delivery of this message in a personal way and can continuously deliver and adjust this message to develop the personal relationships with their customers.  This capability is one of the greatest strengths of the small, local, retailer and this capability is missing from the large chain retailer.  This capability ofthe small retailer helps the retailer to focus on the feedback of their customers directly to enhance services and product selection.  This allows this small retailer to develop and grow a personal relationship with their customers.

 

This personal feedback of the customer is not easily available to the large chain retailer and they have compensated by utilizing surveys, focus groups and market sales figures to help them to understand the consumer desires.  This is obviously a flawed model to understand the consumer wants and needs, however this was the best method available to the large retailer.  This is where the collaboration community comes into the picture to allow the large retailer to develop the personal relationship with their customers that allows the retailer to deliver a consistent message across their customer base and achieve the direct feedback from their customers. 

 

This large chain retailer needs to take this opportunity to develop and enhance the customer personal relationship to justify the long term investment in the collaboration community.  This must be viewed as a long term investment that will require patience and and stamina to achieve the benefits.  The long term benefits are too great to walk away from and this means that the retailer must be prepared to invest in the people necessary to support the community and promote the message over an extended period of time to achieve the long term benefits.  This does not happen over night and requires determination and patience to grow into a valuable tool.  

 

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?


While the collaboration community, in the long term, will require a significant investment in technology to build the infrastructure, the consumer facing software, however, can utilize a great deal of open social networking tools in building out the community.  The investment in time and resources to support the community will, by far, represent the greatest investment in the community.  It is important for the senior leadership of the retailer to understand this up front so that these resources can be provided with the skills, the numbers and also the understanding that this investment will continue as a cost of doing business in supporting the community.

 

I find it interesting that as businesses have begun to utilize social media and networking marketing and consumer relationships, the use of technology has required an increase in the number of people required by the businesses to support these requirements.  The requirements for the consumer community adds to this requirement for an increase in people and in this case it is not just an increase in people with customer relationship skills, this increase requires skills in technologies such as big data along with skills in marketing and design.  This increase in the number of people required is especially important in the beginning stages of constructing the community because it is important to continuously monitor the results and feedback from the consumer to adjust and improve the community features and capabilities. 

 

The challenge for the retailer’s leadership is the commitment and patience required to support the resource and skills requirements for the collaboration community to succeed.  This is a very big challenge because it requires a long term investment in people that can take quite some time to provide a return.  This can be off-set somewhat by utilizing cloud technology and open source social networking tools.  However the time required to develop the community and build the consumer participation in the community requires long term human resource support. 

 

The requirements for large chain retailers is changing and requires investment of skilled resources to monitor and manage these new strategic tools and initiatives.  The challenge in these investments is the potential duration of the investment prior to a return.  The benefits though of these tools and initiatives is the direct connection with consumers to guide actions and products and, possibly more importantly, the ability to deliver a focused strategic message across all changes and all regions.  These new tools will allow the large chain retailers to finally deliver on a true omni channel retail 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?


It is important for the retailer to understand the success factors of the collaboration community to ensure their objectives are aligned properly.  For this reason it is important for the retailer to expand their definition of success to include the information and intelligence that they will obtain from the robust interaction with the consumers and the retention factor of returning customers to the community in addition to the sales achieved as a result of the community.  This will allow the retailer to sustain and grow both their collaboration community along with the the sales of their eCommerce channel along with the brick and mortar channel. 

 

The collaboration community will provide the retailer with the ability to grow the sales in both channels as a result of the intelligence obtained along with the customer relationships that the successful collaboration community will encourage.  The retailer must treat the incentive and the encouragement of the consumer to return to the community as a first priority because this habit of returning is the factor that allows and encourages the retailer to obtain the intelligence that will allow the retailer to utilize the information to develop and grow their relationship with the consumer and the stronger the relationship with the consumer the greater the likelihood the consumer will continue to return and purchase.  This turns the definition of success of the collaboration community on it’s head.

 

The retailer must expand the success definition of their business to combine the not only the sales across all channels and they must define the collaboration community as a key factor to achieving their sales growth.  The focus of the success should be the encouraging the consumer to return and spend time in the community because of the intelligence that can be collected by this interaction.  With the consumer participation and retention defined as key success factors, the retailer must focus on the social networking tools that will encourage the consumer to return and participate in the community. 

 

The challenge for the retailer is supporting the resources, both people and technology, required to create and maintain this highly interactive community to encourage the return and participation of the consumer.  This requires a revision of the time horizon defining success.  The success of the community and the time, both investment and duration, required to achieve this success is much greater than the customary quarterly cycle.  This is why I recommend that the retailer must view the success across all channels to create a true omni channel retail environment.  The continued and long term success of the retailer is dependent on the success of the collaboration community and how  they utilize and incorporate the intelligence and customer retention driven by 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?


Just like a physical community, the virtual consumer collaboration community requires construction of virtual buildings, rooms, highways and transportation methods to support and grow the virtual community.  This construction requires starting with the foundational framework and infrastructure that will robust and flexible to support the demands of the community.  The construction on this foundation must also be flexible and robust to support the demands of the community.  An open floorplan concept of the community construction is the term that comes to my mind to describe this flexible and robust virtual community. 

 

The key to success is starting with a flexible and robust foundation and any retailer would be severely hindering the long term success if they do not start with a robust and flexible foundation.  A key focus should be building the flexible foundation because the flexibility will allow the the foundation to be extended and enhanced and grown as necessary to support the changing demands.  One very important factor to remember is that the consumer community requires flexibility to meet the changing demands of the consumer.  The consumer has shown over and over again that their demands change and in many ways these changes may have been unpredictable prior to the change.  This factor highlights the need for flexibility and ability to change and improve the foundation to support these demands.

 

On top of this robust and flexible foundation the retailer must then focus on delivering the types of services and apps that consumers have embraced in their social media.  This is a type of portal of services and apps that  help the consumer to share ideas, collaborate with other consumers and most importantly to follow through to close the purchase.  This portal concept is only possible when coupled with a robust and flexible foundation.  The portal connects and provides a sandbox for consumers to land that is focused on the consumer’s shopping needs and allows the portal to become a community that draws consumers to return over and over.  The measure of success for this community should be the number of returning consumers, their return cycle and then how long they remain and follow through to purchase.

 

It would be a mistake for the retailer to try to force a purchase every time a consumer returns to the community because it will actually drive the consumer from the community.  The retailer must expand their definition of success to include the information and intelligence that they will obtain from the robust interaction with the consumers.  This interaction with the consumer will lead to increased sales as the consumer shares their activities with other consumers outside of the community and their reaction to suggestions from other consumers.  This builds an organic growth cycle that is much stronger than a focus on low cost and is more sustainable. 

 

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 be vigilant to consistently nurture the relationships that support the consumer collaboration community.  These relationships are important to supporting and maintaining the values of the community and the continued success of the community and also the retailer.  The retailer is the steward of the relationships as the consumer representative and as such must maintain the values of the relationships. This is in the best interest of both the retailer and the consumer collaboration community to ensure a safe and secure environment for both the consumer and the retailer to collaborate.  This safe and secure community will draw the consumer to participate and share with both the retailer and more importantly with the other consumers in the community.

 

As the steward of the community it is the responsibility of the retailer to ensure the stability and security of this collaboration community.  While the objectives of the community is to encourage the consumer to lead the participation and provide the communication and interactions and reactions that will encourage the participation, it is important for the community to be built upon a secured framework.  The security and maintenance of the collaboration community is the long term responsibility of the retailer to ensure there is a virtual community for consumers to gather and collaborate.  The consumer must be assured that the community is safe from hacking and identify theft before they will participate in the community and interact with the retailer and other consumers.  This is a very important responsibility and require continuous monitoring to ensure the security of the consumer information. 

 

In the startup of the community the retailer will also be responsible for encouraging consumers to participate and engage in the community.  This will initially require a great deal of effort over at least a six month period or more to provide the new content and reasons for the consumer to return and engage in the community.  This is challenging because the timeframe to grow the community can only be planned in general terms; such as allowing for six months to a year of focused support and monitoring of the community to build the following.  This may take more or less time depending on the product mix and the imagination of the retailer support staff to engage the consumer.  This is where imagination and experimentation play a large role. The retailer should utilize any tool or social networking community to engage the consumer and encourage their return.

 

The important factor in building the community is encouraging the consumer participation.  In most current retailer sites and channels, the retailer pushes content and information to the consumer.  While the has provided results in the past, the future requires the retailer to engage the consumer and encourage the consumer to participate in the community.  This community participation is the ingredient that will set the retailer apart from their competition.

 

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 brings a new level of opportunity for the retailer to develop a relationship with their customers and then use the relationship as input to drive marketing and product decisions.  This community provides the means and the opportunity for the retailer incorporate consumer driven initiatives back into the retail sales and supply chain.  I see no other initiative available to the retailer to provide the same level of values and develop a strong and long term relationship with the consumer.  The collaboration community must be customer focused in order to succeed and this customer focus must support in addition to incorporate the guidance based on the community values. 

 

The retailer support of the collaboration community values is paramount to the long term relationship with the consumers and the success of the retailer.  Large chain retailers really have no other method or opportunity for developing a relationship with their customers that crosses over geographic areas and provide the opportunity to measure results in a consistent manner across the chain.  Small neighborhood retailers can develop a direct personal relationship with their customers because of the consistency and interaction with the individual consumers.  Large chain retailers do not have the same opportunity within the store and need to incorporate a means for the direct interaction with the consumer.  This collaboration community provides the tools, the framework and the means to develop a virtual personal relationship with the consumer. 

 

The retailer cannot, however, force direction and obvious controls over this collaboration community.  Instead, the retailer must work to understand and embrace the consumer values and the consumer reasons for interacting with the community.  This can be difficult for the retailer because it requires they release control of the relationship to the consumer and this requires the retailer to understand the values and the reasons driving the consumer to interact and embrace the community.  The retailer must provide a community that is driven by consumers and the features and functionality driven by the consumer.  This can be a very difficult thing for retailers to embrace however it will provide a very valuable engine of information to drive and support the success of the retailer in marketing and product selection.

 

The retailer must be both supportive and patient in providing and supporting the collaboration community.  One of the key factors to the success of the community is understanding and embracing the community values.  The retailer must provide an open community that provides a vehicle for give and take between the consumer community and the retailer.  It provides a safe environment for retailer experimentation and for consumer interaction with other consumers and 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?


The retail consumer supply chain is focused on providing the consumers with a positive experience, products that the consumer likes and desires, in addition to a value in the service, the experience and the products offered.  This relationship with the consumer is something that must be nurtured and based on a set of values that is embraced and guided by the consumers. The retailer provides and supports a consumer community that is the vehicle for collaborating with the consumers to understand their values in order to incorporate their values into the retailer’s shopping and sales channels.  The consumer community provides the means for the retailer to understand what consumers value and desire in their shopping experience.

 

The capabilities that the consumer channel provide an important ingredient in the relationship between the consumer and the retailer.  In the past the sales clerk was able to provide the capabilities to collaborate with the consumers to understand their values and desires for the shopping and purchasing experience.  This is still true of the small, one or two store, neighborhood retailer where the sales clerks and the owners develop a personal relationship with the consumer.  A coffee shop, or a small independent bookstore is a good example of the types of personalized relationships with their customers that allow the owners to focus and meet their customer's’ needs and values. 

 

The large retail chains generally do not have the opportunity to develop these personal relationships and when they do have the opportunity it is localized to one store. There is no process for these retailers to share the customer response from one sales clerk to another or from one store to another or from one region to another.  In most large retail stores the sales clerks are busy stocking new inventory arrivals, fixing displays and now many of these retailers have assigned their store sales clerks eCommerce order filling activities.  All of these activities and assignments leave very little time for the sales clerk to develop a personal relationship with the customer and this leaves no opportunity or ability to share learnings with other clerks, stores or regions.

 

This is where the online consumer community will bring value to the retailer by encouraging the retailer to develop the virtual relationship with their customers.  This community provides a channel for the consumer to interact with both the retailer and other customers in a manner that encourages the customer to return and provides the opportunity to easily purchase from the retailer based on the suggestions of the community.  The data capture, display and interaction capabilities of the community provide the retailer a basis to explore the consumers desires and values and then to validate these responses through the interaction and purchasing that is derived from the community.  This community provides the large retailer with an opportunity to develop an individual relationship with their customers that cannot be achieved in the brick and mortar store.

 

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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