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2016
tbrouill

Consumer Chain Values

Posted by tbrouill Mar 29, 2016


In order to maintain the participation of the consumer and the success of the consumer chain this chain must be built on values.  These values must clearly define the methods and roles that will be required to meet the retailer and the consumer chain objectives.  The retailer must articulate and live these values in order to drive them into the consumer chain and all interactions.  These values should clearly define the expectations for the methods and principles that will guide the consumer chain and interactions between partners and especially the interactions between the retailer and the consumer.  The values of the consumer chain are an important factor in the continued success of the consumer chain and must not be overlooked if the retailer and the consumer chain is to succeed.

 

The values must be first articulated and explained by the retailer as a step in building the consumer chain with the internal and external partners.  The values provide the basis for the governing principles of the relationship and provide the guidelines to delivering success.  The values and principles defined and maintained by the retailer through the consumer chain provide the roadmap to the continued success of the consumer chain.  Without these values as the foundation there can be no consistency in the direction and this will result in a discontinuous ability to achieve results and success.  Without the values and resulting principles the success of the consumer chain and the retailer will be hit or miss. 

 

The consumer is one of the key participants for achieving benefits from, in addition to the key audience for the retailer values.  While the consumer is not directly guided by the values and resulting principles they are the focus and the reason for developing and maintaining the values and principles.  A consumer chain attracts and retains consumers through the values and the principles of the retailer and the consumer chain supporting the retailer.  While the consumer is searching for value in their retail experience I believe that another key factor in consumer attraction and retention is the values of the retailer and the consumer chain.  You see this over and over again from the Toms Shoes practice of donating a pair of shoes for every one purchased, to the Nordstrom value of the consumer satisfaction over short term gains. 

 

The values and principles should be evaluated and revised as necessary as part of the continuous improvement process in order to maintain their freshness.  The values embraced and guiding the retailer and the consumer chain are the greatest factor in attracting and retaining customers.  Price can only really attract the customer for the transaction and the retailer must constantly be focused on on the lowest cost in order to maintain the customer base.  This is a losing proposition because first the lowest cost model does not produce the profit margin to sustain the retailer and more importantly there is always another retailer that will provide a lower cost.  Principles based on values provides a solid foundation for customer retention that will last and also support a fair margin for return.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


It is the responsibility of the retailer to maintain and encourage the relationships supporting the consumer chain.  These relationships cross from the consumer to the suppliers with all partners between.  There  are also many channels and routes supporting the consumer chain that require strong relationships to support.  The retailer is the hub of both the relationships and the consumer chain and so plays the critical roles of both communication hub and also relationship manager especially for consumers.  This presents a challenge to the retailer to manage not only between consumers and the suppliers but also across channels because of the differences in both communication capabilities and also the requirements.

 

The relationships between the retailer and the suppliers, carriers and and distributors is relatively straightforward because it can be defined and measured by contracts and service levels via performance indicators.  The contractual obligations can be clearly defined with the deliverables and obligations for which each party in the agreement is responsible along with the means that will be utilized to measure the performance.  Each party in the agreement will then be rewarded based on definitions and performance defined in the agreement.  These agreements are then reviewed and updated on a regular basis based on performance and schedule defined in the agreement.  These are all standard procedures based on contractual agreements that benefit each of the parties that are parties to the agreement.  The values realized by the parties are clearly defined over an agreed to period of time.

 

The consumer relationships are much more complicated and require a greater amount of effort in maintenance to achieve the benefits because, in part, there are no contractual agreements between consumers and retailers.  The relationship must continuously provide a value and generate the interest of the consumer to ensure they return to participate in the community and as a result purchase.  The relationship building with the consumer requires continuous encouragement and both real and perceived value for the consumer.  The consumer community is the vehicle that will provide this encouragement and value to the consumer.  The consumer relationship should be built on mutual benefits along with participation in the community that provides value to both parties.  Consumers perceive value through both discounts and value received from their participation along with the satisfaction of giving and receiving help from other members of the community.

 

There is no formal agreement between the consumer and the retailer which makes the relationship more difficult to maintain.  This is why it is important to encourage and reward the participation of the consumer in the community.  This participation provides the means and the reason for the consumer to return to the community.  This participation also provides the retailer with at least two types of value, the sales realized by the returning consumer and the data provided for analysis by the consumers’ participation and shopping patterns.  These provide a great value to the retailer and compensates the retailer for the time and the effort to maintain the consumer relationship.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


Engagement at all levels must be the objective of all participants in the consumer chain to maintain and grow their success.  The consumer chain and therefore the partners in this consumer chain cannot survive without the full engagement across the chain of all partners in delivering and maintaining the mutual benefits across the chain.  The retailer is the hub of this consumer chain is the retailer and the greatest requirements to delivering and maintaining the success lie with the retailer.  One of the key objectives of the retailer is to encourage and maintain the engagement across the chain.  This retailer must continuously monitor and nourish the desire of all partners across the chain in order to ensure the continued engagement.

 

Maintaining a high level of engagement with the suppliers and distribution network in the consumer chain is a relatively straightforward activity that is based on agreements and monitoring the service levels and performance indicators measuring these agreements.  These agreements are the glue that holds the commercial internal and external partners together in this chain.  These agreements clearly define the expectations and interactions of these commercial partners.  These agreements also clearly define the methods and procedures that will monitor and deliver continuous improvement.  In this environment there are clear objectives and goals that can be monitored and maintained and when the objectives and goals are met, there are also clear results and benefits achieved.  This is actually the easy part because these commercial internal and external partners are driven by the real returns that will be achieved through participation.

 

The consumer partners in this chain though are more fickle because their engagement is based on interest and not contractual agreements, service levels and performance indicators.  Consumers on the one hand are driving the metrics that are measured in the commercial service levels and performance indicators.  However, on the other hand there is no obligation for these consumers to engage in any one consumer chain.  For this reason, it is the retailer’s responsibility to understand and create and maintain the consumer engagement that will produce the benefits to the commercial partners in the consumer chain.  This is a very difficult task because the consumer can be a fickle partner that requires constant encouragement and reasons to engage. 

 

The challenge then for the retailer in the consumer chain is two-fold.  The retailer must maintain and continuously improve the products and services offered to the end consumer while also maintaining and encouraging the interest of the consumer.  Both of these efforts obviously have a symbiotic relationship; you cannot have one without the other.  However the consumer engagement must be maintained utilizing different methods and tools than the commercial partner engagement; consumers will engage based on interests while commercial partners will engage based on financial opportunities.

 

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

Consumer Chain Research

Posted by tbrouill Mar 20, 2016


The consumer community provides an invaluable framework for consumer feedback and research related to consumer reaction and response to product and marketing plans.  This framework will also provide a model that can replace the consumer surveys and focus groups that currently are used for new marketing programs and product research and will provide more accurate reaction and response because the analysis is based on the actual consumer responses.  This framework will require support and encouragement though from from the retailer in order to grow into its full potential.  The potential though should encourage the retail senior management to invest and explore and encourage the nurturing of the consumer community to reach the potential.

 

There are two key capabilities provided or resulting from the consumer community that come together to produce the potential;

  1. The traceability of the consumer actions and flow through the consumer community and the eCommerce site.  These actions and sequence of actions provide the detailed data of the actual and unbiased consumer reactions and shopping patterns.  These types of reactions are subconscious and natural without the rationalization or justification the consumer would interject into a survey or a focus group.
  2. Big data technology and storage capabilities provide the means to collect the data and then the means to analyze the data.  These capabilities are essential to the ability to analyze the results of the consumer shopping and purchasing habits in the consumer community and the eCommerce site.  There is a very strong and very real possibility that the cost of these tools and then the people to maintain and use the tools can be recovered by the savings in eliminating the consumer surveys and focus groups.

These capabilities are not a slam dunk, though, they will require the support and encouragement to maintain the consumer community as the gateway to the consumer chain.  This will require monitoring and also continuous updates of not only material but also community services such as offerings and product information and product pairings.  The community must be continuously maintained and updated in order to encourage the regular return of the consumer.  Initially this maintenance and updated material will need to be provided by the retailer staff, however as the consumer returns and engages in the community the retailer support activities can be reduced.

 

There is a very real opportunity for the retailer to directly engage with the consumer through the community site to encourage a real relationship with the consumer.  This may be the last opportunity for the large chain retailers to engage directly with consumers considering the results of cost reductions and additional operational responsibilities required of the clerks in the stores.  The retailer objective must be to reach a point where the community is more self maintaining in the attraction and retention of the consumer.  The consumer must accept and own the value provided by the community in order to ensure the value can 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?

tbrouill

Consumer Chain Suppliers

Posted by tbrouill Mar 19, 2016


Suppliers will benefit from the consumer chain as a result of the retailer’s improved product planning and early forecasting resulting from the consumer collaboration in the consumer community.  Improvements in early product and consumer input in product pairing and placement in the eCommerce site will result in inventory control and overstock improvements that would be shared with the suppliers while also improving the store product placement and marketing.  This will allow the supplier to improve manufacturing planning and execution and improve the supplier capacities and abilities to fill spikes and drops in demand.  The benefits from improved inventory control will flow through the chain to improve efficiencies and capacity while reducing overstock and write-downs.

 

The consumer community provides a critical link in this extended supply chain by providing a steady stream of data.  This data is invaluable for decisions related to product selection, placement, pairing and marketing because it is derived directly from the consumer’s interaction in the community.  This is much different than the information provided by surveys or focus groups.  The responses to surveys and focus groups are only related to the assumptions and beliefs of the organization that creates the subjects of the surveys or focus groups.  The data collected from the consumer community is completely different because it results from the consumer reaction and responses to actual product offerings and interactions with other consumers. 

 

This data provides the basis for retailers to improve products and improve accuracy of forecasts.  This in turn provides the supplier more accurate input into product design and the manufacturing forecast and planning of the product, which in turn allows the supplier to better support the demands of the retailer while allowing the supplier to support additional demands from their customers.  This improved intelligence then allows the retailer to identify trends and new products earlier and with more accuracy.  The end result is improved sales for the retailer and improved efficiencies for the suppliers.  These improved efficiencies are shared with the supplier resulting in improved manufacturing accuracy resulting in reduction in overstock and improvement in new product development. 

 

The consumer community becomes, in effect, a research branch for the retailer and the suppliers, allowing them to experiment while gauging the honest reaction of the consumers.  This allows for small scale experimentation with new products along with experimentation on product placement and pairings.  The resulting improvements in efficiencies allow the suppliers to increase their sales not only with their retail partner but with other retailers in the market as well.  

 

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 are missing out on a great deal of strategic benefits if they do no take advantage of the strategic message delivery capabilities of the consumer community and eCommerce channel combination.  This is especially true of large retail chains with stores spread across the region or country.  I think that one of the most difficult aspects of retail is ensuring that the desired message is received, and then understood, by their customers.  This is especially important now with so many consumer distractions and competition from other retailers.  The consumer community provides the outlet to engage the consumer and draw the consumer into the eCommerce channel or even the store.  It is important for the retailer to view all channels as one shopping experience that delivers a consistent message.

 

The consumer community and eCommerce channel combination provides an opportunity to engage the consumer directly to delivery an effective, efficient and consistent view and message to all consumers that visit.  This is a very powerful tool that provides a great deal of benefit with a low cost when compared to the cost of delivering a consistent view and message across a chain of stores.  The consumer community provides a service to the consumer that has more and more been lost to store customers and that service is one-on-one interaction.  Consumers desire interaction and engagement when shopping and the consumer community provides the tools for the consumer to engage both with other consumers and retailer representatives.  Too many  retailers have reduced staff and added additional responsibilities to store personnel and this has resulted in reduced interaction and engagement with the consumer in the store.

 

In addition to the challenges to staff engagement with consumers in the store the retailer must overcome the challenge of store personnel delivering a consistent message to the consumers.  The store personnel are very often either distracted, don’t understand the message and the importance of the message and engagement with the consumer, or they are confused by seeming conflicts in priorities.  While each store and each person is different the results of these distractions are the same, the delivery of the message is not consistent. 

 

This is where the electronic channels can, and should, be utilized to strengthen the consistency of the message delivery.  The electronic channels should be used to promote the message and engage the consumer in the message and this will then crossover into the stores channel.  This changes the objective of the stores in the message strategy from an inconsistent delivery channel to a maintenance channel.  This allows the stores to confirm and support the message rather than the primary delivery channel.  This is the direction that as a requirement for the continued success of the chain retailers.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the 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 chain framework provides a means for the retailer to provide a standard message to all consumer accessing the chain either from the consumer community, directly through the eCommerce channel, or through the brick and mortar store channel.  This is a very powerful capability in for the retailer and should not be looked upon lightly.  The value of this standard response and message is the power of consistency in response and the message across all channels that interact with the consumer.  This consistency provides a standard level of communication to the consumer across the channels to provide a unified approach across all channels to the interaction with the consumer regarding sales, shopping and product mix.

 

There is a great value in the consistency of message across all channels in promoting retention and also shopping and purchasing opportunities.  One of the greatest opportunities in sales is the opportunistic purchase and one of the greatest values of the omni-channel approach is the ability of the retailer to take advantage of the sale through any channel at any time when the consumer makes the decision to purchase.  The ability to provide a standard response and message across all channels is a powerful encouragement for the consumer when the opportunity, or urge, arises to make a purchase. 

 

The next aspect of the standard response is related to the frequency of message delivery.  This can be a tricky matter because for one thing you want the communication to be frequent to ensure your store is top of mind and you don’t want it to be too frequent where the consumer checks out and unsubscribes.  Another area of opportunity is partnerships with external marketing firms.   There are two methods in this area that provide a value for services provided;

  1. Services such as Groupon or Brad’s Deals that provide notification to subscribers of special offers and special sale prices.  This service provides introductory type mass distributions of generic offers.
  2. Location based services such as Retail Me Not that provide notification to subscribers of special offers from stores that are near their location.  This service require your smartphone to have the location available to provide sales and special offers for other stores near your location. 



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 chain provides a very functional model for a collbarotative continuous improvement framework that integrates the consumer feedback from the both the community and the eCommerce channel into a functional framework.  This framework will allow the retailer to capture the feedback and suggestions from consumers and then deliver on a response that incorporates the suggestions. This framework not only provides a means to collect and incorporate consumer feedback, it also provides a method and a reason for consumers to return.  This continuous improvement cycle that incorporates the consumer feedback and suggests into the process will deliver value and also encourage the consumer to return and participate in the future.

 

It is important for the retailer to formalize the improvement cycle to ensure that the framework is maintained and that the consumer participates in the process.  The retailer will continue to realize the benefits as long as they maintain this cycle and encourage the consumer participation.  The consumer collaboration frame can be a double edged sword though, The retailer will realize benefits from the relationship, on the other hand, as soon as the retailer begins to ignore the consumer suggestions the consumers will also stop participating and then the resulting benefits will disappear.  One very important factor, and benefit, of this consumer feedback continuous improvement framework is that consumers will increase activity and response as the retailer incorporates their feedback.

 

The consumer community acts as a collector of suggestions and response to actions taken by the retailer and the eCommerce site and the brick and mortar stores provide the actions and changes resulting from the consumer feedback suggestions.  Initially the retailer will need to ‘prime’ the consumer community with questions to encourage the feedback and suggestions from the consumer.  As I have mentioned before though the objective of the consumer community is to generate their own response and suggestions without encouragement from the retailer.  The combination of the community and the eCommerce site provide the capabilities to quickly cycle through trial and revision responses to clarify and improve the suggestions based on the consumer feedback. 

 

A key benefit of this framework is the standardized message and response to the suggestions by the retailer.  This allows for the the response to be standardized through the eCommerce channel for all consumers in all markets rather than depending on the individual's rolling out the improvements in each store and in each market. Depending on individual clerks and store management to roll out the improvements in the same manner does not provide the same level of compliance and then the response measurement is also more difficult.  This incorporation of the Internet channel into the retail sales strategy turns the strategy definition and implementation on its head and also will provide dramatic improvements in the execution and benefits derived from the strategy.

 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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


Crowdsourcing the selection and marketing of retail goods is an additional area that can be provided by the consumer chain and especially the consumer community that supports the eCommerce purchasing channel.  Viewing the consumer community as a crowdsourcing outlet for product selection and marketing is the next logical value added opportunity provided by the consumer chain.  This provides the retailer the direct channel to request and analyze consumer suggestions in a near real time manner and without the filters of marketing surveys or satisfaction surveys.  The results from the community and the resulting activities in the eCommerce sales channel provide real and direct feedback to utilize to crowdsource the product selection and presentation decisions.

 

Crowdsourcing is generally thought of as a means to fund projects or new companies which is not what I am suggesting, in this concept I am defining crowdsourcing as a means to improve products and shopping methods.  This is basically a new method to obtain the consumer input as a replacement to consumer surveys and focus groups.  The consumer chain provides a means for the retailer to collaborate with the consumer openly and subconsciously through the consumer community and the eCommerce channel.  This allows the retailer to try out concepts that are both internally generated and also externally generated by the consumer.  This collaboration allows and encourages hybrid concepts in marketing shopping, sales and products that would not be possible through the previous methods.

 

This method of crowdsourcing brings dramatic benefits to the retailer through shorter development cycles and also shorter validation cycles.  This crowdsourcing process implements a continuous improvement process that will benefit the retailer with increased customer retention along with improved sales while reducing the cost of development through the consumer collaboration.  The retailer can encourage the consumer to participate via a couple of straightforward methods; special offers and simply asking for and then acting on their feedback.  Simply acting on the consumer feedback can be a very powerful encouragement for the consumer to participate and then return on a regular basis.  This is after all a key objective of the retailer - the more a consumer returns the greater the number of sales they will complete.

 

This type of crowdsourcing is very low cost process for the retailer, however the retailer must also be very careful to follow through on the execution and implementation of consumer suggestions.  Consumers are happy to collaborate and provide their suggestions.  On the other hand, consumers are also very sharp and unforgiving when they feel they have be played and the retailer ignores their suggestions.  The bottom line is that the retailer must commit to the long term collaboration with the consumer in order to reap the benefits of this type of crowdsourcing.

 

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 chain allows and ensures that the retailer promotes a consistent message to all consumers through the integration of the consumer community with the eCommerce channel.  This is a very powerful tool that really cannot be duplicated in the store channel due to the number of players involved causing a great difficulty in delivering the consistent message.  The consumer chain provides one team the opportunity to deliver this consistent message because there is only one outlet to the consumer through the consumer chain.  Rather than a limiting factor the one outlet to the consumer provides a very powerful tool that allows the retailer to focus and promote the single message. 

 

This single and consistent message is important to the implementation of new strategies in products, shopping and purchasing and then to be able to measure and validate the success of the different factors that make up the message.  It is extremely difficult to implement a consistent message across a chain when dealing with the number of people involved in the execution and then take into account the fact that the great majority of people that would be responsible for execution of the new strategies are part time staff and you can see the level of challenge this presents to implementation and delivery of a consistent message.  Then add to this challenge the challenge to measuring the results and determining refinements to the strategy and the result is an almost impossible mission to deliver and refine a consistent message across the chain.

 

This is a completely different story though in the eCommerce channel and the consumer community that supports the eCommerce channel.  This framework allows for quick and effective implementation of a consistent message to all consumers accessing the channel.  In addition to this the measurement of the results of this message in the shopping and purchasing processes can also be completed quickly and efficiently because of the tracking capabilities provided by the channel.  Then add to these measurements the ability to group the products into purchase combinations and you have a very positive engine to deliver increased sales and customer retention. 

 

There is a change coming to the retail market, and especially the large department stores and chains, where the brick and mortar stores will provide support to the eCommerce channel.  This change must also include a focus on shopping patterns rather than simply a focus on sales.  These large retailers must provide the consumer the ability to shop from any channel at any time and then complete the purchase from any channel.  This change will drive the stores for the large retailers to become showrooms with a focus on product displays that the consumer will try and the sale will be completed electronically.

 

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 many different pieces and parts that must come together to form the consumer chain.  Each of these different pieces and parts provide value on their own and through collaboration and engagement from all of the actors within the consumer chain these pieces and parts become more valuable and create an important and valuable framework to support the success of the retail chain.  The difference in the consumer chain is the collaborative framework across the entire chain that glues the pieces and parts together.  A second important feature of this chain is the addition and integration of the consumer and the consumer community into the chain that extends this collaboration from the supplier to the end consumer. The final important feature of this chain is the data store of information from the consumer community and the eCommerce site.

 

This consumer chain must be initiated by the retailer because the retailer will both gain the greatest benefits and the retailer will be at the hub of the network.  This concept of the retailer being at the hub of the network is important because the retailer provides the data store for the analysis and validation of concepts and procedures.  This data store provides the place where the data from consumer, eCommerce site, suppliers, carriers and retail operations all can come together to be used to better understand the consumer demands and how these demands and consumer interactions impact the decisions made to meet the consumer demands. 

 

The consumer chain provides the retailer with the means to consistently and strategically capture and analyze the consumer demands and the interaction of the consumer with the retailer.  This allows the message and offerings to the consumer to be standardized across all channels while providing standardized and consistent feedback loop of the consumer reactions.  The data from the consumer community and the eCommerce site allows the retailer to analyze the results in a consistent manner without the filter of individual clerks or merchants skewing the results of the analysis. 

 

The consumer chain allows the retailer to counteract much of the cost containment actions that must be enacted in the stores with a cost effective and consistent strategy that provides direct interaction with the consumer.  As the technology and especially the mobile technology improves and the acceptance expands deeper into the consumer daily actions the retailer must embrace the consumer chain in order to tap into the consumer practices and reactions.  This practice will increase the consumer retention and as a result the sales because the retailer will understand the demands of 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


The consumer community provides the direct linkage from the consumer to the retailer and the retail consumer chain.  This linkage supports and should encourage the collaboration between consumer and retailer which then is extended throughout the consumer chain in an effort to support the demands of the consumer.  This relationship is very important to the retailer especially not only because it provides the means to connect directly with the retailer but also because the communication and data collected is more meaningful and accurate compared to other means of consumer data collection.  This relationship provides the data resulting from the actual consumer activities and interactions rather than second hand data provided by surveys and focus groups.

 

This consumer community is the consumer portal into the retail direct-to-consumer channel providing both the consumer and the retailer the means and tools to collaborate in channel development and consumer chain improvements to meet the demands of the consumer.  This consumer community portal provides the communication means and it requires the support and maintenance from the retailer in order to encourage the consumer to return and participate in the community.  The consumer community first provides the place for consumers to congregate and share information such as product reviews and suggestions for usage and combinations.  This community however must first be nurtured and the consumer encouraged to return and participate before the value from the community will be achieved.

 

The consumer community is an outlet for the consumer to participate in the product development and offerings of the retailer and the retailer in turn must embrace this concept in order to maintain their viability in the market.  One distinct and very large advantage of the consumer community is the consolidation and extended communication provided across all of the consumer members of the community.  The benefit is the delivery of the message and capabilities of the retailer across the entire market, the retailer can both share and collect information from across the market from one place, the consumer community.  This sharing of a consistent message across the market is of great value to the retailer and the consumer alike.

 

The consumer does not really care about the supply chain that supports the products, the consumer only cares that the products they desire are available when they decide to purchase.  The consumer community provides a portal for the consumer to share their demands and suggestions with both the retailer and other consumers.  These demands and suggestions then can be collected and the data analyzed to provide the retailer with the valuable information from the consumer that will allow the retailer to improve the selection and delivery of the products. 

 

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 viewpoint of the consumer chain is focused only through the community and the eCommerce sites provided by the retailer.  This is important to remember for the retention and the long term success of your consumer chain.  It really should go without saying that it is always important to focus on the viewpoint of the consumer and the consumer community supported and maintained properly provide the method to understand and focus on the consumer viewpoint.  Since the retail store in combination with the eCommerce site and the consumer community are the only portal for the consumer into the the supply chain you must use this framework to focus your activities and communication with the consumer. 

 

Consumers only really care about the supply chain as the methods supporting their purchasing in the manner that suits their desires.  In other words, the consumers generally only think about the supply chain when it doesn’t work for them for whatever reason.  This is actually the best reason for the retailer to focus so strongly on the supply chain and interaction with the consumer.  The consumer chain framework provides the retailer to test and understand the consumer demands and desires in shopping and purchasing so the retailer can adjust their supply chain to meet those needs.  This is the reason that I suggest that the retailer must incorporate the consumer viewpoint into a holistic consumer chain framework to both understand and support the demands of the consumer.

 

The consumer assumes that all of the disparate parts of the retailer supply chain, or consumer chain, are connected and working together to meet the consumers purchasing demands.  From the consumer viewpoint it does not matter from what channel they purchase, the only thing that matters it obtaining the product.  The consumer is looking for the most convenient method for obtaining the product at the time of their purchase, this means that the consumer chain must support purchasing any time, any where and using any means of delivery.  The consumer does not take into consideration the connectivity or the cohesive nature of the supply chain when purchasing and obtaining the product, they only care that the delivery occurs. 

 

This is where the online consumer community comes into importance in the consumer view of the chain, the community provides the direct means for the consumer to communicate and explain their demands.  By communicating and explaining their demands they are also explaining their view of the chain and their expectations of the chain.  The retailer must understand the consumer desires from a shopping and purchasing perspective and this will provide the consumer viewpoint of the supply chain.  Once the retailer has a framework to understand and test the consumer views, the retailer can then meet those demands with more confidence.

 

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 chain and especially the consumer community that links into the consumer chain through the eCommerce channel requires an intensive improvement cycle in order to maintain the interest of the consumer.  The consumer interest and participation is the underlying driving force for the value that can be achieved through the consumer chain.  The method to maintain consumer interest and participation is a robust improvement cycle.  The retailer must implement a change cycle on steroids in order to continuously provide the reason for the consumer to return and the community must also provide an easy method for the consumer to participate when they return.

 

I hate to say it, there is no silver bullet that can be purchased or implemented that will automagically generate reasons for the consumer to return.  The retailer must engage and implement an improvement process that manages the change from inception through delivery and this cycle must be short, in the two to three week range, with changes delivered on a weekly basis, in order to provide the consumer with reasons to return.  This type of process requires the focus and the maintenance of a support staff to maintain the pace. 

 

There is an interesting anomaly in the consumer chain and the consumer community, the consumer chain and especially consumer collaboration community are built upon the leading technology and the capabilities of these technologies and yet the chain and the community require a high level of human support, management and maintenance to support them. This, in my opinion, is one of the critical success factors for the consumer chain and must be provided the level of support in labor and focus and also time from the management leadership to deliver the value. 

 

This brings me to another anomaly, the success requires a long term view with a short term approach.  In other words, you must implement an improvement change method that provides the framework to support a long term continuous improvement cycle and on the other hand this change cycle must also provide change and improvements on a short term, or weekly cycle.  The short term cycle that is part of the long term process provides the framework to maintain and deliver on the demands of the consumer to provide an interesting and engaging community.  This does require a high level of effort on the part of a retailer to maintain, however I believe this is now the cost of maintaining the business.  Retailers must understand and embrace this new framework in order to maintain their success and viability.

 

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?


Based on the demands of the consumer and the other external partners of the retail consumer chain there are also robust and continuous demands for internal resources to support, address challenges and grow the consumer chain.  These internal resource requirements will focus mainly on the care and feeding of the consumer community that is an integral part, and requirement, of the consumer chain. The consumer community, like any other social media community, requires a great deal of near real time human reaction to interactions with the community and in addition a great deal of time is required for content management for the community.  Then you must add on the hardware and infrastructure costs to develop an overall cost to support the consumer chain. 

 

These support support needs require a commitment from senior leadership for the budget to support these demands for an extended period of time.  It must also be communicated and understood that this investment may not realize benefits for an extended period of time.  This is a bit like business social media 2.0 and requires a similar type of investment and commitment to achieve ‘escape velocity’ where the the community truly produces value over the investment.  Just as in the integration and acceptance of Facebook the business was required to make a significant investment before realizing benefits, the consumer chain and the supporting consumer community will require a significant investment in resource labor before realizing benefits.  The good news though is that the retailer should have a foundation of labor and practices already focused on social media and this will be an additive to that pool rather than building an entire support staff again.

 

The consumer chain brings another aspect to the social media and networking that requires an extension of the current labor and practices.  Granted there are additional practices and tools that will need to be added to the mix, however, the conceptual foundation of labor and practices should be in place.  The support for the consumer chain and more specifically for the consumer community that extends the eCommerce site and the existing social media practices will require additional labor, practices and tools that will extend the existing retail labor and practices. 

 

Another key support requirement is the capture and analysis of the data that can be produced from the consumer community.  This again is in addition to the existing data captured from the eCommerce site so the data captured for analysis must be reviewed and identified.  Considering that the most probably scenario for the consumer community utilization is an initial ramp up period that will quicken as more consumers participate, the storage needs will be incremental and allow for incremental increases to support the additional demands.  This is also where I would recommend experimenting with cloud storage for these needs if you have not already done so. 

 

The support requirements will grow and change as the consumer chain grows and changes.  The important factor to guide you in these efforts is to focus on extendability and flexibility.  These will help you to meet the changing needs as they arise without wholesale replacement.

 

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?