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Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

533 posts


The consumer collaboration community can make a very positive impact on both the relationship and the value derived from and for your extended partners.  The consumer community opens a new avenue of data directly from interested and engaged consumers that can be utilized to better understand consumer practices and objectives along with direct reactions to products and consumer services such as direct product delivery and product quality.  I see an opportunity to use the community members to eliminate the need for services previously provided through surveys and focus groups.  The combination of the consumer community and big data analysis can replace the majority of surveys and focus groups through the analysis of data provided directly from the consumer.


The consumer community provides the framework to support the participation and encourage retention of consumers on the site.  This participation from consumers provides the basis of data that will be available to analyze.  It should be obvious though that the value provided by this data increases as the volume of data collected increases.  The value and accuracy of research performed on the data is enhanced by the volume of data.  In order to gain the greatest value you must increase the ‘stickiness’ of the consumer site to increase the retention and consumer participation.  So the first order of business is building and maintaining a site that encourages and supports the participation and retention of consumers after they have found the site.


While the site is the gateway for consumer participation, you must also identify the objectives of your network partners in order to provide a focus and methods to support your extended partner requirements.  From the outset I see two important areas where the consumer community can provide information and guidance to your extended partner network; the quality of the product and accuracy in demand planning and forecasting.  The quality of the product takes on not only the quality in producing the product but also the methods in delivering the product in a presentable fashion.  The accuracy in demand planning and forecasting also includes the analysis of the product lifecycle in forecasting the needs.  This is where the the consumer community will really produce value.  The important aspect of both the quality and the improved demand forecasting is the data collection from a wide source of consumers; the more data from consumer response collected, the more accurate the analysis. 


Your consumer community will provide data from consumer interaction and reaction to other consumers and this information can provide an extreme value in the product lifecycle and accurately defining the consumer desires and more importantly when the product has run its course of sales and should be eliminated.  You can use the consumer data to identify when comments and interaction on products starts, as it builds interest and then as the interest declines to improve the demand accuracy and also identify new products.  You can use the consumer community to test and refine products in limited runs before committing to a large manufacture run saving a great deal of expense in producing a product the consumer will buy.


The data collected for analysis allows you to perform survey type analysis from consumer response to products and other consumers rather than simply form the survey questions.  This eliminates the risk that your survey is not asking the proper questions.  You can analyze consumer actions and quickly refine the questions without impacting the data and the analysis.  I see this as one of the greatest values provided by 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?


It is critically important to perform a robust and regular due diligence review of the consumer community for many reasons and especially relating to the security requirements as it relates to the use of cloud services and tools.  This starts with the initial start-up of the community and then continues throughout the lifespan of the community.  This due diligence includes software services, hardware services and especially the security analysis, configuration and review.  All of these aspects of due diligence are important and the security aspect is especially critical because of the form and function of the consumer community and the requirement to secure and protect the consumer information that will be shared on the community.


Considering the impact and recent security breach events experienced across industries, you cannot address security plans and concerns as an after thought.  Security concerns and protection must be at the forefront of the development, implementation and maintenance of the consumer community.  Consumers are, or should be, leary and very careful about the sites they spend time on and the sites where they share personal information.  This means that clear and strong security and protection of consumer information is the cost of entry into this arena.  This also means that security of consumer information must be handled as a continuous improvement process in order to maintain your community with integrity and safety for the members.


The hardware and software services also require a high level of due diligence in developing your community because of your utilization of cloud services and technology.  The cost, and especially the initial startup costs will be much lower due to the utilization of cloud services and technology and that does not eliminate the need for careful review and management of the services.  In fact, due to the number of services and providers and the level change in the services and providers it means that you must spend more time in the selection and management process to ensure that you are able to maintain the level of service that consumers will demand from the community.


Another important aspect hardware and software you utilize in support of the community is the performance and availability, nothing will kill the community like a serious outage or continuous poor performance.  Everyone understands a periodic outage, however a continuous occurrences of short outages or an extended outage or general poor performance will spell the quick death of the community.  People in general have less patience and less acceptance of a regular pattern of poor performance or availability because they simply do not have the time to spend waiting and will simply stay away from sites that do not provide the access of what they want and when they want it.  Continuous monitoring and review of services and performance is quite simply a cost of doing business and a lack of this will kill your community.  Do not be lured into performing less frequent reviews just because you have just implemented a service, you must institute a program of analysis and review to maintain the required high standards of performance, security and services.


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 value proposition provided by the combination of cloud storage services and big data analysis is a potent one-two punch. Then combine that with the value that can be achieved through collaboration with your external partners and the value increases dramatically to a very compelling level.  There are two key areas of return on investment; the savings which are hard dollars and the value derived from the big data analytics opportunities.  The initial value derived through the reduction in storage investments will provide a very strong value foundation and then the value derived from the big data analytics will build that value to a compelling proposition.


Starting with the hard savings; the start-up cost savings provided by a cloud storage strategy presents a savings by allowing you to start small with a minimal investment to start the community.  This strategy then supports the thoughtful growth based on actual and forecast usage rather than a guess on future needs to make a large purchase that may not be necessary for quite some time.  There is a second area of hard savings that should not be discounted and that is the savings in surveys, focus groups and external market analysis consultations.  These can also become significant savings to eliminate external spending and replace with internal actual consumer response, not based on a biased survey or questionnaire but based on actual consumer interaction in the community and responses to the offers and requests and suggestions from other consumers in the community.


The savings derived from the analytic capabilities will produce the greatest long term value based on the research capabilities provided to the entire extended network.  This is not a savings that you can initially forecast and bank, however it is a savings potential that can produce tremendous increases in sales along with reductions in inventory costs and especially in overstock mark-downs.   The analytical opportunities have the potential for changing your market strategy and capabilities.  This has been the call of big data and this is especially true of the potential that can be achieved through the analytics of the consumer community data and especially sharing this data with your extended partners for additional network research.


You cannot, though, go into this plan without performing due diligence and contractually holding cloud service providers accountable for the safe storage and recovery of data.  It is critically important for the long term viability of your consumer community strategy and framework that you enter into this initiative with eyes wide open and define both the potential issues in storage and recovery of data. 


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 design phase in any initiative is the most important phase and the more time invested in the design will produce a higher quality product and the design of the collaboration data integration collection and storage is no different. In fact, I believe this aspect of your collaboration consumer community is highly dependent on the design and therefore should be given the greatest focus and expertise to provide a robust and flexible design that will support the long term potential needs of the community.  The community can and will change over time based on the demands of the consumer and the capabilities of the collaboration tools and technology while the data collected from the interactions and reactions of the consumer provides the historical stream for analysis and validation. 


This continuum of data and collection requires a framework that is flexible and robust to support the data and analytical requirements as they change.  As the capabilities and the requirements of the collaboration community change, the data provides the thread that supports the long term analysis and trending required for robust analytical activities.  The one thing you can count on with the consumer collaboration community is change - to the requirements, to the capabilities and to the tools that support the community.  Your data storage and design must support these changes and this is why it is so important to engage an experienced big data architect to guide the design.


Fortunately, the cloud tools and services provide a very flexible method to support your storage needs through robust and flexible storage availability through many service providers.  This provides a simple means to quickly and cost effectively increase your storage capacity as your data collection and storage requirements increase.  The cloud storage services also provide an efficient and robust means to share data across your extended network simply by providing access to the cloud for the data.  This is probably the greatest value provided by the cloud; a robust place to store data that is accessible to any device or person simply by subscribing and provided secured access to the data.  


This flexible and secured data availability via the cloud provides one of the greatest value returns through initial and even long term investment savings.  These savings will not only help to justify the effort required to develop your community, they will help to justify and reduce the investment and effort required to not only analyze the data but to share the data with your extended network for research and analysis by your extended network.  I believe this value proposition can justify your entire effort to develop and maintain 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?


Data collection and integration is one of the most important objectives and also one of the objectives providing the most long term value from the development and support of a consumer collaboration community.  Quite frankly, the data integration may also be one of the most difficult objectives to achieve because of the amount of data that is available from the community and also the potential difficulties in storing and analyzing the data.  In addition to these challenges to mining this data you must also determine how and what to share with your partners.  This challenge of storage and analysis is then compounded as it flows down your extended partner network.  The benefits gained from the data analysis can easily outway the costs of maintaining and analysis however it does require a thoughtful review and flexible design of the framework supporting the requirements. 


The key to success in the data analysis and integration with your extended partners is a flexible and robust framework upon which you build.  This will require some thoughtful analysis and design from an experienced big data architect in order to design the framework to support the current known requirements and yet be flexible enough to be able to revise and improve as your requirements change and grow.  The one thing you can count on is that your requirements will grow as you begin to realize the value from the big data analysis.  This is also one of the areas where you should not scrimp in the design efforts.  It will pay off manyfold to invest in an experienced big data architect to produce the design of the framework and the initial collection and load process design and development.  There are areas where it is safe and makes sense to scrimp and the design of your big data framework and infrastructure is certainly not one of them.


One area that will allow for savings is in the architecture and tools selection and utilization of the community.  This is where the cloud technologies and services will really provide value and the ability to experiment with little cost.  Your big data storage requirements are one of the key areas where you can gain value and save initial start-up costs.  This is where you can start with a small amount of storage and steadily add as your needs grow.  The cloud storage also provides for an efficient and low cost method to share information across your extended internal partners, you would simply grant access rights to specific data as necessary for your partners and this would eliminate complicated integration processes.


Like so many objectives in professional life there is a time and a place to save and cut costs.  The design has never been one of those areas.  While your initial objective for the consumer community is to develop a low cost community to start using cloud tools and services, it makes long term financial sense to invest in the big data initial design to ensure you start with a robust and flexible framework that will support future requirements.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


A key tool, or more accurately framework, that will increase the likelihood and potential success of the retail organization is the integration of the consumer community with your extended partner network as a feed of information.  This integration must be the foundational objective of the consumer community because of the expansion and the growth of the social community usage and demands of the usage.  You can see from almost every aspect of your day-to-day interactions the level of integration social communities are achieving with all aspects of the consumer activities.  The natural progression of this integration is with the connected retail organization.


This clearly provides significant benefits to the retail organization such as direct contact between consumers and the organizations along and as part of this the direct integration of consumer feedback into the retail network.  This direct consumer feedback will provide significant value to the retail organization.  Every retailer invests a significant amount of money in obtaining consumer feedback in the form of surveys and focus groups.  The difficulty in achieving value from these methods is the format, types of questions and the choice of responses selected for these interactions.  It is common understanding that the surveys and focus groups challenge is achieving honest feedback due to the methods and general responses provided for choices.  The benefit, and frankly the challenge, of the direct contact and feedback from the consumer is that this feedback is not clouded or guided by a choice of responses.


The challenge to achieving the value though is the collection and analysis of the contact feedback from consumers.  This unformated feedback comes in the form of discussions and questions and searches and product ratings from consumers in their own words and their own priorities.  This information provides a huge analysis challenge to understand the feedback and glean value from this feedback.  This unformated data presents a challenge to the organization in both the amount of data that is collected and the analysis methods utilized to understand the data. 


This is where big data methods and practices come into play to provide the means to both store vast amounts of data along with methods to analyze this data.  From a cost perspective one of the key benefits of utilizing cloud technologies and services as the foundation for implementing the consumer community is the reduction and simplification of investment to support the technology requirements of the community.  This big data analysis benefits from the ability to change and expand the storage availability and usage without major investments.  This is a key benefit and encouragement to incorporating big data practices in your analysis of 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?


The consumer collaboration community presents a high level of complication itself in developing and maintaining an open and robust platform for the consumer and then the complication increases when you add this framework to your extended supply chain network.  I have been recommending the integration of the consumer community into your extended supply chain network to provide valuable input to your extended network.  This integration requires a great deal of patience to navigate the complications in order to successfully integrate these networks and deliver the potential value that can be achieved.  This effort is not for the faint of heart.


First of all I think you must be patient in both when and how you start the integration of the consumer community with your extended partner network.  This is because the consumer community will requires some runway to build the consumer participation through the community processes and tools.  An additional reason for the community requiring a  runway is that the data collected will require some time and probably some initial adjustments to the types of data collected in order to deliver value to your extended partner network.  These types of adjustments and fine tuning efforts will require a robust continuous improvement cycle to manage and coordinate the adjustments and potential changes to ensure a thoughtful and coordinated delivery of the improvements.  This is important because the potential impact to the integration into the extended partner network should be well understood and identified prior to the full roll-out of any major revisions to the consumer community are implemented. 


Going forward, when the consumer community is integrated with your extended partner network as a feed of information, the rate of change driven by consumers in the consumer collaboration community must also be closely managed and coordinated so that the links and the benefits to your extended partner network are not needlessly or seriously impacted.  This coordination and management of change between the consumer community and the extended partner network is not difficult, however it does require a well thought out and documented framework to track and coordinate the changes across the two.  This will require a focus and attention to process detail so that the changes to one side of the network do not impact the process framework on the other side of  the network.  For instance, changing or adding a function in the consumer community could dramatically change, or even eliminate, the ability and type of data collected as a result of the change.  The original data and timing of the collection could be a major ingredient to a process within the extended partner network.  This change could break this process and worse yet, not be identified for a period of time after the change causing a major impact to the value derived in the extended network.  


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 methods and tools required to analyze your consumer community demands and activities to identify improvements will require massive amounts of data from many different inputs and functional areas, internal, external and industry based in order to success in identification of potential improvements.  Then when you have identified the potential improvements there is another analysis required to determine the benefits and the methods to implement improvements.  These many leveled analysis methods require patience, focus, experience and a strong level of curiosity and experimentation to implement and obtain the benefits.


I think that the most critical aspects are curiosity and experimentation and these are closely followed by patience and focus.  You must never be afraid to fail in your experiments because without failure you would have no idea what doesn’t work.  This analysis and experimentation must be performed on a continual basis and as a loop where the analysis feeds the experimentation and the confirmation then feeds new data for analysis and experimentation.  As you can see this is the classic continuous improvement loop of Plan, Do, Check and Act.  My point is not that the process is something new however the data required for the process must be collected from multiple and varied sources and requires a big data analysis focus and tool set to efficiently perform the required analysis. 


The analysis data requirements are dramatically expanded in this model because of the data required to analyze the consumer reaction and actions within the community.  This interaction of the consumers within the community produces a great deal of data from both the interaction between the consumers and the community, the consumers and other consumers in the community and the consumer navigation across the community and patterns for execution and when the consumer returns to the community.  These are data points that can all be collected for analysis but you can imagine the amount of data this will generate that must be analyzed for effective results. 


Next you can imagine the questions that will be generated by the analysis from all partners within this extended community.  This will also require a framework to meet discuss and determine direction in utilizing the data and the analysis of the results.  Each partner within the extended community can require a different viewpoint to understand the impact to their organization and then the impact to the community.  As a result of this analysis that identifies potential paths and benefits you can see the importance of clearly defined experiments and analysis of the results of the experiments (the ‘Do’ and ‘Check’ process of continuous improvement).


The good news is that the act of developing and implementing this process and framework will itself solidify and improve the process.  This will then improve the cycle of Plan, Do Check and Act to allow you to increase the velocity of the change cycle which will allow you to meet the challenges of the consumer community integration and support.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


A continuous improvement framework and then accepted and practiced methods are important to the collaborative consumer community due to the nature of the community and they are also extremely difficult to maintain, again, due to the nature of the community.  This is why it is important to implement both the program management framework to maintain direction and oversight in addition to the integration into your extended partner network.  You will never be able to maintain the long term success and value to both the consumer and your organization without a program management framework that supports a robust continuous improvement program.


Due to the nature of the consumer community and especially because the consumer members are under no obligation to participate in the management and improvements to the community the program management framework can be especially difficult to implement.  Consumer participation can and will be a very fickle and inconsistent act that requires regular and creative encouragement.  The act of encouraging consumer participation then will be a full time activity within the program management framework and the methods to maintain the participation must constantly be reviewed and refreshed to ensure a continued participation.  The most important requirement to remember is that the consumer must be excited and provided with a continuous stream of new and renewed content and methods for participation in order to maintain that participation.


The program management framework must support and encourage this constant stream of methods in the continuous improvement process as part of its strategic framework.  You must implement a method that encourages and captures the consumer feedback into a data store that will support the analysis of the response to improve the community and then to also identify potential new community offerings.  This analysis must also include two additional aspects; your extended network partners and also the changing cloud technologies and services.  At the very core of this community is a very fluid basis of requirements and new opportunities that must be supported in a method that is in turn very fluid.


This fluid method of support requires a guiding framework to encourage structured and standard methods of analysis and process improvements that will allow the community to incorporate changes in a positive manner.  The definition of fluid in the consumer community is a continuous level of discontinuous change and the best method to support discontinuous change is the combined program management framework and robust continuous improvement process.  The key challenge to the long term success of the community is the focus on continuous, this must be supported by a method that frequently assesses the internal and external signals from consumers and the industry to improve the community and encourage renewed participation of all members.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


It is important to develop and document standards to which you will hold your consumer community interaction and development.  These standards insure the community of your intentions and usage of interaction.  Consumers can be very wary about providing information to a community, and this is with good reason.  The consumer community must first build the trust of its members in order to really grow, stabilize and really provide value to both the consumer community members and your organization.  The community standards, or principles, provide a framework for the interaction and the types of capabilities that will be supported. 


These standards must be incorporated and maintained as standards that change and grow as your consumer community changes and grows.   These standards become an integral practice supporting your consumer collaboration community by ensuring that your improvements and changes to the community are executed in a thoughtful manner that first brings mutually agreed improvements and second provides the framework for defining and implementing the improvements.  The continuous improvement of your consumer community is the ingredient, or practice, that will ensure the success of your community.  Without this standards practice the chances of your community failing increase dramatically.


The outward appearance to the consumer of your community must be one of flexibility in the capabilities and the connections to types of services and capabilities. This is important to provide the community members access to the tools and capabilities in the community to provide a strong incentive to remain in the community and return to the community.  This open structure gives the consumer the ability to build relationships across the community with other community members.  These open and flexible standards require a solid foundational framework to support these objectives.  This solid framework requires requires a solid framework of process, procedures and continuous improvement for support of this open and flexible framework. 


A second reason for the importance of the standards is the utilization of open cloud services and tools to support the community.  This makes it critically important to utilize a solid framework to provide the stability and foundation for implementing and maintaining the cloud tools and services that support the community.  Your framework provides and supports the methods to integrate and maintain the cloud tools and services into your community to help to ensure the ability to integrate and use these tools in a stable and flexible community.  This is an important aspect of the success of the community - the stability of the community environment.


Your consumer community requires the appearance of simplicity and openness in order to retain consumers’ participation.  This appearance of simplicity will require a great deal of planning and coordination across your organization and your partner organizations in order to maintain.  The cloud tools and services can support the execution of this strategy, however you must implement these tools into a framework that provides the ability to support the planning and coordination.


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?


One of the key strategic objectives of the consumer collaboration community should be incorporating this community into the organization framework as a key practice of the organization.  This is not necessarily the initial position, however, the strategic plans should provide a pathway for the eventual incorporation into the the organization framework.  This community provides a method and the structure to directly interact with the consumer and incorporate this interaction into the both the internal framework and the external partner network.  This means of collecting data will become a critical benefit to your organization and extended partners because it is a direct input of unbiased reactions and actions from real customers.


I think that it is important though that you go through a development and vetting process of the collaboration community prior to the full incorporation as a practice.  The reason this is so critically important is because of the newness of this strategy and functionality.  This is brand new for retail organizations and because of this there will be quite a bit of experimentation required to work through the services, technology and practices before settling into a path and a framework that works for the organization.  So I think it is important to settle into this path and framework before incorporating into the overarching organizational framework.


Five years from now this consumer collaboration community will become the price of entry especially in the retail business.  As a comparison just look at the trajectory path of acceptance for Facebook and Twitter, five years ago these were just ‘kids toys’ and now they are both critical aspects of the retail marketing practices.  I see the consumer collaboration community as being on a similar trajectory and will become the common accepted practice very quickly simply because of the value that it can bring to your organization and by extension your extended network partners. 


I do not think that I am exaggerating when I say that the consumer community has the potential to bring greater value to your organization than any other social network practice we have seen.  I have not seen a tool or practice that combines customer retention, marketing, product development and quality evaluation with the underlying potential for big data collection and analytical capabilities.  You may think that I am over-hyping the potential so take a moment to review my previous discussions to get a better understanding of why I am putting so much potential into this initiative.  This is all new territory though in the business environment and it is important to understand going into this that there is no previous examples to follow and must be developed based on your own requirements and capabilities. 


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 have mentioned that it is important to define and maintain a roadmap of achievement objectives and returns that can be measured to build support for the community.  Of course it should not be required to state this point because any business initiative should start with a plan and a roadmap. In the case of social networking and community support though I think it is even more important start with a clear and achievable plan.  This is a startup and as such requires a clear and achievable direction and a method to measure success along the way.  Even though I also state that this initiative requires a long term commitment I clearly understand that you will never maintain the commitment over the long term without a series of achievements along the way.


Developing the roadmap provides an opportunity to define the mission and then clearly define the objectives that can be achieved as a result of the roadmap.  When the mission and the objectives are defined you can then focus on the how you will meet the objectives.  This is project, or program, 101; first you define the ‘what’ and then you define the ‘how’.  This process method helps to evaluate and define reasonable and achievable objectives and schedule for meeting these objectives.  This will also encourage you to identify key stakeholders and partners and then define the expectations for these partners and stakeholders.  This will provide you with a clear proposal including objectives and schedule for review and approval from leadership.  This is critical to achieving the initial support to start the initiative.


The challenge though with this initiative, or program, is the nature of the community and the velocity of change in both technology and services supporting the community.  This is exactly the reason I suggest for embracing free and low cost cloud technology and services; it allows you to experiment with technology and services with a low entry cost so you can drop technology and services as the landscape changes.  This initiative will be difficult enough due to the fickle nature of the consumer and this requires the full focus from your organization and partners and this will not be helped if you were always worried about the cost of technology.  First you should focus on understanding and meeting the demands of the consumer while meeting the objectives of your initiative.


It is important to develop a roadmap and strategy to deliver the roadmap for any initiative and the consumer community is no different.  Utilizing cloud technologies and services allows a great deal of flexibility to experiment with community capabilities.  This is an important factor in the success of this initiative and should not be overlooked or underplayed.


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?


Resource commitment to support a consumer collaboration community is a long term commitment that requires that leadership from the retailer through the extended supply chain partners understand the long term nature of the commitment.  The resource commitment from the organization’s leaders requires a long term commitment in order to harvest the benefits.  As I have previously suggested, the greatest funding investment will be hiring the resources to support the community.  The good news though is that this investment is not required to start the community, in the startup phase current social media resources can be utilized to support the startup. 


This long term investment requirement is a large commitment and requires the care and feeding from the leadership in order to allow and encourage the community and practices to grow.  Do not underestimate the level of commitment and the timeline for the commitment, this is not a ‘one and done’ type of commitment where the leaders can say this is important and it just happens.  This will require the regular and continuous involvement of the organization leaders to demonstrate their commitment and their level of support of these activities in order to ensure the continued investment in resource time and focus continues.  As with any other new initiative, this will also require the continuous involvement, especially initially, Even as the time progresses, there is a requirement for continued involvement of the leaders to encourage expansion and growth of the community so that it does not die on the vine.


There will be many people and voices in the organization claiming this consumer community is unnecessary because of the other social networks supported by the organization.  This is a blatantly wrong headed view and must be overcome first with the commitment from leadership to support through the startup and then through the value derived from the community as it becomes an established framework and strategy in the organization. 


I am focused on this investment because I believe it is important to overcome the potential inertia the community will encounter.  It is also most important to view this as a long term investment that will require a long term commitment.  It is important to overcome the prevailing business short term focus and perspective with a long view of the potential.  I am not naive though, in order for the community to be given time to succeed it is important to define and achieve short term goals and benefits.  For this reason it is important to define and maintain a roadmap of achievement objectives and returns that can be measured.


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 prepared to invest in the consumer collaboration community in order for this community to succeed.  This community will become critical to the success of the retailer’s sales channel by providing the community area for consumers to return and engage with both other consumers and the retailer.  The investments required to support the community are both financial and resources (people’s time and expertise mainly) and fortunately for the retailer the financial investment can be limited through the use of free or subscription cloud technology and services. 


The investments in resources can be minimized through the incremental expansion of the current team supporting the social media channels.  This is the most effective and efficient use of resources available to the retailer.  You should already have a team supporting the social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram and Pinterest.  The consumer community should be viewed as an extension of the same skills utilized to support the social media and will bring these tools and technologies under one umbrella where the consumer community becomes the ‘glue’ that binds the other social media activities.  This will consolidate the skills and the support into one team and will provide some cohesion and extend the social media support.


While the support can be consolidated into the existing team supporting social media, this does not complete the resource investment.  Generally speaking the social media team is managed within the marketing organization.  This makes complete sense because of the types of interaction and the promotion of both products and the brand.  Incorporating the consumer community into this team will require the close interaction and coordination with the sales channel and the extended supply chain.  This addition of the consumer community produces a truly cross organization framework and platform that must be supported across the entire organization. 


This produces a new investment requirement from sales, product development and the extended supply chain that was not previously required.  This is another investment of people and skills from these channels that will be a net add to the investment.  These additional requirements will, however, provide two key additional benefits; the cross organization awareness and coordination of activities.  These activities benefit from the consumer community data collect while also producing organizational communication and agility benefits.  These benefits are a significant and provide a framework for long term growth and benefits.  This will require though the commitment and support of leadership in order to maintain the required investment because the natural tendency for any organization is to revert back to its original behavior and focus on internal activities rather than  cross organization activities. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


A growth strategy is a critical success factor for your consumer collaboration community to be successful and meet its value opportunities.  The value opportunities will change over time and the growth strategy will provide the guideposts to follow to achieve the potential.  The success of the consumer community will be very fragile to begin with and will require a great deal of patience, coordination and flexibility and the growth strategy provides the framework to build your success.  Just because you can offer or support a service does not mean that it should be offered or should be a long term service.


You cannot simply allow the community practices and development to haphazardly develop down paths without guidance and direction.  The growth strategy provides this guidance that identifies a set of objectives to measure the direction and also measurements that can be used to determine the potential and eventually success objectives for each of the services and offerings. Setting out the strategy in the beginning allows for a standard measurement and guide forward during the community development.  This strategy outlines how to measure along with a definition of goals that should be supported by the services and community.


It is important when entering any new type of engagement that you clearly understand and define your entry and exit criteria before you begin and the collaboration consumer community is no different.  In fact I would say that because of the participants and the changing services and technology it is critical that you have these definitions in place when you start.  It is also important that you realize from the beginning that because of the discontinuous change and speed of the change that your growth strategy must be flexible in order to meet the changing demands of the community.  This does not mean that you should be continuously changing your strategy, it does mean though that you should be continuously reviewing your strategy to ensure that it remains meaningful and continues to support your objectives. 


Your growth strategy is a key factor to the success of your consumer collaboration community and this growth strategy also plays a key role in the continuous improvement program that must be a central process supporting your consumer community.  These two tools provide the linchpins to the continued success of the community by providing guidance and measurements to confirm your direction and the value returned.  Never underestimate the importance of a guide and measurement tools in supporting your community.  These tools do not have a great cost to implement or maintain however they provide a great return and help to ensure the success of your 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?

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