As a baseline assumption, in order to support the demands of consumers as they change and increase in flexibility demand due to the integration of mobile technology in consumer shopping the retailer must move into a collaborative marketplace framework.  This in itself is a fundamental change in philosophy; from a purchase based method to a shopping based method of interaction with the consumer.  In order to achieve this change, the omni channel framework must also change from a closed, purchase based framework to an open, collaborative marketplace framework.  I don’t think there is much of a decision to be made to change the philosophy and framework, it will be a requirement to maintain the business.  The decisions come from how quickly you can move to this new framework and how you will integrate this new framework.

How will you support the consumers’ demands in shopping?  This is a discussion in customer retention and engaging the customer in the experience.  I think this is becoming the key to customer retention; engage the customer so they are invested in the shopping experience.  The customer is driving towards a collaborative shopping experience the crosses channels and utilizes mobile technology as the glue.  Customer service surveys after the purchase will no longer meet the customers’ desire to engage, the retailer must engage the customer in the product decision making process.  In the past this was done as a type of passive customer evaluation, by this I mean that retailers would analyze the customer purchases to select the products with the highest sales as a guide to customer likes.  This is not true; this only identifies the customers choices across the offerings from one retailer.  Retailers should look at this as the customers notification of the product they feel sucks the least.

Consumers on the other hand would be happy to share their thoughts with retailers, if they would only listen.  You find this desire to share across many of the Internet sites that are very popular from Angie’s list to Yelp.  The retailers would be well served to provide product reviews and ratings from customers as a starting point to help shoppers make a decision.  This would simply be a starting point however and should be expanded and encouraged to engage the customers more in product selection and also in pairing items.  Retailers are simply not paying attention to the marketplace and consumers demands when they do not provide these opportunities to collaborate with their customers.

Retailers should stop trying to control the market and the consumer shopping methods simply because it will not work any more with the increased availability and capabilities of mobile tools and technology.  Retailers would be better served to focus on engaging their customers directly, because their customers are definitely engaging without the retailer through new web services, mobile and social technologies.

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?