There can be no success in omni channel shopping without collaboration from the manufacturer to the end customer.  I think the missing link is asking and then acting on the responses from the end customer.  The shopping experience is the customers’ experience and the customer should have some say in their experience, don’t you think?  The key hurdle in this suggestion is the collaboration with the customer to define and clarify that experience.  This means that your should be both asking the questions and then confirming your response, a classic continuous improvement cycle.

Consumer shopping is not the first market that experienced the game changing impact of technology on the commonly held perceptions and practices.  Just look at the impact of the literature market and the music market as examples of the impact and resulting changes to the industry.  Amazon changed the literature market and left a trail of dead businesses in its wake.  The iPod and electronic music sharing changed the music delivery and sales industry and also left a trail of dead businesses in its wake.  The common denominator is that both of these industries refused to listen to the message there customers were giving them. 

Cyber and cloud technologies give a very impactful tool to the consumer and over the years the consumer has shown that they will use this tool in ways that may not be in line with the current and accepted practices.  By the same token, consumers are more than willing to share their preferences if the market will only listen.  This time though it seems that the retail industry may be trying to listen, although in my opinion they have slowed in their reactions and changes to the consumers’ preferences. 

This is where collaboration and a continuous improvement program will prove extremely valuable.  It is time to listen to the voice of the consumer in the shopping experience in offering new shopping options.  This is where online shopping can really show value by providing options and suggestions.  The consumer wants what they want when they want it.  They may not have a clear concept of the exact product and that is where technology can provide support with options and suggestions.  I suggest that most consumers are looking for the personal shopper experience, as an example, and this is where technology can support the desire.  In my experiences retail outlets have been reducing costs by reducing sales clerks and then without sales clerks consumers are left to wander the store looking for products.

Web sites provide something of a  personal shopper experience search engine and big data capabilities to provide suggestions and comparisons to the consumer.  I suggest that the retail outlet that combines the online capabilities with the in person experience will change the shopping experience and significantly grow their sales.  This is the type of collaboration with the consumers that will help the omni channel market grow sales and meet the consumers expectations.

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?