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2015


The consumer collaboration community implementation and maintenance process and procedures provide an excellent model and challenge for a continuous improvement support model.  The consumer community requires flexibility and creativity to provide the type of community that will attract and then retain consumers.  The model that supports this and ensures engagement of the community members is the continuous improvement model.  It will be important for the success and ability to attain and maintain participation, retention and value for all members of this community that the community continuously improve to grow. 


This continuous improvement program will require the active participation of both the consumer and the retail team responsible for supporting and growing the community.  The management and coordination of the improvements will fall on the retailer community management and will require knowledge and coordination of the activities across the consumer community, the extended supply chain and the sales channels.  This continuous improvement require program management across multiple projects, programs and platforms to ensure that the objectives are not overlooked.  This is obviously no small task and will require the support and participation of all supporting platforms to effectively coordinate.  There are many stakeholders for this cross organization program and the coordination requires a strong focus on communication and coordination of the objectives. 


The participation from the consumer community coordination as it relates to the other platforms and functions will focus on the types of data that is and can be collected from the site membership.  The external focus of this community is the consumer participation and the consumer member objectives, while the internal focus of this community is the services required to support the membership demands and the data that can be collected for big data analysis by the internal platforms such as the sales channel and the extended supply chain.  The external services and ease of functionality provide the incentive for consumers to participate and the data collected provides the incentive for the internal partners and platforms to participate.


As with most other offerings and platforms the level of simplicity experienced by the participants of the covers a level surprising level of complexity and these services and continuous improvement program is no different.  The number of platforms and the different participants make this a very complex program that will require a high level of coordination.  If you do not provide the coordination and focus required to manage the cross platform initiatives you will not achieve the benefits.  Then, of course, if you do not achieve the benefits you will lose the support of leadership and it will only be a short time until the program collapses.  This will be a terrible shame because the value that can be achieved from the successful coordination is immense.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


There will be many challenges to face while developing the consumer collaboration community and then even more challenges integrating the community and collected data with the extended supply chain collaborative network as a strategic feed.  As with any new strategic objective the challenges must be met with patience and perseverance  in order to maintain the communities and then achieve the potential value.  This is no small feat to overcome, there are no cookbook implementation for either community to work from and each requires patience and creativity to achieve results. 


The consumer collaborative network will provide the greatest challenge because it requires commitment from leadership to develop the community into one that will engage the consumer and provide the return value to the retailer.  This type of collaborative network has not been achieved especially in the manner that is required to achieve sustaining results.  There are many retailer services that support pieces of the puzzle and then there are many social networks and services that provide other pieces to the puzzle.  The challenge comes from putting all of the pieces together into a forum that is robust and flexible to support growth and change based on feedback and direction from the consumer community members.  This requires commitment from leadership because it will involve a great deal of trial and error and potentially redesign of the framework to support the direction.  As a result of these challenges, I think it is important to build the initial versions on a cloud framework utilizing free tools, services and even infrastructure.  This reduces the initial investment, other than time of course, in developing the community so there is a cushion for failure.  The strategy to develop the community should be to ‘fail forward’.


The next big challenge is the utilization of data collected from the consumer network to provide real information and value to the extended supply chain network.  This is an especially difficult challenge because you must identify data from many different sources and reference points to bring together in a manner and method that provide information to the members of your supply chain network.  This will require a creative, true trial and error method to experiment with data and questions.  This is the big data challenge that will be most difficult because the question begins related to one aspect of the business and then the information must somehow be enhanced by the various different data points available from the consumer community.  For example, the retailer identifies a drop in sales for a dress and begins by evaluating trends in sales of similar products.  At the same time retailer can begin to mine the data from the consumer community relating community activity to both the specific dress and then the dress line as a whole.  This is where creative analysis comes into play because you must search and analyze ‘like’ types of data and put together to come to suggestions and reasons for the results. 


The keys to success in starting this are the same really as any other endeavor; patience and creativity.  The trick here is to extend these two keys as far and as long as possible.  This is definitely the long game in a short game environment.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


Your supply chain can gain a great deal of value by integrating data collected from the collaborative consumer community.  This value can be gained in product quality evaluations, the product life cycle (both developing new products and also achieving product longevity), both purchase and reverse logistics services to name just a few.  This consumer community should be looked at as a key strategic tool for retailers to collect real time and honest consumer data for analysis of trends and consumer shopping patterns.  I believe that the days of traditional consumer surveys and focus groups are numbered and will be replaced by the tools and consumer interaction supported through the consumer community. 


The value to the retailer is truly a by-product of the interaction and services offered through the collaborative community.  This consumer interaction in the community along with the services supported by the community should first be focused on the needs and requests of the consumers, then second the data collected from this interaction will be available for data mining by the retailer and the extended supply chain.  It is the classic networking adage - ‘you must first make a deposit before you make a withdrawal’.  In this case the deposit is first providing the community for consumers to gather and share their experience and questions, then second the services offered by the retailer to enhance that experience.  The withdrawal of course is the data collected from the interactions in the community for analysis.


This framework will not only increase the accuracy of the retailer’s analysis, it will also speed the analysis itself.  Think about the benefit of this data store of consumer interactions, when you identify a potential product or service you will simply need to analyze the data at hand, revising and adding to the data as questions are answered and new questions identified.  In the current model, the retailer would first identify the question(s), then develop a survey to test results, revising the survey to improve the ‘accuracy’ of responses, then potentially develop a focus group to further test and refine the results.  Utilizing the data collected from the consumer community will allow the retailer to determine the results of their questions in all likelihood before the first consumer survey could be developed.


The marriage of data from one end (raw materials and manufacturing) of the extended supply chain to the other (the end consumer) will provide a treasure of information to support the all partners within this network, up to and including the consumer because of the improvements in products and services that their feedback will promote.  Companies are realizing the value that can be derived from data and the need for data simply grows as the data is turned into information.  Companies such as Google and Amazon are been early adopters and have realized the benefits of this strategy.  They have collected the consumer information though from their interaction (sales and searches for instance) the next step in this strategy though must be the active engagement of the consumer in a community. This active engagement will allow for sharing more data and refining the facts, the community will provide a means for companies to eventually develop a conversation with their customers and this is where the next level of value will be achieved.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


The consumer collaborative community will enable great innovation breakthroughs to the extended supply chain network by providing a means to collect and analyze direct feedback from consumers.  The innovation opportunities and resulting value propositions will grow as time progresses and data is collected.  It will be difficult to pinpoint the innovation when starting because quite frankly you will have no idea where the data will take you and what information will be gleaned from this data.  I can however say that the potential for innovation in the extended supply chain will be dramatic if the network accepts the data for the analysis and quantification of information.  In other words, the innovation and value that will be derived from the data provided by the consumer collaborative community will be limited by the imagination.


I base this proposition on the value and the range of the data that would be provided by a robust collaborative community.  This proposition is also based on the requirement of the long term support and nurturing of the consumer collaborative community.  This requires a culture change to understand and accept that an investment may return only indirect benefits derived through the investigation of data to develop or quantify actionable results.  In order to encourage the support of the consumer collaborative community the retailer must realize and embrace the fact that direct consumer surveys and focus groups are providing less and less value because consumers are less and less inclined to participate.  In addition to the reduced participation, retailers must also realize the difficulty in determining the correct questions for surveys and focus groups. 


Finally, retailers must accept the fact that surveys and focus groups have a strong tendency to provide false results because of the manner in which the consumer is encouraged to participate.  By this I mean that consumers are encouraged to respond to a survey in the most positive manner producing false results and potentially reducing the participation and more importantly impacting the honesty of the results.  As an example, how many times have you been given a receipt after a purchase and been requested by the associate to respond to the survey will ‘all fives’?  Most people respond to the request, if they respond to the request at all by providing the response of ‘all fives’.   This results in the retailer making potentially false assumptions.


This is where the consumer community provides value by providing an environment that encourages responses to other consumers questions and providing product reviews anonymously and without coercion.  The key to value is the phrase ‘without coercion’, it is the honest response that results from the interaction between consumers that will bring the value.  It is only a matter of time before retailers realize that surveys and focus groups do not provide the value for the expense and turn to engaging the consumer in conversations through a collaboration community.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


The supply chain may reap the greatest long term benefits from the collaborative consumer community because of the value of the information that will be collected directly from consumers participating in the community.  This feedback loop directly from the consumer as a result of their participation in the collaborative community brings great value because the information is provided as a result of consumer interaction to products and other consumers.  This is important because it provides a more accurate result than any survey or focus group could provide.  The survey and focus group are developed to test assumptions where the knowledge collected from the collaborative community is derived from customer activities and interactions in their community participation.


This value will build slowly from the beginning interactions and will eventually pick up speed as the participation grows to require a great deal of capacity to support big data analysis.  From the collaborative community and supply chain network perspective though the critical first step is building a flexible framework that can expand and extend based on the changing requirements.  It is not necessary to start with the capacity to support the end results and this growth process allows the framework to be validated and revised to support the changes in growth.  In other words, it is perfectly acceptable and a good practice to start the community with a utilizing a low cost model based on low cost or free cloud technology and services and then grow this structure and framework to support increasingly robust requirements and capabilities as the community and participation grows.


It is important to focus the community participation first and foremost and the resulting data collected will provide the business value as a result of the participation.  The key benefit of this resulting data is that it is the result of the participation and direction of the community and provides a consumer viewpoint and perspective that cannot be produced through any survey or focus group.  The value and direction derived from this data will grow as the community participation grows and this value is only limited by the imagination and types of analysis performed by you and your supply chain network partners.  The participation is the key to the value of the data and this is the reason for investing the time and effort to start the community with a focus on the consumer.  This focus on the consumer should encourage the consumer to manage the community in a direction that brings value to the consumer, this consumer guieded management of community is what will bring the greatest value from the data. 


The information that you will derive from the community consumer participation will eliminate the need for surveys and focus groups.  The data will provide you with the unbiased opinions and suggestions that will only be limited by your imagination.  This data will allow you immediately test assumptions and develop data based decisions to for improvements in your product and services offerings across your extended supply chain.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


The retail supply chain will gain major benefits from the collaboration community that provides consumers a virtual community to collect and participate in activities and services related to shopping and product usage.  It truly is a connected world that we live in and the consumer collaboration community is a great example of this connectivity.  A great deal, if not all, of the activities and interactions between consumers and the retailer host should also be viewed from the supply chain network perspective as well as the consumer sales perspective. Consumers are searching for quality products and ways in which to use these products and the retail supply chain’s goals and objectives is to produce quality products that the consumer is drawn to purchase.


We have been connecting the supply chain in the retail market from the materials and manufacturing through to the delivery to the consumer for quite some time now.  This supply chain network provides the ability to track and manage the products and deliveries through from the beginning to the the end consumer.  There are many opportunities for suppliers, manufacturers and the retailers to connect, collaborate and partner in a manner that reduces the friction and the costs through the network.  This connected network provides the opportunities and the capabilities for the partners to connect directly and collaborate to improve the throughput and therefore the cost, inventory availability and delivery schedules based on real time events.  This is very important due to the elongated supply cycle when you include the import manufacturing and delivery schedules.  This is the strength of the connected extended supply chain network; it support the early communications of schedules and issues to efficiently manage the supply chain.  This network also supports fail over capabilities for supply and delivery to reduce the impact of disruption.


The consumer collaboration community should then be connected to this extended supply chain to provide a direct input funnel of response and feedback from the consumer to the extended supply chain.  Retailers have been striving for a method to obtain consumer feedback for ever and along the way have tried various scenarios from focus groups to surveys and they all have provided some level of limited information that has provided value but not the type of information that can really drive product improvements.  The collaborative consumer community can provide the method to really collect direct valuable feedback on products and services that is the result of honest consumer interaction rather than surveys.  The challenge now is for the retailer to take advantage of the opportunity.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


The collaboration community will have a wide range of impacts on both the retail host business and the entire supply chain as a result of the sales benefits from retaining consumers on the site, encouraging the return of more customers to the site on a regular basis and the feedback loop created by the services and product reviews.  The increased sales resulting from consumer retention and encouragement to return to the site will positively impact the product and supplies demands from the supply chain.  It is the feedback loop generated from the services and review functions in the community that will have the greatest potential for long term impact on the supply chain.


This impact will be realized from the beginning of the supply chain from the product life cycle and then from the end of the supply chain and especially the inventory management and control to better manage the inventory and product development from the beginning to the end.  The near real time feedback from the collaboration community provides the direct consumer reaction and suggestions through the feedback loop created by the collaboration community that would not have been as readily, or more importantly as accurately available through other channels.  Purchase experience surveys and sales results only provide a portion of the information required to improve product and sales life cycle planning and forecasting.  In order to improve the accuracy of these plans more data from a wider perspective is required.


This is where the big data aspect and the pipeline of information potential from the collaboration community comes into play. Product reviews, recommendations and even the responses to consumer questions regarding products will all feed into the big data sphere to provide data points for analysis and planning.  For instance, product reviews and recommendations can be used to identify improvements to the current products along with a basis for recommendations of new products.  The responses to consumer questions is another area that will improve both the marketing of the products and even more importantly these responses and product reviews provide input to the supply chain quality program to provide a feedback loop into the quality improvements program.


While the benefits to improved sales through customer retention on the site and the increased draw to the site of consumers will be great, I think that an even greater benefit will be achieved through the information that will be available across the entire supply chain.  This information can improve the quality of the products, thereby improving the product lifecycle and in addition the inventory management.  These require a desire and a plan to collect and integrate the information across the entire supply chain.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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



The collaboration community will provide a vast amount of data that provide a great deal of value to the retail host from the research and analysis opportunities.  This big data analysis will provide the greatest opportunity for return and value on a continuing basis as long as the collaboration community remains active.  The value from this data will be derived throughout the retailer’s business by providing real time data based on real life responses from a wide variety of sources.  As the community grows, the data available for research will increase, providing the basis for continued benefits in product and services developments and offerings.


It is a generally accepted concept that big data provides value through the combination and analysis of vast amounts of data.  The trick to realizing this value is a pipeline that provides the data to feed the analysis.  This is where the collaboration community comes into the picture.  The collaboration community platform and framework provides this pipeline of data in a continuous stream.  This data allows for an immediacy of analysis to confirm results and hypotheses that will become invaluable to the retailer and each of the retailer’s partners.  The response and the data collected from the collaboration community will provide value and return to the entire retail supply chain.  This is where the long term value will come into play.


There are two factors that provide the basis for long term value:

  1. The data collection will build as the community grows and as the retailer host identifies research and analysis opportunities.
  2. The collected data can be easily modified to increase the types of data points collected as the analysis suggests additional research opportunities.

The big data analysis will provide the long term return from the collaboration community and this value will continue to grow as the community grows. 


The beauty of this opportunity is that you can begin the collection of the data with a very low budget and investment to simply capture the data in the cloud.  This can then easily be expanded over time and provides the data to mine as necessary in the future.  This aligns perfectly with the strategy to begin the community utilizing cloud tools and services with a low level of investment.  As the community, membership and participation grows the data analysis opportunities and value will grow.  This will allow for low initial investment while still providing the opportunity for future expansion and data utilization and analysis when the time and the business needs warrant.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


The collaboration community provides a place and a method for the consumer community member to provide product reviews, answer questions about product uses and capabilities or weaknesses and a method to gain customer feedback through these interactions and also surveys directed to gain feedback for new products and services.  The retailer host gains by mining this information from the consumers regarding products, services and sales.  Consumer community members gain by receiving real world advice from other consumers regarding products and services.  Both the retail host and the consumer members also mutually gain through increased participation and engagement in developing the social aspect of the community. 


There are two sides to this framework or functionality from the community perspective:

  1. The retailer gains a great deal of product and service information to help them make future decisions and revisions to improve products and services.  The retailer should not overlook the value in this information and the consumer interchange.  The benefits to the retailer are broken down into three categories; the valuable direct feedback, the support of community members in recommending products to other members and consumers and the engagement of the member to spend more time on the site.
  2. The consumer community member gains because they receive valuable consumer feedback regarding products and services from unbiased sources.  In addition they can receive early notification of products and services on a trial basis for their feedback. This can provide a powerful draw to the community for consumers that are searching for information in addition, it also provides a powerful encouragement to participate. 


An important feature to the community would be the ability for members to submit questions regarding products and services to the community forum other members are encouraged to respond based on their previous purchase or activity.  A great example of this feature is provided by Amazon.  Amazon encourages ratings and reviews of products, then as a second and more value add function for the community Amazon allows and encourages consumers to submit questions regarding products that are then distributed to customers that previously purchased the same product.  The retailer host can also encourage consumer members to complete surveys by offering discounts or pre-release type sales to the consumer members.  This is another feature that allows the retailer host to encourage participation and provide incentives and community benefits to members to encourage return visits to the community.


This aspect of the collaboration community provides the greatest opportunity for long term benefits and retention of consumer members.  This is where the value will be generated and this is also the most difficult to justify due to the nature of the functions.  In other words, none of these specific functions will directly deliver value, however each of these function are key contributing factors to a critical objective to sales, the retention of the consumer on the site and participation in the community.  This will require a commitment from the retailer host to allow and encourage the community to grow and produce the results and benefits.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


Another important aspect of the collaboration community from both the retailer and the community member perspective is the shopping and services activities and functionality.  This is different than that retailer’s sales channel in that it promotes the social aspects of shopping within the community.  By this I mean that a key aspect of this functionality is the social aspect and the shopping is just one potential outcome.  Remember that one of the key objectives of the community is to provide the members a reason to return and the shopping and services functionality in the community provides the social aspect to encourage the member to return and participate in the community.


I define shopping and services as focused on the social aspects of shopping and the purchase aspect is secondary.  It is important to support and encourage this aspect of the community to provide the consumer a destination where they can meet and engage with other consumers in the social aspect of shopping.  This functionality of the community provides the consumer with the shopping mall experience.  In this case, they meet virtually with other members of the community to share shopping tips and recommendations while they participate in community interactions.  It is important to the success of the community that this aspect of the community focuses on the social aspect of shopping and provides options to purchases from other retailers.  This aspect of the community cannot be perceived by community members that it is focused exclusively on the products and services offered by the host. 


This collaboration community must focus on the community aspect and not simply as another sales outlet.  Consumers are sophisticated enough to quickly determine the intent and focus of the community and will quickly see through any insincere attempt to fool the consumer.  This will quickly kill any community because of the speed with which consumers share information across the Internet social spheres.  This is a good thing because it forces honesty from the retailer. 


I can understand the difficulty for the retailer to change their culture to develop these altruistic sites because it amounts to a culture change for them to provide a site and a service that has no guarantee of a return on investment, where the benefits are all soft benefits.  The key difficulty, as I see it, with the collaboration community is the leap of faith required from the retailer host to commit to and start the collaboration community that is focused on the needs and benefits of the consumer member rather than a focus on sales.  This hurdle relates to the horizon in which the benefits will be achieved because the benefits horizon will not be in the next quarter, they may not be realized until the next year.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


A key function or area of the collaboration community is the DIY, or How-To, area.  This truly provides the glue and the discussions that will hold the community together, provide the interest to retain and draw the consumer to return to the site and encourage the consumer to participate in the community.  The other areas of the site have a tendency to fall into a one sided conversation with the consumer or a private conversation with the consumer to address an issue or individual question.  The DIY area though should be the highlight and the focus of the community that provides the headlines and hook articles that will draw the consumer into the site and also provide the promotion interest through Facebook and Twitter to draw the consumer to return to the site.


This function will require the greatest effort to both start up and maintain within the community because it requires more than a passing comment to generate the interest.  This area requires some thoughtful architecture and definition as part of the definition to provide groupings or rooms of different interest for people to participate.  In addition to the architecture it also requires the ability to support different types of material from videos, to photos, to drawings, to text along with a mix and match ability for the material based on the subject matter.  This requirement is no simple feature and must be thought out and architected into the framework of the site to support the features and also the promotion of the features and the subject matter.  This will require a great deal of effort in the startup phase especially until it catches interest with the consumer community members to fully participate and populate the area with subjects of their own interest.


This one area will require the support from both the marketing team and the artistic development teams to create a site that interests the consumer and one that is promoted to generate the curiosity and the stickiness to encourage consumers to return.  In addition to this it is important that this area does not turn into another pure marketing outlet for the retailer, it must be viewed as an outlet for the consumer to discuss and demonstrate how they use the types of products sold by the retailer.  In fashion apparel it might be suggestions for pairing clothing and accessories and in hardlines it might be how to use the products in new and unusual ways.  In order to support these requirements this area must be the most dynamic of the community because it requires continuous change and updates to generate and maintain the interest.


The area should be the focus of your community with the greatest creative focus and also the most interactive area allowing for both postings of all types and also links to outside postings that are of interest to the consumer.  This must be an area that focuses on the consumer interests and not an area that focuses on the 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 consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


The consumer collaboration community will only deliver benefits and meet its potential if it is built on a framework that supports and encourages the activities that interest the entire community.  There are at least two factions that must be supported by this framework, the consumer and the retailer.  These two factions will grow into more as the community grows in both members and interests.  This requires a framework to support the community that is both robust in its ability to support the demands of of the members and flexible to support the changing interests.  This framework can probably be best supported by the cloud services and technology in the most efficient manner.


I think of three areas that the community should start with;

  1. How-to, or DIY - This is where the members can post photos and videos describing how they use products and even services.  This would be available and a viable section for postings from both retailer and consumers.
  2. Shopping services and suggestions.  This is where special sales and also shopping suggestions can be provided.  This area would also be a viable section for postings from both retailer and consumers.  It is important for the concept of the community that this area be open to suggestions for other retailers for special sales.  Amazon provides an example for this implementation; provide the list of other sites offering the products and special prices to simplify the consumer shopping.  This will encourage the shopper to remain on the host’s site and the longer the consumer remains on the site, the greater the chance for a sale.
  3. Surveys and new product previews - This is where the retailer host can mine information from the consumers regarding products, services and sales.  The consumer members can be encouraged to complete surveys by offering discounts or pre-release type sales to the consumer members.  This is also where the retailer host can provide incentives and community benefits to members to encourage return visits to the community and the surveys area of the community.


You will notice that my suggestions are generic in nature and can really fits across a broad range of retailer and product offering.  This is because I want to encourage the broadest range of retailer to develop their own community.  In addition, I think it is important for the community to start with the most simple aspects, functions and features to provide the incentive for the members to participate and build a community that meets the members needs.  A key to the growth of this community, I think, is the encouragement to the community to participate to grow the community in the manners that are important to the members. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


Collaboration provides the background and the conceptual framework for the community to work together and the members of the community provide the drive to experiment.  This is the starting point for the collaboration community to first come together and then to grow and produce value to the community members.  The community is a key factor to the success and the benefits achieved by the members.  The community also provides the framework for the members to define and then achieve the benefits that bring value to the individual members.  This is one of the key reasons that the collaboration community concepts and practices are growing in acceptance.


The key underlying value of a collaboration community is the harvesting of benefits across the community members.  What I mean by this is that the community and collaboration generates a great number of benefits that bring value to the community and allows a greater consumption of the value.  The results of the efforts from the collaboration bring a great deal of benefits and while some of these benefits may not be valuable to all members, the likelihood of members getting value from these outlying benefits is greater in communities that are larger and more diverse.  These benefits derived from the consumer collaboration community follow the same formula and process as the benefits derived for a supplier collaboration community.


In the case of a consumer collaboration community the retailer invests time and skills to bring together the technology framework for the community with the expectation that it will achieve customer retention and also first hand experience with new concepts to support the demands of the consumer.  The consumers come to the community with the expectation that they will be provided with a place where they can learn and share new methods for product use and also a place where they can socialize with other consumers to increase their efficiencies and cost savings in shopping.  You can see that the desires from one group of members are delivered from the investments of other groups of members.


The key achievement and objectives delivered to the members of the community is a much higher and greater efficiency in resource utilization.  This requires the members to expand their viewpoints and expectations for the collaboration community in order to harvest the full range of benefits that can be achieved.  For many retailers this is a cultural change to identify the potential benefits available from the community and more importantly to accept the concept that the combination of benefits will bring a greater value than any one specific hard benefit that may be achieved on their own.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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

tbrouill

Collaboration Test Bed

Posted by tbrouill Jul 3, 2015


Every organization strives to develop and maintain an applications and technology test bed that allows new releases, modifications and systems patches to be validated prior to migration to the production, or ‘live’, environment and retailers are no different.  Many, if not most, organizations struggle with developing and maintaining a conceptual test bed to be used to validate concepts and this is probably the most valuable test bed to deploy, especially for organizations such as omni channel retailers that interact directly with the consumer.  The concepts and interaction with the consumer is the most contentious interaction driving by a breathtaking pace of discontinuous change.


The consumer interaction is continuously bombarded with new tools, services and demands that make it very confusing and difficult for an organization keep up with the pace of the change.  Sometimes it seems that new tools and services arrive on a weekly or even daily basis and then to confuse and make the job of evaluation and incorporation even more difficult consumers themselves then morph the tools and services in ways that sometimes are not recognized from the original offering.  This makes it very difficult for the retailer to develop and maintain a strategy, sometimes I think the best strategy is simply ‘embrace change’.  With all these factors swirling around the retail environment how can the retailer maintain their place with their targeted consumers? 


This is where the collaborative community comes into play to provide a test bed stage to experiment with tools and concepts when they are available through the cloud.  This test bed provides an isolated environment for the retailer to engage both new tools and services along with the consumer experimentation.  The greatest value will be derived from this collaborative test bed by encouraging consumers to interact and engage the site with a general focus and direction of developing a consumer community of uses and suggestions for the retailer’s products.  The site provides the retailer with the ability to experiment with tools and also encourage the consumer to experiment with new services and concepts in shopping.  This experimentation concept is important to the retailer’s ability to grow and retain the consumer interest.


In general, the majority of the retailers have never been known of bleeding edge, or even leading edge, technologies.  The cost and margin generally involved in the retail environment preclude heavy investment in new technologies as experiments.  This collaborative consumer community that is based on the tools and services available from the cloud provides a cost effective manner to achieve two important objectives; a test bed to experiment with new concepts and a method to maintain consumer interest that encourages consumers to return to the community.  This community concept provides the greatest value opportunity because of the encouragement for consumers to return, a sales site encourages consumers only when they are searching to purchase something while the community encourages the consumer to return to interact with others.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


A major reason, or benefit, for integrating cloud technologies and services into your consumer collaboration community is the opportunity to experiment in a sandbox environment with the consumer.  The community provides the perfect sandbox environment for this experimentation because it is outside of the commerce architecture so it will not impact the sales and yet it has the consumer interest and activities in the environment to flex and test out the technologies and services prior to integrating into the commerce architecture.  This test bed concept is a key aspect of every life cycle and in this example the retailer is simply utilizing another platform to open the validation to the external consumer.


The community can provide you with a platform and framework that supports a quick turn around to implement new functionality without directly impacting the business critical sales platform.  This also will provide the  platform to support a progression from the conceptual to business value.  The challenge that I see with the cloud technologies and services is one of validation and integration to the existing business services.  Utilizing the collaborative community as this testbed platform provides both immediate and long term value; the immediacy of trying the service or technology and the long term of a process to move into the business value platform. 


This framework provides a method, or process pipeline, to quickly test new and changes features and software as it is released into and by the cloud.  The retailer could never analyzed, introduce, test and then migrate to the sales platform the volume of features and technology that is available and constantly growing and changing in the cloud.  The collaboration community, however, provides the platform to experiment with the technology and features to gauge and validate with the consumer the potential value prior to implementing in the sales platform. 


This process and utilization of the collaboration community as a test bed provides the business with the method and framework to quickly roll out new feature and functionality in a manner that allows a widespread trial.  The cloud technology cost model combined with the test bed platform of the collaborative community can provide an extremely effective process, or pipeline to quickly integrating new features and functionality into the sales platform.  The retailer may find that very few features and functionality available in the cloud will actually work in the sales platform after running through this experimentation process.  The beauty of this framework and process though is that the retailer does not need to invest a great deal to realize the results.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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