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2015
tbrouill

Omni Channel Shopping

Posted by tbrouill Dec 29, 2015


With the increase this year in the omni channel sales numbers when compared to the in store sales I think it is important to call out the difference between omni channel shopping and omni channel purchasing.  Omni channel purchasing is simply the final execution of the purchase and acceptance of the product.  Omni channel shopping is the search for products and the price comparisons involved prior to the final selection and purchase.  The shopping portion of the equation has seen the largest shift from in store shopping to mobile shopping due to the increased consumer acceptance of the mobile platform.  The twist this year though is in the manner in which the consumer has embraced the mobile platform, or channel, in their shopping.

 

This is where the mobile channel gets very interesting, and rather speculative, because this is where the consumer is utilizing the technology while in the store.  I see that there was no major drop in consumers in the malls and stores this holiday season and especially during the initial Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend and yet the store sales were off by a large percentage.  This drop in store sales though was shifted to online sales to deliver an overall increase for this kick-off weekend.  This is an important piece of information because when combined with the increase in use and acceptance of smartphones I come to the conclusion that people have blurred the shopping line between in store and online via the smartphone.

 

I previously discussed the potential for consumer use of mobile technology in their shopping and blending the social media capabilities provided by their smartphone with the in store shopping to enhance and improve their overall shopping experience and capabilities.  This past holiday shopping experience seems to provide an initial proof of this concept and it would be a good idea for retailers to heed this as a sign of the next holiday shopping season. 

 

Retailers do not have much time to implement improvements, though and must begin immediately with the low hanging fruit type of improvements.  As one example, I think retailers need to improve their in-store wifi network capabilities and access to encourage consumers to connect and this also provides the retailer with the ability to push information to the consumer upon connecting to the network.  This requires a little simplification to the access though, rather than a review and acceptance of term to access the store wifi, why not present a welcome splash page is pop-up sales?  Another example is encouraging consumer use of smartphones to match products and look up sale prices using their smartphone.  This will allow the retailer to provide BOGO type specials via the smart phone.  Macy’s as an example does a great job offering e-coupons that can be used online or in the store.

 

This year consumers are blending the purchase between in-store and online using mobile technology and the supply chain has delivered on the promise.  Consumers will demand building on this practice and retailers must be ready, and flexible, to meet these demands.  This means increased supply chain collaboration and standardization to allow and support the flexibility required to support these future demands.

 

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 mobile platform seems to have reached a critical mass this season with consumers.  Mobile platform purchasing really made an impact on holiday sales this year.  This has shown provided the consumers an opportunity to use the technology to help in their purchasing.  I see the platform as a means to improve the consumer shopping and then make the best purchase decision.  This year the spread of smartphones in addition to the improved wireless network capabilities have allowed consumers to blend both the in-store and online purchasing practices.  This is where the technology has started to live up to it’s potential to truly provide consumers with the ability to shop and make the best purchase decision from any location.

 

We have seen an increase in online sales this year that most of the reports relate directly to the improvements in mobile technology and wireless networks.  This makes a great deal of sense to me because I can relate it directly to my own shopping experience and practices.  I joined and downloaded a few apps to my smartphone that push sales and coupon information to me directly and when I am in a store or mall these apps push deals related specifically to the mall or store location.  I can even expand the search for deals by a number of miles to expand my comparison.  When I shop now I will take a few minutes before purchasing to identify any specials.  This has saved me a great deal in my purchases by providing discounts specific to the store where I am making the purchase and also providing immediate information discounts that may be related in stores near me.  I am just one shopper you might say, however, these apps are readily available to any shopper and both direct word of mouth and the recommendations on the Play Store make it easy to search for these types of apps to find the apps that work best for the individual.  It is foolish not to think that each consumer with a smartphone is doing the same thing. 

 

In previous years I suggested that stores should provide easy access to their wifi network for consumers.  The improvements to wireless network service is reducing the importance of this suggestion though the outcome remains the same.  Consumers are shopping on their smartphones while physically in the retail store.  Retailers have fought against this practice in the past to no avail and now it is time to realize that the key is the purchase and not the shopping method.  This means that retailers must support all channels for purchase and must even open their networks for consumers to easily shop via their phone.

 

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?


Retailers must change their focus from a short term sales perspective to a long term relationship perspective in order to be successful in the future.  The omni channel purchase capabilities strategy must be expanded and the focus changed to develop a relationship that retains the consumer’s attention on all platforms.  I see the critical factor as consumer retention and the return  of the consumer to the retailer over and over.  Whether it be the online channel or the retail store, it is important to the success of the retailer that the consumer return.  This means that the retailer must focus on the long term relationship and this will involve losing a sale periodically to the competition.  This periodic loss of a sale is more than overcome by the long term relationship and continued return of the consumer.

 

Providing a ‘sticky’ environment that encourages the return of the customer in itself is a long term position that requires patience and perseverance to achieve.  I go to Amazon as an example of the type of ‘sticky’ environment that becomes a destination for consumers over and over again.  Amazon provides a virtual shopping mall experience with everything from groceries, to home improvement, to fashion, to electronics, to entertainment.  This foundation is then supported with continuous communications with the customer regarding ratings, purchase suggestions based on past purchases, new service offerings and special offers of sales and services.  Then combine all of this with the Primo membership program that both encourages purchases and encourages use of the entertainment platform and you have an architecture that provides a compelling reason for consumers to return.

 

These are not services that will work with all retailers and they are certainly services that cannot be implemented with the flip of a switch.  This does provide an example, however, of how to define and implement a long term strategy to encourage the retention and return of customers.  This strategy all begins with developing the relationship with the customer and does not necessarily focus on a need for a sale each time the customer returns.  The strategy builds on and focuses on service and delivery of value to the customer.  Retailers should focus on the power and capabilities provided by standard social media tools along with a continuous communication stream to maintain the conversation with the consumer.  The objective is for the retailer to be top of mind for the consumer when they are ready to make the purchase.  The objective is for the retailer to be the go to destination for the purchase and by destination I mean virtual destination and virtual purchase. 

 

What we confirmed this year is that mobile technology is changing the consumer purchasing practices more than shopping practices.  Due to the growth and expansion of mobile technology and wireless networks, this purchase practice will grow and retailers must prepare by developing the relationship with the consumer.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


Consumers are not searching for a retailer to simply sell them products, consumers are searching for a retailer with whom they can collaboration in product selection, variety, purchase and delivery.  Consumers are showing now with their purchase methods that they searching for options in pricing, and selection in a minimum and I would add to that the option to select different methods of product delivery.  Unfortunately, there are still a great number of retailers that are fighting the collaboration because of the difficulty it brings to their internal and external processes.  The successful retailers are providing a selection of options that the consumer can determine how to utilize.

 

One of my favorite examples is the shop online and pick up in the store capability that is becoming an omni channel retail standard.  On the surface this is a great feature that can simplify the consumer’s shopping as long as they are still going to the store.  In my opinion this feature loses its shine during the holiday season when the benefit of shopping and purchasing online is the elimination of the store visit.  I think this remains an important option for the majority of the year and also for some types of retailers.  For instance, this option is great home improvement retailers because it allows the consumer to plan for their weekend projects and have the materials ready for pickup on Saturday to provide more time for their project. 

 

The option that consumers are searching for is purchase anywhere and ship to anyone from their place of purchase.  This is the next wave of retail and retailers are starting to embrace and deploy the tools to support this option.  This option requires an investment in technology in both networks for wireless capabilities in the store and also the sales and fulfillment capabilities to use the retail stores and product picking locations to fill customer orders.  The wireless network capabilities in the store is a key step to collaboration with the consumer and allows the retailer to better understand consumer shopping when paired with the consumer's purchases. 

 

The challenge involved in expanding the relationship with the consumer is accepting the potential loss of a sale.  The retailer must be willing to lose one sale to a consumer for the opportunity to build the long term relationship with the consumer.  Retailers will always have consumers that focus solely on the lowest price and this cannot be the focus of the retailer.  The retailer must focus on the long term relationship and the long term benefits of a collaborative relationship with the consumer.  This means that the retailer must provide added value to the consumer experience that the consumer will not find with another retailer.  A retail battle for customers based on low price is a cannibalistic and losing battle and the retailer must focus on the collaborative relationship with the customer to build long term success.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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

tbrouill

Omni Channel Consumers

Posted by tbrouill Dec 20, 2015


Omni channel consumer practices are and are seeing the first results of these changes with the recent Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Green Monday events.  These changes are the result of the spread and the acceptance of the smartphone and the improvements and expansions of both network and wifi capabilities in stores and malls.  These improvements provide the consumers with the ability to expand their shopping and browsing practices through the smartphone.  The consumers have embraced their smartphones to shop other stores and prices while in a retail store and then complete the purchase and ship their purchase to their home or even the gift recipients. 

 

This is essentially an expansion of the retail showrooming concept that consumers have used for many larger significant purchases and retailers have be fighting.  It now seems that this practice has become a standard shopping practice and is even expanding with the expansion of free shipping memberships and promotions.  These changes in shopping habits have begun to change the retail shopping practices of consumers to take control of their shopping and improve the consumers’ bottom line by shopping for product physically and then confirming best price electronically.  Try as they might, retailers will not be able to stop the expansion of this concept and must try to get ahead of it now while there is still a chance to test responses with the consumers.

 

I do not think this shopping concept will change the fact that multi-channel retail consumers are more valuable to retailers, but I do think that consumers are starting to take an active role in how they use the retail channels.  Consumers are blurring the channels now to shop and it doesn’t matter in which channel they complete the purchase.  The purchase will be completed based on the price and the delivery requirements.  The delivery requirements seem to be taking a more important role in the purchase decision. What I mean by this is that the consumer takes into account whether they will need to ship their purchase out of town when determining the method of purchase so they can ship the purchase to the final destination using an online shipping promotion rather than paying for shipping themselves.

 

Retailers have invested heavily in the capabilities to purchase online and ship to a store and this new potential practice is taking a different direction especially during the holiday shopping season.  If there was one thing I would recommend retailers consider, it is concept of purchase in the store and provide free shipping to the consumers’ gift recipient.  This will not address the price shopping in stores that is increasing but it would eliminate one of the reasons for consumers to showroom in the store and purchase online.

 

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 recent holiday shopping events beginning with the lead to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and then Green Monday I see one of the key tools embraced by consumers to be the smartphone and then I see the growth in tablet type technology.  These platforms allow the retailer to provide different perspectives to consumers and optimize the platform to take advantage of the strengths of each platform.  We’ve seen the impact in the channel sales percentage rather dramatically this year in that while the sales from the store channel have been flat, the sales from the eCommerce channel have increased and even spread out over the sales events to the point where I have heard suggestions that eCommerce should be included in the standard retail events and not segregated as online only events.

 

There are three key activities to retail purchases;

  1. Consumer searching, or shopping, for products whether specific products or impulse purchases.  Prior to the Internet age this was done in person at malls primarily.  This shopping became both a social event for shoppers to meet friends and family as an outing for the family that included purchases.  This shopping is now being dramatically impacted by mobile eCommerce capabilities that allow the consumer to perform price checks and also to purchase directly while shopping in person.
  2. The selection and purchase of the product by the consumer.  Again, this is the actual sale and can be performed either in a store or online from various locations and platforms.  This focus on the sale platform has most recently been the focus of omni channel retailers.  The growth of the eCommerce channel has been the focus of the majority of retailers recently because omni channel shoppers are much more profitable than single channel shoppers.
  3. The delivery of the product to the consumer.  There are two types of delivery based on the retail channel.  The purchase of the product in a store delivers the product to the consumer at the time of the sale and then the consumer transports the product themselves to their home.  The purchase of the product online includes delivery of the product by a shipping carrier to the consumer’s desired delivery point, whether themselves or some else as a gift.

 

This year is showing that the consumers have embraced the concept of the key activities I describe above to blend the activities across sales channels.  Consumers are eliminating the segmentation of the channels through mobile technology, smartphones and improvements in wireless networks and access.  Yet again, retailers have been building capabilities and tools from an initial focus of sales channel (store or online) and the consumers have put this technology together in different fashions to meet their desires and shopping requirements.  The velocity of these changes will only increase and omni channel retailers must be prepared to change with the new demands of the consumer as the consumer redefines the meaning of omni channel retail shopping.

 

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

Omni Channel Retail Data

Posted by tbrouill Dec 18, 2015


The expansion and growth of eCommerce sales and the consumer acceptance and even more important embracing eCommerce shopping brings with it another opportunity for big data practices to help understand and build the consumer relationship.  This is an important aspect to the eCommerce shopping experience that can be used to build the personal relationship with the consumer that is so important for sales and consumer retention.  Big data methods and practices can help to sift through the vast amounts of data the is available regarding purchase and shopping habits as a result of eCommerce consumer shopping.  This analysis is the only way that the retailer will be able to understand the consumer practices and also provides a means to engage the consumer again after the purchase is completed.

 

Amazon provides probably the best example of value added capabilities resulting from big data methods and practices.  It starts with the collection of data and follows through to the experience rating and then the communication tail continues for quite some time with their requests for response to consumer questions about the product.  Additional the eCommerce platform provides for accurate consumer ‘click-through’ steps and flow through the web site providing both browsing data along with shopping and follows through with purchase practices.  This data is invaluable in website design and product placement in addition the information regarding shopping cart abandonment and wish list can be invaluable in developing your sales approach.  Another major benefit to these big data methods and practices is that the data becomes more valuable for research and analysis as the volume grows.  Data volume provides information on trends and helps to validate hypotheses.

 

An additional benefit derived from these big data methods and practices is the relationship with the consumer.  These practices provide the with the opportunity to develop a direct relationship with the retailer.  The practice of requesting product and experience reviews allows the consumer to react to the experience and in addition, it allows the retailer and manufacturer to respond directly to the consumer regarding their issue.  This information is enormously valuable to the retailer while it is developing the personal shopping relationship with the consumer.  I am one of those people that provide ratings on service, experience and also try to answer consumer questions, While this may be a minority of shoppers responding to these requests, it does provide both the good and the bad for each of the products and allows the retailer to improve their vendors’ performance as well.

 

The power comes when you blend all of this information together to support research and analysis of consumer shopping practices and also product sales trends along with valuable information on product improvements.  I see these capabilities as the factors that will drive the increase in eCommerce sales.  As wireless data networks improve these factors can only increase the acceptance and utilization of eCommerce and omni channel retail.

 

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?


This year took a first and very strong step in proving the potential of online sales based on the shift from brick-and-mortar sales to online sales experienced on the Black Friday weekend.  This was however the first step and there are many things that can happen that will impact and change the direction of online sales.  The big question in my opinion though is where does the next big step come from in eCommerce?  In my opinion, the next big step is in the retail store showroom concept and I think that consumer delivery capabilities will be the next frontier that drive the changes in consumer shopping and purchasing habits.

 

This year one of the big winners, again, was Amazon and their Prime subscription service that bundles free two-day shipping with other member benefits especially from Amazon streaming video.  The combination of Amazon one-click purchasing and free two-day delivery for Prime members has really flung the doors open for consumer mobile shopping.  Last year I suggested that mobile technology will allow consumers to shop in stores, try on clothing along and try out large ticket items and then search for the best price on their smartphone and execute the sale to arrange delivery of their purchases directly to their home.  This year suggests to me that this trend has started.  This seems to be the best explanation for the changes in purchasing identified over the Black Friday weekend.

 

This is a dramatic change in direction that can have a very significant impact on retail, both positive and negative.  The changes in the store will be dramatic and will focus on a couple of key areas; inventory and also impulse purchasing.  One of the key benefits delivered by the retail store is the impulse sales of products or outfits or place settings that catch the consumer’s eye at the time.  The shift in inventory practices can have a significant impact on these types of impulse purchases.  The impact to the in store impulse buying from reduced inventory can be overcome by providing free and fast delivery of the purchase and especially when purchased in the store. 

 

Another requirement of online marketing is the consumer loyalty program, or at a minimum tracking consumer sales through online registration.  This allows the retailer to identify and focus on the individual's specific previous purchases in order to push notifications and sales of similar products.  This type of focused and individual online marketing practice can replace the brick and mortar consumer impulse purchases.  The combination of swift delivery and improved online marketing will support the next shift in consumer shopping; the allow the consumer to purchase and not be required to carry all of the bags around the mall.

 

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 Black Friday traditional holiday shopping kick-off highlighted a number of interesting outcomes and reactions from both my personal experience and the general industry experience.  This is the time of the year when I make a point of exploring the retail market for tendencies that I believe should be leading and pushing the industry.  This experience quite frankly has been based on my own personal shopping experiences during the Black Friday festivities.  For my personal experience with Black Friday there have always been two important factors; the social aspect and the gift purchase aspect.  Both of these aspects combined for me to deliver a positive experience and opportunity to observe and identify areas for shopping and purchase improvements.


This season was different for me because for the first time in many years my family and I did not partake in these festivities on Thanksgiving night.  This is the first year that we took full advantage of the opportunities available over the Internet, and the interesting thing from my perspective is that this change in practice was taken on by many others as well.  This year, while the brick-and-mortar sales dropped by 10% over the Black Friday weekend, the overall sales did slightly increase and this was all due to the dramatic increase in on-line sales.  As I did not participate in the brick-and-mortar experience this year I cannot say whether the shopping crowds were similar to past years, but the results of the channels driving sales showed a dramatic increase in mobile sales which leads me to believe that the size of the crowds may have remained stable and the sales shifted to the mobile channels as a result of consumer shopping changes to check prices in brick and mortar stores to prices available online.


I see two actions that are reacting to and supporting each other;

  1. The brick-and-mortar shopping practices of consumers along with the willingness of retail sales clerks to support the expansion of the shopping experience has reached a limit.  This is displayed by the number of retailers that ‘opted out’ of the Thanksgiving night shopping support.
  2. The online shopping capabilities and comfort of consumers in shopping online has reached a critical mass and this has given consumers options in making their purchases allowing them to ‘opt out’ of the brick-and-mortar experience.

Along with the above key factors, I would also highlight Amazon and especially Amazon Prime as a key contributing factor to the increase in online sales.  The combination of comfort in online purchasing and the ease provided by one-click shopping and free two day delivery on any order may have been a key contributing factor to this shift in retail channel purchases.

 

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 management of communication tools across the collaborative network can be a little tricky and should not be taken for granted.  You and your partners must take into account many moving parts that cross over many tools in many infrastructure environments and this coordination can be tricky at times.  One of the key points in managing the tools across all of these environments is the capabilities of the tools.  This is why it is so  important to focus on cloud tools. Remember one of the important reasons for utilizing cloud technology is the simplicity to utilize across platforms and technologies.  This leaves the management of the tools as a functional requirement more than a technical requirement.


The functional management of the tools can be a little tricky because it involves some level of standardization across the partner network.  The communications and collaboration must be accepted as asynchronous communications, like email or text communications, where you do not expect an immediate response.  This is where process management and procedures can help.  Process and procedures will ensure that all participating members understand and more importantly they also provide a method for all partners to participate in the definition and coordination of the tool utilization and also the expectations of the communications control and response.  Most importantly it provide a feedback loop for the continuous improvement of the tools, utilization and communication practices. 


The single technical requirement to be taken into account when selecting and utilizing tools is the security aspect.  Do not overlook the security factors from both the access and integration aspects.  My recommendation is to block the direct integration to your internal tools and simply allow the access from the web browser.  There are too many factors to take into account to ensure your internal network is secured and you should not open up your network to a new set of outside factors.  The security of your internal network is too important to take a chance.  Taking this into account though does not severely impact the benefits of collaboration and communication tools.  Each partner must enter into this security discussion with open eyes to understand and address the concerns, you cannot simply forbid use of these tools, or you cannot forbid the use for very long.


One of the most beneficial aspects of cloud based communication tools is the ability of these tools to support all of the communication and collaboration needs of a community.  One of the challenges that the community faces in implementing and utilizing these tools is understanding, incorporating and then management the utilization of these tools.  An important aspect of the incorporation and management of these tools is exploring the capabilities to understand how to gain the greatest benefits.  Then the next step is to incorporate a management process that reviews tool capabilities to determine new ways to support the community based on the growth and changes to the 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 selection of collaboration tools should be taken on with the understanding and strategy of a continuous evaluation and selection process.  This ensure that your community will utilize tools that support the needs and the nature of the community requirements and objectives.  It is only natural for the requirements of the community to change,especially because of the evolving nature of the community.  A poor tool choice, or hanging on to a tool and not expanding capabilities will become just as much as a drag on the community as lack of particiaption from the community partners.  In fact, the two points are directly related to each other.


Tool capabilities should be viewed as a key contributing factor in the retention of the community partners and the participation of those partners.  Do not fool yourself into thinking that the tools selection is a ‘once and done’ activity and must be treated as a continuous process of evaluation and improvement.  This practice of evaluation and improvement is important for two reasons:

  1. The nature of the environment in which the tools are being used is continuously changing from the perspective of both the collaboration partners changing and the requirements to support the communication.
  2. The nature of the tools environment is continuously changing from the perspective of the tool availability and the tool capabilities.

Your collaboration community support and management practices should include this continuous tool evaluation and improvement as a key practice to keep the community fresh.


The nature of the community along with the participation and retention of the members is a fragile equation and you must not let it fall into complacency or even disrepair.  The collaborative nature of the community requires the support and buy-in of the partners to succeed.  The collaboration tools must support these requirements in a straightforward and flexible manner that supports changing needs of the community and the extension and changing of the partners.  If the methods and manner in which the community communicates and works together is cumbersome and unchanging, the members will get discouraged and simply stop participating.


This continuous evaluation and improvement process of the collaboration tools cannot be left to chance, it does not ‘just happen’ and you can’t simply select any tool and forget about it.  The impact to the success of the community could be disastrous.  This is such a simple requirement and I am sure that each partner in the community is highly interested in the maintenance and improvement of the tools.  The collaboration community attracts curious and adventurous partners by its nature, the community attracts partners that see the potential benefits and are willing the take a chance to gain the benefits.  These members by their nature also will be highly interested in selecting tools to simplify and improve the collaboration capabilities.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


Communication across collaborative partner members must be secured, provide a group discussion capability, must be low cost or free, they must be easy to use, and also, and probably most importantly, they must be secured.  These communication tools provide the basis for discussions between individual partners, or group discussions across partners.  Due to the potential needs and pervasive usage of these communication tools it makes the most sense to utilize a cloud based communication tool to quickly and efficiently provide a means to conversationally communicate across time zones and across company networks without compromising the integrity of the partner’s secured environment.


All of the communication tool requirements are important though in these times of identity theft and network hacking issues it is especially important that this communication tool provide a secured environment.  While the secured environment is important,it is also important to take procedural measures to protect the integrity of the communication.  At this point in time the security aspect of protecting identities and financial information should be second nature for people in the business world, however it is important to highlight the requirement to ensure the visibility.


After security I believe that group discussion capabilities and ease of use are the next most important capabilities of the tool.  There is essentially no need for a communication tool if it does not support group discussions in an easy to use manner.  There are many tools providing this capability and Evernote and Google Hangouts are two tools that I have found that support both capabilities.  There is another tool that I have found to be very useful as well; PushBullet.  PushBullet provides the communication, discussion group capabilities along with the ease of use, in addition the tool will ‘push’ the communications across any platform which you may be utilizing.  PushBullet installs on any platform and then when a message or update is sent to one platform it ‘pushes’ out to every client.  These tools all provide a free trial option as well as a subscription option for added features and more robust group communication and collaboration capabilities.   


Another important aspect to think about is the integration capabilities with other collaboration tools such as shared document management and maintenance along with group discussions and conferencing.  The key here is to think ahead a little bit and also to discuss and confirm requirements and objectives with the community to ensure the tool will fit the needs.  As always, never select a tool simply because it has a flashy interface or a big name in the industry.  Most of the tools on the market now have started in one niche and are expanding into other areas of collaboration.  Remember, the great factor is the free trial so you can kick the tires before spending money.

 

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 are a whole host of cloud based collaboration tools available that are free or low cost and will support the needs of the collaboration community.  These tools will provide the capabilities to support the needs of the community and will also also provide the on-going support and enhancements to improve the tool capabilities without the necessity of any community member to spend time developing or maintaining tools.  The identification, evaluation and selection of cloud based collaboration tools should however follow the same selection methods as any other software tool and most importantly the tools should support the process and methods defined by the community. 


Tool selection for the collaboration community can be a little difficult because of the nature of the community itself.  It is important to collaborate with the community members and elicit both suggestions for tools and evaluation of the potential tools.  In fact I think it is important to elicit input and suggestions from new members as they join the community to first identify any methods they may already use to collaborate and also any tools that they may use to currently support their collaborative efforts.  Since the collaborative community is a federation of members and the community does not have a research budget it is important to take advantage of all avenues for identification and research that are available and one important avenue is the tools that have already been identified and are being utilized by a community member. 


There are some basic requirements for collaboration tools capabilities and usage that can be met by many different tools.  These basic requirements are:

  • Communication between members - to provide capability to share communication threads among community members to support conversion threads based on topics.  This is similar to email and may be initially supported through standard email.  There are tools available that support these requirements through a segregated chat model using SMS text messaging for instance.
  • Collaborative workspace for documents - to provide the capability to collaboration in the development of work documents, procedures and processes.  This supports the file sharing and maintains the version of documents for development and also for recovery of prior versions.
  • Project management to support collaborative initiatives - to provide task identification, assignment, status updates and issue reporting and resolution.  This supports the cross organization assignment and management of project tasks and is critical to effective management and the delivery of your collaborative initiatives.  In addition these tools can also be used to support collaborative process execution and management.


The cloud based tools industry is a volatile industry and this must be taken into account in the selection process.  In addition, there is no requirement and there is very high probability that your community will end up using a variety of tools from a variety of software vendors.  One key strength of cloud based tools is the open nature of the tools and the ability to mix and match tools based on the requirements.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


There are no shortcuts or secrets to the success of the collaboration community no matter what someone may try to tell you.  The true secret to the success of the community is directly related to the hard work of  participating members in collaboration and encouraging and maintaining the participation level of the community members.  I am sure that you have heard many people such as marketing and sales groups promising to provide the secret to success if you only buy their book, or you only participate in their lecture series.  These can all be very positive motivating activities when starting the community or to interest new members in your community and you will find in these sessions and literature that the ‘secret’ boils down to hard work and dedication to the promise of the value derived from the community.


Leadership participation and encouragement from all community members may be the most important method to encourage participation and engagement of the members.  What I mean by this is the leadership of initiatives and strategic objectives must cross over and be shared across the membership.  I am not suggesting that multiple leaders be responsible for an initiative, this would be a recipe for failure!  The initiative and objective leadership should be taken on by one person that would either gain the most from the initiative, or is most passionate towards the initiative.  I have found over the years that a critical retention and engagement method toward employees of an organization is to identify the activities that excite and employee or that an employee enjoys performing and then determine how to assign them to these activities.  This simple act will strengthen both the retention of employees and the success of their assignments.  This practice should be incorporated into the collaborative community to encourage engagement and success of the community.


Leadership and participation should not obscure the importance and the level of effort required to ensure the success of the community initiatives and strategic objectives.  The community requires participation from each of the members in a regular fashion, not necessarily for each initiative or objective however they must be engaged and encouraged to participate.  Building the sense of community through participation, engagement and shared leadership across the members is the most effective method to ensure the longevity and continued value of the community. 


In order to simplify the participation and engagement there must be methods and tools that simplify the process and are easily and cost effectively shared across the community.  The tools must support notification and response to communication and they must also be available across organizations and even around the world at any time.  These requirements point to cloud based communication methods and tools.  My recommendation is to engage tools that are simple, pervasive and free or low cost. 

 

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 Momentum

Posted by tbrouill Dec 3, 2015


In order to build a collaborative community that delivers long term value to all members of the community, including the customers, there must be a long term commitment and strong participation from all members in the community.  The clear challenge is to develop both the commitment and the participation of the community members to provide direction and the leadership required for the long term success of the community.  The collaborative community is a loose federation of members acting in a manner that benefits the community as a whole and this requires sharing and participation in the leadership and development and maintenance of strategic direction in order to succeed. 


There have been, and will always be, a graveyard of failed collaborative initiatives that begin in a burst of energy and excitement for the potential and then end in a whimper of lost interest.  So we can surmise one of two reasons for the success, or failure, of the collaborative community:

  1. The community and participating members in the community are very lucky to have found a group and a type of community that gell and come together naturally to allow the collaborative community to succeed.
  2. The community and participating members work very hard in collaboration and encouraging and maintaining the participation and the level of interest to encourage the collaborative community to succeed.

While both of these reasons may be involved, my strong belief is that the second reason is by far the most likely reason.  Both reasons delivery the same result, the difference between the two reasons though involves understanding and planning for success.  I would also say that the first reason is another example of the members working hard and there are members that are natural leaders and natural collaborators that bring the members together as second nature. 


This ability to bring the members together is a skill, though, that can be planned and measured and executed in a thoughtful manner that will produce the results.  I think that the reason why so many collaborative partnerships end in failure is the failure to recognize, and more importantly to accept, the level of effort and planning that is required to support the partnership.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of planning and communication involved in the success of the collaborative partnership.  The planning and communication of the plans and achieving the commitment from other members to the plans may not be glamorous work to many people but these activities are critical to the success of the community.  In addition you should not be fooled into thinking that these activities are only required during the startup of the community; these activities must be continued throughout the life of the community and this is why it is so important to share the leadership in these activities.  

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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