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

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

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

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

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

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