Consumer social networks and networking practices and tools provide a great example of flexibility that crosses over capabilities, tools and practices. Every day I am provided with new examples and tools to support and expand social networking and collaboration, it sometimes seems as if there are new tools available on a weekly basis. Over the last holiday season I downloaded apps to provide real time and location based shopping opportunities, sales and coupons. Compare this now to the eCommerce and omni channel capabilities and its almost like comparing a Prius to a horse and buggy.
I realize that I’m exaggerating a bit here however I am doing this to make a point; retailers must drive to embrace the consumers networking capabilities or be left behind in the dust. In my opinion this means that retailers must join the consumer networks as active participants and not simply using these networks for marketing. They must also change their practices from open and blatant marketing techniques to a participative and collaborative practice. What this means is that sometimes the retailer must admit that the customer would be better served to purchase a product from somewhere else.
On the other hand, the retailer must be very careful with the personal information they collect from consumers. Just ask the previous CEO of Target how important it is to protect consumer information. This is a critical tightrope condition that the retailer must balance through strong security capabilities. The protection of consumer personal information is paramount. The difficulty here is that the protection of this information is constantly under attack and retailers must constantly monitor for intrusion and just as constantly must revise tactics to protect this information.
This is where it starts to get interesting, the retailer must open their ‘doors’ to consumers’ shopping and then bring the consumer into a strongly protected environment to complete the sale. This requires a framework of virtual rooms that are protected from invasion from hackers and thieves. The good news is that there is a new security industry that can help to maintain the protection so the omni channel retailers can utilize these services to maintain their edge. Unfortunately the rate of change driven by hackers is at a greater velocity even than the consumers’ social networks. Retailers must take this into account when managing and planning their omni channel framework growth, maintenance and support. In this area, as in many other areas it would be most efficient and practical for retailers to utilize security experts and security firms to protect their network and customers’ information from hackers.
The important practice in this situation, as in so many other situation, is to understand that it may not be worth the cost to develop and maintain the type of expansive security expertise and contract with industry experts to develop and maintain an effective security policy and capability.
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 consumers’ experience? Improving the consumers 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?