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2015

The eCommerce marketplace will be driven to quickening cycles of discontinuous change as the result of the quickening cycles of both consumer technology capabilities and shopping habits, or practices.  Another factor encouraging the cycles of discontinuous change is the social networking and resulting collaboration embraced more and more by consumers.  The human is a social being and has embraced the social networking and collaboration that is supported by technology.  Consumers as humans are quick to embrace social networking and collaboration through technology and they are encouraged more and more by the opportunities offered by third party sites for discounts and sales.


Business and retail business in particular has begun to incorporate social networking as a marketing tool for quite some time now.  However, many of these retailers are still far behind in their utilization of the capabilities.  I believe this is due, in large part, to the technical requirements and legacy technology frameworks utilized by many retailers.  This economic climate requires focus on cost and it can be very tough to justify large investments in technology.  It seems that the recession recovery is strengthening now though so retailers should take this as an opportunity to invest in their future.


The challenge with technology investments from a business perspective is the rate of change.  Frankly, its not unusual for leading edge technology to be replaced in just a few years.  This reality can hamper large investments in technology.  This is why the large technology investments are becoming a ‘legacy’ practice.  I believe the means to address the technology rate of change is through a continuous investment process that focuses on open platforms and component framework to allow tactical replacement of parts to support your strategic objectives.


The next requirement to maintaining a robust and continuously renewing eCommerce Collaboration framework is the utilization of standard tools, or the elimination of proprietary software.  In order to be successful you must come to understand that proprietary technology is not the differentiating factor that will make you successful.  Utilizing standardized and common technology tools will allow you to focus on content delivery, product offerings and delivery and finally engaging the customer. 


You success hinges on the offering and your engagement of the customer and not utilizing leading edge technology.  A focus on continuous investment and renewal of technology along with incorporating standard and open tools will allow you to focus on engaging the customer.  The successful retailers will be the ones that develop the personal relationship that engages their customer.  All the technology and tools should be incorporated to develop that relationship.

 

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?

Retailers must embrace and incorporate the consumer ‘turn and burn’ technology utilization and social networking if they are to remain successful and the most appropriate platform for the retailers is the eCommerce platform.  Unfortunately for retailers, consumers do not develop a strategy for their technology utilization and social networking.  This means that the retailer must embrace a strategy of standards and component based technology in order to provide the flexibility to change as the consumer changes.  In this future it will be the social collaboration tools and practices of the consumers that will be critical for the retailers to embrace in order to be successful.


In the case of developing the eCommerce platform to collaborate with consumers, embrace is a critical term.  The eCommerce platform must support and allow for changes to the methods of consumer communication and encourage the one-on-one response from the consumer to collaborate with the consumer.  This in turn means that the retailer cannot take six months to a year to implement capabilities supporting the changing consumer capabilities and practices.  The retailer must at a minimum keep up with the consumer practices and optimally must continuously implement and push new capabilities to the consumer in a trial manner to gauge the consumer response.  The eCommerce platform must be engaged through an agile continuous improvement strategy to deliver features and capabilities on a short cycle of 4 - 6 weeks to keep it fresh and interesting to the consumers.


In order to maintain success in this environment the retailers’ eCommerce platform must be a destination of choice for activities other than shopping.  It must be a destination where the consumer lingers, shops and interacts with other consumers to develop the social network and the interest to return frequently.  Google and Facebook advertising is successful because people return frequently to share and look for information or guidance.  The retailers’ eCommerce site in the future must provide this same type of capability in order to be successful.  Amazon is doing wonderful things to develop the collaboration with the consumers, from consumer product ratings to pushing consumer questions about products out to consumers who already purchased the product.


Amazon has learned and embraced the collaborative social aspects of the consumer relationship to increase the return and the retention of customers.  Remember, the value of the customer is not one sale, the value of the customer is the lifetime relationship and the repeat sales.  Retailers will not realize the value and the return provided by the lifetime customer if the eCommerce platform lags behind the consumer practices and capabilities.  In addition and most importantly, retailers will not realize the value and the return provided by the lifetime customer if the do not create and encourage the conversation and mutually beneficial relationship with the customer.  This means that the retailer must focus on the happiness of the customer and not making the sale at all costs.

 

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 have discussed ‘turn and burn’ technology and the need for the retail industry to embrace and incorporate a strategy that allows for quick replacement of technology tools and practices.  This is necessary because of consumer tendencies and practices to embrace and utilize new technology and tools in an more frequent manner.  The interesting point here is that it is another retail industry that is driving this consumer practice; the wireless phone service carriers and the mobile phone manufacturers.  Mobile technology is driven by new capabilities and the carriers are driving the sales in order to sell new services. 


Consumers have embraced this ‘turn and burn’ practice and increasing social collaboration that is supported by the new technology.  Consumers had already embraced the social networking capabilities in their personal lives and the new smartphone capabilities have allowed consumers to extend this into every corner of their lives and time of the day.  The results can be seen everywhere you look; people are constantly interacting with their smartphones to text and share updates with their social network.  In addition to this practice of sharing information, people seem more inclined to extend and expand their social network much more through technology than they ever were in person.  Social networking allows and encourages people to connect with others in a manner that is far reaching and based on commonalities of interests or schools or geographic locations or hobbies that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago.  These practices are changing and growing so quickly that 10 years from now they will be unrecognized from the leading trends of today.


Consumers are just beginning to explore and develop new social collaborating techniques made possible by the advances in smartphone technology.  On the other hand, the retail industry is seeing the initial impact of mobile purchases and the forecast increase in mobile purchasing is dramatic.  Social collaboration is also expanding the techniques supporting new consumer shopping practices.  This mashing of consumer shopping and social collaboration is increasing and expanding in a manner that will dramatically impact the retail industry.  The opportunities for collaboration are endless, for instance; networks notification of special sales, like in-person limited time offers, or consumer recommendation of products, or spot check pricing and availability based on location.


The beginnings of these capabilities are just beginning and consumers are putting together capabilities and developing techniques in a manner that will only increase the rate of discontinuous change.  As a result, the retail industry must also embrace a strategy that allows them to take advantage and incorporate new shopping techniques with speed in order to simply maintain their business.  Retailers must now develop the collaborative techniques that will build a mutually beneficial relationship with consumers.  This means that the ‘turn and burn’ method will only increase in velocity going forward.


tbrouill

Consumer Collaboration

Posted by tbrouill Jan 24, 2015

Current technology capabilities and the promise of new uses for this technology along with advancements in technology will drive increased collaboration between consumers.  All of the eCommerce capabilities and the opportunities that I have been proposing also provide an opportunities for retailers to collaborate with consumers taking the relationship to a new level and opening doors to new shopping opportunities.  One thing that I can say for sure is that consumers will explore, develop new and expand current collaboration methods and practices at an increasing pace and retailers must recognize and embrace to succeed in the future.  As the aliens say in the cheap sci-fi movies ‘Resistance is futile!’


There are a number of consumer social networks that support and encourage collaboration among consumers to develop a stronger network.  Groupon is a good example of this type of practice.  Everyone is familiar with the model; the consumer subscribes to the service and special value sales are delivered to their in-box.  When the consumer purchases, they are given the opportunity to promote their purchase on other social sites and if three additional people purchase the same product from their promotion the original consumer receives an additional discount.  Then there are the social sites like Four Square that provide a means to recommend anything from restaurants to retailers to their network of friends.  There are new sites and types of collaboration popping up all the time, they have been expanding as the mobile technology expands and is embraced by the consumer.  There is no reason to think that this type of collaboration network will not expand as the technology improves.


This is where the attitude of the retailers comes into play.  In the past, the retailers have fought consumer shopping practices that they viewed as detrimental to their sales, window shopping is a great example of this behavior.  However the consumers have exerted their own desires over the retailers practices and have continued to expand what may be called network shopping; using their social network to recommend and find the desired product at the best price.  Retailers such as Amazon have embraced the consumer social network aspect of shopping and show continued success as the embrace and expand their consumer collaboration.  Retailers fighting this collaboration will only lose sales and eventually go out of business.


Unfortunately for retailers, consumers now are beginning to exert control over the shopping experience and this will only expand and grow with technology capabilities.  Retailers must in turn revise the way in which they both interact with the consumer and the manner in which they sell to the consumer.  The retailers must be prepared also to ‘turn and burn’ technology because the consumer trends and capabilities are changing in and increasingly discontinuous manner.

 

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?

tbrouill

ECommerce Sales Lead

Posted by tbrouill Jan 20, 2015

Ecommerce provides great opportunities to generate sales leads through word of mouth and direct to consumer marketing.  I am not referring the marketing you perform through Facebook or Twitter or Google+ though because those outlets when utilized for marketing the brand or marketing products are another form of mass marketing.  I am referring to more organic marketing in the form of offers customized for the individual based on purchase and shopping history.  I am also referring to word of mouth marketing from your current customer base that you can utilize as leads to additional sales and specific products to offer these types of customers.  All of this can be achieved from big data analysis.


Remember in a previous discussion I mentioned that big data can provide vast amounts of information collected from eCommerce shopping and eCommerce purchases.  One area that can be improved through the analysis of this information is sales forecasting and planning.  Well another area that can be improved is the sales lead and sales generation customized for specific customers and customer interests.  This is where your customer loyalty programs come into play; the customer loyalty program will provide the customer background to allow grouping and analysis by different groups, including geographic purchasing and shopping data down to the individual customer.  This customer information when included in the sales and shopping information will allow you to focus your sales efforts to the specific customers and geographic regions more effectively.


Next you need to explore the capabilities of focused ads in search engines such as Google and social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  As an example, Google adsense also provides a means to generate sales leads through advertising on blogs and club sites that can be effective means of targeting specific groups of customers.  The combination of analytical data with the focused web site delivery will bring additional sales leads that would not be possible through traditional means. 


Finally don’t forget customer word of mouth marketing which in this case I’m referring to customer product reviews and ratings.  In this area I’m surprised that more retailers haven’t taken the lead from Amazon in requesting and providing customer ratings for everything from the product to the packaging and delivery.  One of the most helpful ‘services’ in this niche is asking encouraging new customers to ask questions about the product.  The question is then distributed to previous purchasers for response.  I think this is ingenious because it builds a community of customers that help each other.    


The traditional means are changing dramatically and will not provide the same sales leads in the near future and for this reason it is important to explore and develop new methods to engage the consumer.  The successful companies in the future will be the companies that recognize the potential and begin to explore new opportunities now.

 

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 eCommerce platform allows an excellent communication platform to be opened between the consumer and the retailer.  With the dramatic increase of smartphone penetration and acceptance in the market by the consumer this channel of communication has increased dramatically in importance.  With the increased and new capabilities that can be achieved with big data technology and methods the retailer has an opportunity to create a customer retention strategy that incorporates the fluid communications capabilities of the eCommerce platform with the big data research and analysis capabilities to bring added value to the individual customer.


The big data technology and analysis capabilities adds a dimension to the customer relationship that cannot be achieved through surveys and focus groups.  To put it bluntly, surveys and focus groups are developed to answer specific questions about specific practices or products and these questions can lead the response to achieve desired outcome.  Where big data allows analysis of the actual activities and response to the products without the filter of the person performing the analysis.  In other words big data allows you to ‘watch’ the customers behavior by analyzing their shopping and purchasing habits.  This is where the eCommerce platform brings the greatest value because the customers clicks and searches and even their movement and sequencing of movements around the pages can be tracked and analyzed. 


Now think about what you can do when you add to this information the location technology available from smartphones and that will allow you to trace customer shopping through the brick and mortar store as well.  All of this information included in your big data structure will allow you to develop a ‘three dimensional’ view of consumer shopping habits across two channels (brick and mortar and eCommerce) at the same time!  The value of this data comes from the collection of all customer shopping habits to understand trends and develop the true consumer feedback. 


When you have these consumer practices information you can then layer on top a consumer communication strategy that describes types and methods of communication.  There are already many location based apps for your smartphone to provide of sales and special membership offers from stores near your location.  Combine this information with frequent shopper information and you can imagine the opportunity for retailers to take advantage of this technology to communicate directly to consumers.  The key to customer retention is developing a personal relationship with the customer. 


The technology available today will only improve and expand into more areas of the consumers’ life and this provides the opportunity for retailers to develop that personal relationship with each customer.  Social web sites have shown us that people embrace the electronic relationships as easily as the in-person relationships and retailers are missing a great opportunity if they don’t rush to develop that personal relationship with each of their customers.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the 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?

tbrouill

ECommerce Flexibility

Posted by tbrouill Jan 15, 2015

A key strength of the eCommerce channel and platform is the flexibility it provides to quickly act and react to changing market conditions and consumer shopping preferences.  This flexibility allows a retailer to quickly change their offerings and methods of both shopping and delivery without high capital investments.  This would seem to be a dream come true to retailers and I would expect retailers to increase their focus on eCommerce channel as the consumer shopping habits and preferences are realized and understood.  This flexibility will allow retailers to quickly react and change in a continuous improvement process. 


The flexibility however must start with a strategy and vision for development and implementation.  Flexibility does not just happen, it must be a key principle objective and design strategy. This means that retailers must aggressively replace technology and applications that do not support a high level of flexibility.  This may be the greatest obstacle to overcome for many retailers and especially the larger retailers.  Many retailers bolted an eCommerce application and technology onto their existing supply chain and ERP to provide the additional channel for sales.  This does not support the omni channel strategy very well and is not a flexible foundation on which to build and deliver the omni channel strategy.


The key to a successful omni channel strategy is an iterative change process, or as I have promoted all along, a continuous improvement process.  Think towards the future and the unknown requirements and design a framework that can essentially provides plug and play functionality capabilities.  Your eCommerce platform provides two essential processes for your future success; the sale process and the consumer communication process.  The essential framework for your future success is a flexible and component based framework.


You should look to utilizing each of your platforms, or outlets to the consumer, for their strength and that means that you must focus on the sale and not the platform.  Embracing a strategy of flexible outlets to the consumer will also drive changes to your organization and culture.  You will need to eliminate the bottlenecks and the silos across organizations with the intent of opening avenues of communication and information.  You must focus on what the consumer is telling you and then you can respond through your flexible outlets, whether retail store or eCommerce.


The pace of change over the last five years has increased dramatically and while I don’t know exactly what the future will bring, I do know that the rate of change will continue to increase. Another thing that I do believe very strongly is that the retailer must stop thinking and organizing into channels (outlets to the customer) and focus solely on the sale.  The consumer is already thinking solely about the purchase and not the method or channel in which they purchase and the retailer must think in the same manner.

 

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?

tbrouill

ECommerce Supply Chain

Posted by tbrouill Jan 13, 2015

The eCommerce supply chain from the raw materials to the end consumers’ table is an area of great change that requires extreme flexibility and collaboration across all partners in the chain in order to meet the consumers’ requirements and succeed.  The supply chain must reflect and support the sales requirements or the entire process is a failure.  In this case, the last mile truly is the critical chain in the link.  The level of flexibility also requires a high level of collaboration in order to meet the consumer requirements.  This collaboration truly will require a give and take across partners in order to succeed as a whole.


I want to highlight in this discussion that I refer to meeting the consumers’ requirements rather than the consumers’ needs.  This is because the basic needs of the consumer can be met by delivering the product in a timely manner and in usable condition.  This however will never succeed in the market because the consumer requires the product to be delivered at their desired time and date to meet their schedule.  The consumer also requires notification of the delivery schedule to allow them to plan for arrival.  These are minimum requirements only however and will not stand for long in the discontinuous change of the omni channel marketplace.


The eCommerce supply chain will also be a consumer of big data analytics from the raw materials to the end consumers’ table.  Big data demand planning and forecasting analytics will improve the manufacturing process to support filling product orders.  Big data sales and delivery analytics will support the development of the supply chain network to deliver the products to staging facilities across the entire market to support fulfillment and delivery of product orders.  Big data returns, or reverse logistics analytics will support the development of the reverse logistics support strategy along with the forecast and planning required to reintroduce the products to the inventory to sell again in addition to the analytics to define the impact on the manufacturing process.


I have only scratched the surface of each of these topics in this discussion to provide an overview of the complexity of the challenge.  This also highlights the requirement of flexibility and collaboration across the entire supply chain the meet the requirements of the consumer.  This also highlights the need to focus on the consumer requirements rather than the consumer needs.  It is important in this changing retail environment to analyze to understand the consumers’ desires and requirements to drive the supply chain capabilities.  I think that it is too easy for the supply chain to produce a solution that fits into their existing capabilities rather than delivering what the consumer truly desires. As competition increases and the number of players continues to decline the only attitude that will succeed is the razor focus on 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?

tbrouill

ECommerce Manufacturing

Posted by tbrouill Jan 11, 2015

The big data collected from consumer eCommerce shopping will provide valuable feedback to the retailers who in turn will be able to use this information to improve their product lifecycle and manufacturing.  This is important to both the retail and manufacturing because it improves the raw material utilization and it also reduces the overstock inventory at the end of a product lifecycle.  One of the greatest challenges of retailers is inventory management and replenishment and this is where big data can have the greatest impact in not only how much to manufacture but also a greater ability to focus the products for which the consumer is truly searching and not just the products for which the consumers settle.


The big data analysis can be much more valuable than information gleaned from surveys or even focus groups because the information collected from actual consumer shopping is honest in the respect that it is not influenced by the retailer’s assumptions.  Another reason for the value of big data analysis is that the information is provided continuously on a near real time basis.  This continuous update process allows for a continuous refinement of the analysis that can be utilized to refine the forecast and planning. 


This continuous analysis refinement supports an ability to adjust as trends and changes in the shopping occur.  This is important so that a more accurate view of the demand and sales can be developed throughout the sales cycle.  Each offering has a life cycle where the sales begin to grow, they then level off and at the end of the sales cycle they decline.  This sales life cycle is in addition to the product life cycle, in other words, each product will be offered in a series of sales cycles.  These complimentary life cycles are found in fashion products along with home goods, appliances and even hardware such as tools. 


Retail and manufacturing have always collected and analyzed demand planning and forecasting information to develop the product and sales lifecycles.  Big data now provides the ability and the tools to expand the information collected for analysis and then to develop the complicated algorithms required to perform the demand planning and forecasting analysis on these large amounts of data.  While demand planning and forecasting has been around and been improved along the way for a long time, the opportunities presented by the huge amounts of data that big data practices are able to effectively analyze will bring new knowledge to the process.  The value that big data brings to the table in the manufacturing practices and life cycle is this new knowledge regarding consumer shopping habits and the continuous accuracy of sales trends revisions.

 

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?

tbrouill

ECommerce Big Data

Posted by tbrouill Jan 10, 2015

ECommerce technology and platforms can provide the means to collect a vast amount of data that can be utilized in analyzing all areas of the business environment and the entire supply chain from the materials to the end consumer.  This data and resulting analyses can, and will, change the retail market in ways that are just beginning to be imagined.  Think of the changes to the retail shopping experience driven by Amazon to date and then think about the technology advancements that have been introduced since Amazon came on the market and you will begin to understand the potential opportunities that will be realized through the big data analyses of material collected through the eCommerce channel.  Now with the rise and expansion of Alibaba in the eCommerce market these changes will only increase and expand in the use and importance of big data.


There are some key areas of the eCommerce experience that are especially impactful of big data practices such as the customer shopping practices, the customer purchase practices, and the customer collaboration practices.  These analyses require an immense amount of data in order to learn the online shopping habits and the types of products that interest the consumer.  This information is the most valuable information about consumer shopping habits and desires because it is based on the actual shopping activities of the consumer.  This information is valuable because of the honest insights into the consumer shopping that cannot be attained through focus groups or surveys. 


On the other side of the customer equation and usage data you have the supply chain usage data that can then be used to analyze and support the manufacturing of products through the delivery to the end consumer.  The shopping data and analyses can be incorporated into the sales and forecasting data to refine the forecasts and replenishment orders. In addition, the consumer shopping and especially product search results are invaluable to developing new products and even service offerings.  This information collected early in the product life cycle support more accurate product development life cycles which in turn can more accurately forecast usage at the end of the life cycle which will reduce the overstock inventory.


These big data practices will change the relationship between all partners in the shopping experience and even turn the retail value equation upside down. The consumer will gain the greatest value from the online shopping experience and will change the consumer use of the brick and mortar outlet to potentially focus more on the social aspects of shopping.  By the same token, the new information collected from eCommerce big data will also improve the in person shopping experience in the brick and mortar outlets with a more focused product selection and more products that consumers want.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

ECommerce Strength

Posted by tbrouill Jan 8, 2015

The eCommerce platform can display its strength if viewed and utilized as a collaboration and communication platform with the consumer.  Most retailers today view the eCommerce platform as a sales channel and are focused on drawing consumers to purchase from their eCommerce ‘store’.  This eCommerce store is provided simply as a means to the consumer to shop and purchase.  The best eCommerce retailers though have realized that this channel provides a collaboration and communication platform between the retailer and the consumer.  This capability is the key strength to the platform and when retailers embrace this capability the will increase the retention of their customers which in turn will also increase the sales and the value of the platform.


The eCommerce platform displays a maturity level pattern just like other types of practices and processes from project management to business process management.  This is because eCommerce is another business process that matures as the capabilities grow. Therefore, as the maturity level of the the eCommerce platform increases the business value of the platform also increases.  This is where the collaboration and communication capabilities, or opportunities, with the consumer comes into play.  The platform exhibits a great deal of strength in supporting these capabilities and this should be encouraged as a by-product of the sales by the retailer.  For example, Amazon has developed a community with their eCommerce platform that encourages and supports communications and collaboration with the consumer through their product evaluation capabilities and one of the strongest capabilities that is part of their collaboration strategy is the ability for a consumer to ask a question about a product to all of the customers that purchased the product. 


While you will never get 100% participation in these types of programs the value comes with patience to allow the participation to grow in an organic ‘pay it forward’ manner.  These programs provide a value to the consumer by allowing them to ask specific questions for information that is not provided in product descriptions and they provide a value to the retailer by provide a vast range of information that can be analyzed to make both the platform and the product selection better.  This type of information and resulting business value will never be gained through the brick and mortar outlet because there is never enough clerks to collect the information and more importantly the technology is not available to the clerks in most stores to collect and maintain this information. 


The strength of the platform comes from the flexibility and ease of developing these types of consumer collaboration capabilities.  This is where imagination and collaboration with consumers will help to new capabilities and functions that will bring value to the consumer.  The second area of strength comes from the data that can be collected for future analysis.  Big Data capabilities will support analysis of immense amounts of data that can be collected from the eCommerce platform activities and consumer interaction to help to improve the consumer shopping experience.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

ECommerce Direction

Posted by tbrouill Jan 7, 2015

As I have previously mentioned, the consumers’ purchasing decision is based on the same information such as cost, style, fit and quality without regard of how that information was collected.  The method in which the consumers collect this decision making information has been changing based on the consumers’ method of collection.  The consumers’ method of collecting this information is being driven by both the consumers’ time and availability to collect, of shop, for the information and the technology the consumer employs.  You will notice that no where in this algorithm of shopping does the retailers’ definitions of market channels come into play.  The consumer is shopping to purchase the product and using any means available to perform the shopping.


Again, as I have previously discussed retailers seem to have overlooked this aspect of the consumer shopping experience and more importantly consumer shopping objectives.  In order to continue to be successful the retailer must stop looking at the consumer market and practices from their own perspective and start looking at it from the shopping and purchase perspective of the consumer.  The retailers must evaluate their own shopping experience to identify hurdles and difficulties the consumer may encounter in completing their purchase in order to eliminate the difficulties.  This will be difficult because the current retail paradigm has been entrenched for many years.


This shift in practices is essentially about control of the shopping experience.  I see the consumer as flexing their abilities to gain control of their own shopping experience and utilize a shopping method that works for their own needs and requirements.  You can see where this is in conflict with the retailers paradigm where the retailer controls the shopping experience.  Currently the retailer is in control of the experience from the products that are offered for purchase to the store hours the purchases can be made, to the location of the store, to the ease of making the purchase.  The eCommerce experience is only slightly better were the shopping and purchase hours are not limited, but the consumer in many ways is limited by the delivery methods and the exchange capabilities have a huge impact on the consumers’ shopping experience.


The consumer is currently in conflict with the retailer over the control of their shopping experience and the retailer is combating this wrestling of control by defining specific market channels for the purchase.  There are definitely some retailers that understand the consumer shopping methods are changing and these retailers are forming the future landscape of shopping based on the consumer desires where a channel is unimportant and the purchase is the focus.  These leaders will drive the direction and along the way force the retail market to shift the paradigm of control of the experience from the retailer to the consumer. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

tbrouill

ECommerce Impacts

Posted by tbrouill Jan 4, 2015

ECommerce practices and capabilities can be utilized by omni channel retailers to identify and confirm trends and product strategies.  The successful omni channel retailers should utilize the eCommerce channel as a means to connect and collaboration with the consumer.  This channel provides a remarkable ability to connect to customers in ways that support and even help to guide and shape the changing consumer shopping habits.  If you are solely focused on the commercial sales aspect of the eCommerce channel you are missing out on opportunities to explore and support your customers desires.


I see the eCommerce channel as progressing through a series of revisions and capabilities that have been impacted and influenced by technology, just the same as the other retail channels.  These impacts and resulting revisions have been driven by the technical capabilities of the consumer.  The technical capabilities of the consumer have allowed them to change the manner in which they interact and spend their money with the retailers. 


The definition of the retail market channels has been introduced by the consumer retail industry as a means to segregate the purchase methods.  The definition of the market channel has not been evaluated or reviewed by the retail industry with the consumers they are serving.  The consumers, in fact, simply shop and purchase products, they do not take into account the industry defined channels.  To the consumer the purchase is the end result of shopping and shopping can be performed using multiple methods across devices.  The device, or the channel, do not influence the consumer purchasing decision.  The consumers’ purchasing decision is based on the same information without regard of how that information was collected.


Many retailers seem to have overlooked this aspect of the consumer shopping experience and more importantly consumer shopping objectives.  I do not think this is unusual because the average retailer, and especially the large multi channel retailers, have always viewed the consumer as accepting the offering of the retailer, whether it is the product or the method of purchase or even the method of payment.   You see the results of this viewpoint is displayed by the retailers fighting the consumer practice to electronically window shop.  These retailers do not understand yet that their shopping paradigm has already been changed by the consumer.  In this example the consumer in their viewpoint is simply shopping and using the technology available to support their shopping.


The interesting point in this discussion is that while the retailers may have originally believed that they were in control of the channel capabilities the reality of the consumer shopping process has and still is driven by the consumer utilization of the channel.  The retailers have been focused on the manner in which they define the process and they need to shift to focus on the manner in which the consumer shops.  The process to be supported is the consumer shopping process and not the retailer sales process.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

The second key area of consumer collaboration is the consumer collaboration with the retailer to provide feedback on products and services. This area of collaboration is very important to the success of the retailer and their entire supply chain through the understanding and coordination of the feedback from the consumer.  There are two key areas of collaboration, or feedback loop, between the consumer and the retailer; the first is the feedback loop from the consumer represented by customer surveys and the second is feedback collected through sales and purchasing history as feedback.


The sales and purchasing history feedback has been collected and utilized for many years to forecast sales and replenishment requirements.  The recent changes and improvements to this practice involve the big data aspect of data collection and analysis.  Big data practices bring new capabilities and opportunities for analysis and confirmation of results for sales and returns that can help the retailer understand sales trends and then use this information to plan for not only the replenishment of existing products but also to plan for and develop new products.  Big data brings the opportunity to collect massive amounts of data and then analyze results and query data to understand and support trends.  This information and the resulting analysis is critical to the success of retailer collaboration with the consumer.  The big data analysis provides the capabilities to analyze the actual practices and results of actions taken by the retailer to increase sales and profits.  This type of analysis is only limited by the imagination of the analyst.


The second area of retailer to consumer collaboration is related to feedback on products and services through surveys.  Surveys are a great method to engage the consumer, however the results of the survey can be colored base on the questions in the survey.  In other words, the survey results can be greatly influenced by the development of the questions and the possible responses to the questions.  Another type of survey is the focus group where a group of consumers is selected to provide in person feedback for products and services.  Generally speaking I think of the written survey as a means to collect information based on the current actual products and services, where the focus group is more focused on refinement of potential products and services.  The survey method of collaboration is great for engaging the customer, however the results must also be analyzed and confirmed against actual sales data and results. 


The above types of consumer to retailer collaboration are great tools that help in analysis of trends in both sales and products.  The retailer must utilize both of these tools in order to experiment and confirm assumptions and hypotheses.  Separate, each of these tools provide a piece of the puzzle and in order to achieve an accurate depiction and confirm strategy the retailer must utilize both of these tools.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?

From the consumer perspective omni channel shopping provides three opportunities for collaboration; collaboration with other consumers to to search for and coordinating shopping and purchases, collaboration with the retailer to provide feedback on products and services, collaboration with third party entities and services in the consumers’ search for and coordination of shopping and purchases.  The collaboration with other consumers and the collaboration with third party entities are really tied together in one type of collaboration.  The collaboration with the retailer then is a separate and distinct opportunity. 


I will start with collaboration with other consumers and third parties to search for and coordinate shopping and purchases.  This is probably the most well formed collaboration method and capabilities to date and provide the greatest collaboration value.  These services are currently taking advantage of mobile technology to provide location based shopping suggestions and purchase offers to any consumer that subscribes to the service.  In addition to the location based suggestions and offers, some of these services also provide a means to store frequent shopper information such as frequent shopper number and even the card bar code for use in the checkout process.


I am currently using the ‘RetailMeNot’ app for location based shopping suggestions and purchase offers.  This service saved me well over $100 dollars in my holiday shopping and returns over the last three of four weeks.  There are many similar services that you can find in the app store and my advice is to try out different services.  In my experience it is important to try these services in your shopping because you can’t truly determine the value until in a real life situation such as searching for a specific product or promotional deals. 


Another great app I’ve found for searching and comparison shopping for a specific item is the Cam Scanner app.  This app will allow you to scan a barcode on an item and the service will provide a list of outlets where the product is sold and will even provide pricing for the product. I found this app by accident so again I suggest searching the app store for a product and trying in real life situations. 


These apps combined with the smartphone capabilities and services provide a means to quickly price shop and then use purchase offers, coupons and discounts based on specific stores and even locations.  These services and apps provide a great value to the consumers and do not depend on the retailer to deliver this value.  These types of apps and services also have a great growth potential because of the value that consumers can realize.  Consumers are a fickle group that are just beginning to stretch and utilize these services.  These services will grow and expand as the consumer acceptance and utilization grows.  These types of services also provide a great opportunity for retailers to embrace to expand their frequent shopper programs.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

What types of cross channel services and offerings would you like to see to enhance your shopping experience?  Retailers are focused on maintaining sales volumes through reductions in pricing rather than expansion of sales, or even maintaining sales through creative utilization of eCommerce services. Did you shop over the Gray Thursday / Black Friday period?  What was your experience in stores and malls?