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Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

442 posts
Tom Brouillette

Beacons Splash Now

Posted by Tom Brouillette Feb 27, 2015

A solid, flexible and extendable eCommerce framework provides the foundation for supporting the consumer demands along with the security requirements to protect consumer and merchant private information.  A retailer must have this solid foundation in order to support the frequently changing demands of consumers along with the frequent and changing assaults on the secured private information.  This foundation also provides a stable collaborative platform for the retailers that has become important and will only grow in importance with the expansion of the omni channel marketplace.


The retailers in the omni channel marketplace have almost exclusively focused on the sale to the consumer up to now with little collaborative effort.  The collaboration aspect has been left up to the devices of the consumers along with a few third party sites that realize the importance of consumer collaboration on the omni channel market.  The interesting point in these practices is the retailers do not seem to have realized the importance of collaboration and developing a partnership with consumers.  With the focus on the sale side the retailers have essentially left the development of the omni channel market with consumers.


Consumers are demanding and have started to develop the collaborative methods and tools that will allow them to shop in a manner that shifts the strength to the consumer.  Retailers do not seem to have learned the simple fact that consumers have turned the table on the retailers in the omni channel market.  Consumers now have the tools and connectivity that in the past would only have been available to the retailers and the consumer is using these capabilities in an imaginative manner to shop in the manner that brings value to the consumer.


Retailers seem to be stuck in a command and control operation and sales strategy when the consumer has embraced a strategy comparable to guerrilla warfare.  This has been shown over and over again in the omni channel market where consumers are using the technology available to enhance their shopping practices.  The mainstream retailers in the omni channel market seem to have embraces a low price strategy that focuses just on the sale.  It seems to me that consumers are looking for more than a low price and they are showing this by embracing collaborative tools and practices in their shopping. 


The early winners are retailers like Amazon and Alibaba.  These are companies that have recognized the desire of consumers and especially in collaboration to enhance their methods.  These companies have used their lack of a brick and mortar outlet as a strategic strength.  I see this as a failure of the omni channel retailers, they should truly incorporate all channels in their shopping experience to provide the consumer with a true omni channel shopping experience rather than simply focusing on a sale.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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

Tom Brouillette

ECommerce Framework

Posted by Tom Brouillette Feb 25, 2015

I frequently discuss the importance of a sound framework and you will have noticed that I preach this concept across all types of practices and capabilities.  In addition to the importance of a sound framework I also even more frequently discuss the importance of collaboration and again I preach this importance across all types of practices and capabilities.  The third, and just as important concept I preach is continuous improvement.   All of these concepts are even more critically important in the omni channel market due to the frequency of change demanded from consumers.   All of these concepts though are also critical factors in business process mapping and business process management; the key factors in this success being, process, people and technology. 


I feel it is important to always focus on process, people and technology in that sequence.  It is important because that is also the sequence that you must follow to deliver a successful business process management initiative.  These concepts now are based upon starting with a solid framework, or foundation, that supports flexibility, reliability and stability.  These are the ‘ilities’ that you may have heard in technology development discussions.  These are important to support an eCommerce platform that can support the business and consumer requirements in a cycle of constant change.  This framework, I believe, must be based on open standards and also must provide the ability to upgrade without wholesale replacement. 


The key to success in eCommerce technology is small continuous changes that deliver a quick cycle of improvements.  A continuous cycle of small changes provides a basis for quick focused improvements and the beauty of this is that the small changes allow for refinements based on the reactions to the change.  Merchants and business in general cannot hope to remain successful with an improvement strategy that delivers large complex changes that take months to deliver.  The issue with the eCommerce and social markets is the velocity and volume of change does not play well with large scale changes over a period of months.  To be blunt, the entire landscape can change more multiple times over a period of months.  This presents the very real danger that any changes that require months of development could be made obsolete due to the velocity of change in the market.


To address this very real challenge you should focus on a framework that supports change without breaking.  Your framework is the key to success in the omni channel marketplace and you should not ignore or put off the care and feeding of your framework.  This can be a very difficult practice to focus on infrastructure rather than show piece software however, if your framework is not stable the flash may collapse and then you have nothing.

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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 objective for ECommerce sites and omni channel merchants must be flexibility of features and functionality to support interaction and collaboration with consumers at the consumers’ pace.  This does not however alleviate the requirement for omni channel merchants to protect consumers’ personal information and especially credit card information. This creates an interesting challenge for omni channel merchants to provide consumers with the flexibility to shop along with the protection of Fort Knox for their personal information.  To meet these objectives the eCommerce sites must be constantly modified and improved in order to keep up with the changing capabilities of both consumers and hackers.


In order to meet these objectives the omni channel merchants must implement a framework that can segregate and separate consumers’ credit information from shopping and collaboration functions.  This framework should be based on open software standards in order to allow for continuous improvements and upgrades with the ability to define security gates to protect both consumer and merchant sensitive information.  This is a difficult objective to achieve and maintain because of the security requirement on one side of side of the objective and the collaborative requirements on the other side.  This is why it is important that the framework support secured network segregation.


Currently the majority of omni channel merchants focus on the sale side of the equation and the most advanced are in the process of supporting a sale from any channel any time.  This is a great feature to allow the consumer the option to shop in a brick and mortar store and if they cannot find the color or size for example to complete the sale online.  This functionality is currently offered or in development from market leaders.  I think this functionality will very shortly be the price of admission for entry into the omni channel market. 


This functionality is something I would refer to as Omni Channel Commerce 2.0.  Looking at a timeline it has taken us quite some time to reach this level of commerce.  The problem now is that this level of commerce is practically a lifetime behind the level of consumer collaboration that is currently generally accepted capabilities for consumers.  This is causing a collision and conflicts between merchant capabilities and consumer desires and common practices.


Unfortunately for merchants, consumers will continue to push forward with new collaboration capabilities and these will conflict even more with merchant capabilities.  The result of this will be the consumers putting collaboration tools together in new ways along with software developers providing new collaboration tools to mash up collaboration with shopping.  The next version of omni channel commerce is currently being introduced and not by merchants.  This is the reason why merchants must implement an open collaborative framework based on open standards to support their commerce platform.

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?

Consumer social networks and networking practices and tools provide a great example of flexibility that crosses over capabilities, tools and practices.  Every day I am provided with new examples and tools to support and expand social networking and collaboration, it sometimes seems as if there are new tools available on a weekly basis.  Over the last holiday season I downloaded apps to provide real time and location based shopping opportunities, sales and coupons.  Compare this now to the eCommerce and omni channel capabilities and its almost like comparing a Prius to a horse and buggy.


I realize that I’m exaggerating a bit here however I am doing this to make a point; retailers must drive to embrace the consumers networking capabilities or be left behind in the dust.  In my opinion this means that retailers must join the consumer networks as active participants and not simply using these networks for marketing.  They must also change their practices from open and blatant marketing techniques to a participative and collaborative practice.  What this means is that sometimes the retailer must admit that the customer would be better served to purchase a product from somewhere else.


On the other hand, the retailer must be very careful with the personal information they collect from consumers.  Just ask the previous CEO of Target how important it is to protect consumer information.  This is a critical tightrope condition that the retailer must balance through strong security capabilities.  The protection of consumer personal information is paramount.  The difficulty here is that the protection of this information is constantly under attack and retailers must constantly monitor for intrusion and just as constantly must revise tactics to protect this information.


This is where it starts to get interesting, the retailer must open their ‘doors’ to consumers’ shopping and then bring the consumer into a strongly protected environment to complete the sale.  This requires a framework of virtual rooms that are protected from invasion from hackers and thieves.  The good news is that there is a new security industry that can help to maintain the protection so the omni channel retailers can utilize these services to maintain their edge.  Unfortunately the rate of change driven by hackers is at a greater velocity even than the consumers’ social networks.  Retailers must take this into account when managing and planning their omni channel framework growth, maintenance and support.  In this area, as in many other areas it would be most efficient and practical for retailers to utilize security experts and security firms to protect their network and customers’ information from hackers.


The important practice in this situation, as in so many other situation, is to understand that it may not be worth the cost to develop and maintain the type of expansive security expertise and contract with industry experts to develop and maintain an effective security policy and capability. 

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?

Consumer social networks and networking practices and tools provide a great example of flexibility that crosses over capabilities, tools and practices.  Every day I am provided with new examples and tools to support and expand social networking and collaboration, it sometimes seems as if there are new tools available on a weekly basis.  Over the last holiday season I downloaded apps to provide real time and location based shopping opportunities, sales and coupons.  Compare this now to the eCommerce and omni channel capabilities and its almost like comparing a Prius to a horse and buggy.


I realize that I’m exaggerating a bit here however I am doing this to make a point; retailers must drive to embrace the consumers networking capabilities or be left behind in the dust.  In my opinion this means that retailers must join the consumer networks as active participants and not simply using these networks for marketing.  They must also change their practices from open and blatant marketing techniques to a participative and collaborative practice.  What this means is that sometimes the retailer must admit that the customer would be better served to purchase a product from somewhere else.


On the other hand, the retailer must be very careful with the personal information they collect from consumers.  Just ask the previous CEO of Target how important it is to protect consumer information.  This is a critical tightrope condition that the retailer must balance through strong security capabilities.  The protection of consumer personal information is paramount.  The difficulty here is that the protection of this information is constantly under attack and retailers must constantly monitor for intrusion and just as constantly must revise tactics to protect this information.


This is where it starts to get interesting, the retailer must open their ‘doors’ to consumers’ shopping and then bring the consumer into a strongly protected environment to complete the sale.  This requires a framework of virtual rooms that are protected from invasion from hackers and thieves.  The good news is that there is a new security industry that can help to maintain the protection so the omni channel retailers can utilize these services to maintain their edge.  Unfortunately the rate of change driven by hackers is at a greater velocity even than the consumers’ social networks.  Retailers must take this into account when managing and planning their omni channel framework growth, maintenance and support.  In this area, as in many other areas it would be most efficient and practical for retailers to utilize security experts and security firms to protect their network and customers’ information from hackers.


The important practice in this situation, as in so many other situation, is to understand that it may not be worth the cost to develop and maintain the type of expansive security expertise and contract with industry experts to develop and maintain an effective security policy and capability. 

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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 social community, or collaboration community, is constantly expanding and contracting in both members and participation of the members, just like any physical community. This community is also constantly changing, adding and eliminating collaboration practices and tools, which is also just like any physical community.  When I think about it your physical community where you live and raise a family is constantly expanding and contracting through moves and relocations of people from outside the community and people leaving the community.  In addition in you physical community people are constantly changing their tools, such as cars to get around, entertainment equipment, computing equipment along with the home maintenance tools such as power tools.


The virtual social communities show the same tendencies where people will join through request or invitation and people participating will use a variety of tools to participate in that community.  You have the technology and practice leaders in the virtual social communities just like you have trendsetters in your physical community.  The key difference in the virtual community is the velocity of these changes.  For instance, just when you become comfortable with Facebook, or Instagram, you are informed by a friend or teenager that all the cool people are using a new tool like Snapchat or Vine.  I know that many have already moved beyond Snapchat ages ago so please forgive my examples.


The practices and abilities to communicate and share change in the virtual community at least as quickly as the tools.  This is because of the curiosity of people and their strong tendency to try things, I refer to that as the ‘why not?’ practice, Why not use Snapchat as a virtual show and tell when shopping to ask for friends opinions of clothes or furniture or cars?  Why not use Pinterest as a virtual cookbook for new ideas and dishes?  Why not use Facebook as a fundraising tool?


This is why I choose to call the social community a collaboration community because it is a virtual laboratory of experimentation with tools and methods to use the tools.  This laboratory is currently being impacted in a huge way by mobile technology that brings the hardware to your pocket and supports new and exciting location based practices and methods for both commerce and collaboration.  Not only is this constantly changing but the velocity of change is quickening.  This provides a new challenge every day to the eCommerce market.  These new challenges require reaction and consumers demand the support of these practices.  This will require the retailers and marketers to increase flexibility and along with the flexibility they must embrace the cycle of change.  What I mean by this is that retailers must not become attached to any practice and must be ready to drop practices early in the change lifecycle.

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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?

As I have stated previously, in order to maintain success in this changing collaboration community environment, retailers must participate as a member of the community rather than simply offering products for purchase.  This participation can come in many forms and should be based on a simple practice of providing value and services for the community in a give and take manner and eliminate the single minded focus on sales and marketing.  The objective of the participation for retailers is the long term retention of customers and the promotion of the retailers’ products and services from those customers.


In my opinion Amazon provides the the most prominent example of participation in a collaboration community and I think other retailers should look at Amazon for guidance in the give and take participation of the community.  Amazon proves that you can provide services and even promote competitors on your site and still be very successful.  Amazon provides value to the community for example by encouraging product and service evaluations from customers and then not only sharing the reviews but also using the evaluations to improve products and services.  Some of their practices would have been unheard of before Amazon, like offering the same product from other vendors for instance.


I do not suggest that retailers should simply copy the Amazon offerings, I am suggesting that retailers embrace the Amazon philosophy.  This philosophy is to embrace the community and provide value to that community even if every transaction with a consumer does not involve a sale.  This philosophy is one of the key factors that has carried Amazon from the beginning to become one of the most influential retailers and the amazing factor is that Amazon has no brick and mortar outlet!  This was unheard of prior to Amazon entering the market and even after all of these years and the proven success of this philosophy there are really no competitors to Amazon in this model.


Rather than focusing on new technology I think retailers should focus on communication and participation in the consumers’ collaborative community.  Embracing the Amazon philosophy requires open communication and participation.  In fact I think that Amazon being the key major early adopter of this philosophy and concept allowed them to mold this concept and services which in turn provides them with a major lead on their competitors.  This doesn’t mean that retailers should not embrace the philosophy, in fact I see this philosophy doing well with the small specialty retailers. 

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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 natural extension of the collaboration community is shopping and both purchase recommendations and bargain sharing.  The expansion of eCommerce coincides with the growth of the collaboration community is not a coincidence but the evolution of both of these practices as a natural partnership.  People have always shared shopping tips and bargains with their friends and neighbors and the collaboration community is another type of virtual neighborhood along with virtual shopping centers.  These activities are a natural combination of social and economic activities that are supported by technology.


Consumers have learned to use technology in many ways that were not originally envisioned by the industry through curiosity, imagination and trial and error.  They are continuously mashing technology and applications together to support their needs as they change and the technology capabilities improve.  Fifteen years ago we were starting to explore the capabilities of shopping online and we have come to the point now where eCommerce is pervasive through mobile technology.  The advances are quickening and consumers are driving these changes rather than being driven by the changes. 


I suggest though that the only thing that is changing is the delivery methods, in other words the tools that consumers use to practice their shopping.  Whereas fifty years ago goods and services were delivered physically through storefronts, today the storefronts are virtual.  The consumer performs the shopping virtually however their shopping remains a social activity.  The industry has invested millions in developing virtual showrooms and virtual models to show consumers how they will look in new outfits and at the same time consumers are utilizing mobile technology and smartphones to share how they look with friends for their friends’ opinion. 


Consumers have shown that they will embrace technology surprisingly quickly when that technology supports their social activities.  I think that the retail industry has misconstrued the consumers’ practice of embracing new technology to think the consumer is fascinated with technology and this has caused the industry to misjudge direction and acceptance of the consumer.  This is the reason why the industry continues to be surprised when consumers embrace new capabilities such as showrooming. 


In order to be successful in the future that is being created now by consumers, the retailer must revise their viewpoint from offering products to consumers in general to joining the community that consumers are developing virtually.   Consumers are not really looking for the next killer product, I think consumers are simply looking for ways to utilize their scarce time and resources in the most efficient manner.  Shopping is a social experience and consumers are using technology to infuse their virtual shopping with social community.  Retailers will be successful when they embrace this desire and join the community as a member rather than their historical practice of enticing consumers through new products and sales.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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 want to focus a bit on what I have started calling the collaboration community.  I am starting to call it the collaboration community because it is a virtual location where people can gather to share and support the needs of the community.  People will always put a familiar wrapper around concepts to help them understand and embrace the concepts and the collaboration network is no different.  This physical technical network provides a virtual location for people and organizations to gather based on shared beliefs, desires or needs. 


Over the years people have been geographically spreading as a result of a few factors; the car provides ease of commuting, highways provide a fast and safe route, the desire to acquire more space to spread out.  As a result there are a great deal of housing development in places further from cities and entertainment has followed the expansion.  The downside to this expansion has been a removal from personal social interaction in many ways, the term cocooning is used to describe this type of practice where people acquire all they need for creature comforts in their home.  Another factor feeding into the removal from social interaction is the very tool that allowed the expansion, the car.  These new housing developments require a car to go anywhere and virtually every destination is at least 20 minutes away. 


Then technology provided a means to maintain a social interaction with friends and family and meet new friends.  Services such as Facebook and LinkedIn provided a method to maintain contact and also to develop new contacts.  These services provided a means to share and also to help others in your connected social network.  These technologies and others that pop up for a while and then sometimes disappear have allowed and encouraged people to maintain contact.  They have provided people with a means to develop the virtual community as the physical sense of community were contracting.


This is where I can get into a ‘chicken and an egg’ debate regarding influencing factors.  Did the expansion of housing developments cause an increase in the virtual social community or does the virtual social community help people to deal with the expansion of housing developments.  My family and I have spent the last 15 years moving around the eastern half of the country for work and so we have great experience with the psychology of moving from one and joining another physical community.  Our experience provides an example of extreme cocooning; when we move we are focused on the comforts of the home initially while exploring and making new friends.  This is where the virtual community becomes important as a means to retain your friends and contacts to share experiences and contacts in new areas.

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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 next opportunity to extend the collaboration model will require the retailers to make an effort to develop a one-on-one relationship directly with the consumer.  I am suggesting this not because of any ability to predict future but because I see the consumers seeking out this relationship.  As I have previously discussed, human nature is to congregate and relate in a society of similar interests and needs and consumers have extended this tendency to humanize the technology and this is increasing and expanding with mobile technology.  In order for retailers to survive in this environment they must join these social networks as a contributing member. 


What do I mean when I say join the social communities as a contributing member?  The simple answer; a contributing member both provides value to the community and the community also provides value to the members.  This can be defined to mean many different things based on each of the members and then also based on the social community as a whole.  In order to start the discussion and keep things simple, the starting value is to provide guidance and support.  From the consumer perspective this can come in the form of suggestions for purchases, movies, vacations and also research.  From the retailer perspective this can come in the form of sales, recommendations to new customers, advice and support to consumers regarding product questions and also feedback on existing products and suggestions for new products or product revisions.


The difficulty that I see in this model is the retail participation as a member of the community. What I mean by this is that a member of the community provides support to the community and in the case of the retailer this might mean suggesting a competitor when the circumstances dictate for the consumer and the community.  Remember we are discussing a consumer community and this means that any retailer that is participating should focus on the needs of the consumers in the community.  As an example, when I shop on Amazon I am always provided additional outlets to purchase the same product from suppliers other than Amazon, whether used or new.  This is the type of behavior to which I refer when I say the focus should be on the needs of the consumer.


The benefit to the retailer member of the consumer community is that the retailer has developed a relationship with the consumers in the community and this relationship provides a sense of trust from the consumers.  This relationship and trust from the consumer will many times turn the sale to that retailer in the community.  The retailer must take into account the total value of the relationship with the consumer community and this total value provides compensation in ways that a single minded focus will never provide.  One simple fact is that the lifetime sales to a single customer will far outway any loss on a single sale.  This does not mean that you should give product away though and the consumer will understand this in their dealings also.  

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?

Tom Brouillette

Mobile Collaboration

Posted by Tom Brouillette Feb 8, 2015

Mobile technology is changing both consumer collaboration capabilities and practices along with consumer shopping practices.  These changes progress in a discontinuous manner, in other words the changes start and stop, in a rapidly increasing cycle that is driven by many factors related to changing technology capabilities, changing mobile apps availability and changes in wireless network capabilities.  These changes are also driven by another unpredictable factor; peoples’ imagination and their curiosity.  This imagination and curiosity are the factors that will drive the retail industry crazy with trying to guess and keep up with the changes.


Consumers are joining groups, connecting to new acquaintances, using new apps almost on a daily basis and this is expanding and strengthening their collaboration web in ways that were not imagined previously.  The young are leading these changes with the curiosity and experimentation that develops and then socializes the capabilities to expand across the consumer network.  These new capabilities are also encouraging and supporting both new shopping methods and new outlets for shopping.  Take eBay or Overstock as examples of these types of changes in the past.  These endeavors provided an outlet for individuals and companies to sell the goods they no longer needed or wanted.  Entrepreneurs then expanded these concepts through curiosity and imagination into successful retail outlets.


It is easy to look in the past and identify the reason that concepts took off and became successful.  However predicting which concepts will be successful in the future is much more difficult, in fact look at how difficult it is to predict which concepts that are popular today will remain popular.  In order to remain successful in this environment businesses must first seek and identify trends early and then have the capability to react to these trends quickly.  A part of the reaction must include both embracing new trends and dropping practices as they are dropped by the consumer.


This consumer collaboration web is difficult to predict and it is constantly being driven by new technology capabilities that are marketed to consumers by technology retailers.  This makes for interesting developments when one sector of the retail market is driving capabilities impacting other retail market sectors.  The one unknown factor in this equation is the consumer imagination and curiosity. 


These factors and the quickening of change has all but destroyed the concept of ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’.  Consumers are driving the market now no matter what businesses may believe.  The market now is chasing these changes and must embrace a strategy that supports the ability to change with the changes driven by the consumer collaboration web.  The continuous improvement and continuous investment strategy is the best method to meet these 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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?

Tom Brouillette

Collaboration Web

Posted by Tom Brouillette Feb 7, 2015

Consumers are leading the way in collaboration through social networks in a manner that allows growth and resilience through a web type structure.  Due to these events, I think its time to change the reference to a social web to better describe both the method and the structure of collaboration.  This web structure supports the robust consumer practices interacting both with friends, businesses and information gathering.  The young are leading these practices through imaginative and experimental use of technology and communication tools and software. 


The young have embraced the practice of ‘why not’ that I have previously discussed.  What I mean by this ‘why not’ practice is when a new challenge or question arises, ‘why not’ views a previously untried method and says ‘why not’ try it.  This is leading to new methods to communicate and collaborate with a frequency that is sometimes breathtaking.  Think about this as an example; just when you get comfortable with texting to communicate with your children you find out that they have been using Snapchat with their friends for months and ‘nobody texts anymore’!  The interesting point about this particular example is that Snapchat is one of the most secure methods of communication because the message is deleted after it is read by the recipient. 


The work web perfectly describes the utilization methods and connectivity of these tools and also the communication practices.  The variety of tools provide a failsafe method of communication to others through the web  linkages supported by the Internet.  This self-healing technology allows and supports the communication methods that best support the communication requirements.  Simple text communication for quick messages to video communication for complicated discussions and collaboration.  How many times have you been proud of yourself for embracing a ‘new’ technology only to find from your kids that they have moved on to something else?


Its no wonder that business has difficulty keeping up with these advances.  Business must first try to keep up with the new practices and then they are saddled with a technology framework that may not be conducive to the new technology.  We have entered a time when I do not think it possible for business to stay ahead of these developments and as a result business must embrace flexibility.  This flexibility is best supported through a strategy of continuous improvement supported by continuous investment. 


It is impossible to determine where the technology will lead and especially how the technology will be used and integrated into the consumers’ collaborative web.  The changes are driven in an increasingly rapid cycle and supported and encouraged by both new mobile technology and new means to use this technology via apps.  Because of these changing practices The only option available for business is to react to the changes as rapidly as possible.  The best method to support the required speed of reaction is to embrace a strategy of continuous improvements supported by a strategy of continuous investment.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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

Consumers have embraced the developments and improvements in mobile technology in a more robust and faster cycle.  This is due to the acceptance and even reliance on technology in our day-to-day lives that has grown over the last twenty years.  One of the reasons for this is the pervasive availability and speed of wireless Internet service.  The availability of the Internet has turned these tools into utilities that we go to on an ever increasing basis for information at our fingertips.  Another aspect of these tools and technology is the growth of social networks that people have embraced to extend their reach and their interaction with others. 


These social networks have brought together a level of collaboration that is breathtaking in the expanse and the level of sharing and collaboration.  Social networks and collaboration add another layer to the web of information available through the Internet and these technologies.  These interacting webs support the ability to obtain information in a manner, speed and expanse that was unheard of thirty years ago.  Looked at from this perspective it is not surprising at all that consumers are utilizing these webs of collaboration to develop and enhance new shopping habits.  The beauty of this web construction is that if one strand of the web snaps, or cannot provide pertinent information there are a hundred other strands that may be able to provide the information.


This framework of consumer collaboration put retailers in quite a predicament; they can develop a fortress mentality to try to fight off the consumer collaboration, or they can embrace and support the collaboration.  There is another very important contributing factor influencing these reactions, the investment that may be required to participate.  This cost can be overwhelming and requires a paradigm shift to address.  This requires that retailers adopt an agile, or continuous investment, method to support the ever changing capability requirements. 


This continuous investment model supports the retailers requirement to change quickly to support new requirements without throwing discarding earlier investments.  This model allows the retailer to experiment by adding new components and swapping out components that no longer support the consumer shopping habits or the business requirements.  In fact this continuous investment model when coupled with a robust continuous improvement program for both software and business process capabilities will become the key future success factor for the retail industry.  This will also reverberate across the entire supply chain from the raw material supplier to 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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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?

Technology has become a dual driving force in relation to consumers and this force is driving and changing the consumer social practices which in turn is also driving changes into their shopping practices.  I have come to think of it as an infinity loop where technology manufacturers develop and market new technology to consumers and then the consumers use that new technology to simplify their shopping habits with all other retailers.  Mobile technology is currently the key driving force to these changes however this is simply the latest tool in the technology world.


In the initial wave of Internet technologies the desktop computer was the driving factor and the capabilities basically doubled every two years, driving consumers to new purchases to obtain the new technologies.  Next these new capabilities and cost reductions were driven by laptops which also drove consumers to replace the desktop workstations with laptops which allowed them mobility inside and outside their house.  We finally reached the point when the advancements were not so dramatic and wireless capabilities started to lead the capabilities improvements which allowed mobile technology to flourish. 


We are now in the mobile technology wave and by comparison we are seeing the same dramatic advances in mobile technology that we saw previously in the initial wave of Internet technologies.  Unsurprisingly we are also seeing the eager consumer adoption of this technology which is now driving dramatic changes in consumer shopping practices.  In this current wave the combination of technology tools, improvements in wireless availability and bandwidth and the mobility of the tools have come together to drive increasingly dramatic changes in consumer shopping habits.  The key to this current wave is the impact of the mobile software; there’s an app for everything now. 


These new capabilities are in essence pitting one retail sector against another; the success of the technology retail sector is directly impacting the other retail sectors from CPG to apparel to entertainment.  New software mobile apps are now encouraging and supporting these new shopping habits that allows consumers to shop prices and products from all stores while standing in one store.  This is why I compared these practices as an infinity loop. 


Each iteration of this loop now is delivering more power to the consumer and with the new mobile apps the consumer is able to harness this new power to increase their leverage with retailers.  As I have previously discussed retailers have been fighting these improvements in consumer capabilities but they must soon realize that they cannot hope to fight this wave when there is another member of the retail market that is realizing new success and sales increases with every improvement in this new mobile technology.  This is why I have promoted the continuous improvement cycle to allow retailers to react to the changes.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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 advancement and even the direction of collaboration is beginning to be driven now by consumer adoption and more importantly, consumers mashing up the technology in new ways to build virtual communities.  These new capabilities are being driven by the curiosity of the young who have grown up immersed in the technology.  I have said before that business, and especially retailers, should incorporate methods to obtain input from the young and especially teens regarding technology utilization.  The rate of adoption and then dropping technologies and tools is amazing and rather than ignoring this as an example of short attention spans business should recognize it for what it truly is, a trend for the future.


I have discussed many times the importance of a continuous improvement program in supporting business and technology improvements in a manner that allows for consumable change.  When you bring these points together you come to the realization that a continuous improvement strategy must be developed to take into account all aspects of your business.  This should be viewed as a key business survival strategy.  Consumers are being driven into an ever quickening cycle of change by mobile and computer technology by the electronics industry so that industry can maintain sales and grow income.  This has been embraced by the consumer and especially the young consumer and turned into accepted practice.  Add to this the increasing use of cloud technology to support anywhere, anytime, access and the result is a quickening change cycle for business and especially retailers.


It will be necessary for retailers to chase these changes in capabilities, technologies and practices in order to succeed in the future.  The only way to maintain this necessary rate of change is to implement a continuous improvement strategy.  This incorporates the listen, do,evaluate practice that will support a thoughtful change of process and technology in a manner that allows the retailer to maintain currency with consumer practices and capabilities.  Business will no longer be able to engage in a multi-year implementation program, instead they must embrace and implement a multi-year improvement strategy. 


This continuous improvement strategy requires a flexible, component based, framework that supports exchanging and replacement of components to support the discontinuous rate of change driven by the market.  You eat an elephant one bite at a time and you can engage and react to changes in technology and practices one bite at a time.  The continuous improvement strategy embraces and supports these requirements that are sustainable by the business. Because of the rate of change in adopting and then dropping practices retailers can only succeed by incorporating this continuous improvement strategy.

 

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 consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers 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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