Over and over I have discussed the requirements of retailers to engage the consumer to collaborate on solutions and develop a relationship that engages the consumer.  This aspect of engagement is critical to the retention of the shopper.  These aspects all tie together to make the retailer successful in the new omni channel retail marketplace.  This consumer engagement is the missing link to most retailers’ strategic plan.  Consumers however are adamant on their desires to develop a shopping environment and have embraced a wide range of tools and technologies to build this environment.  Retailers must take this opportunity to embrace these same tools and technologies however the retailers have a greater hurdle to overcome; they must develop a collaborative relationship which requires a change in most retailers’ cultures.

The critical aspect to developing the shopping environment for which consumers are searching and actually building on their own is the culture of collaboration and inclusion from the retailer.  This is both the most important and unfortunately the most difficult to deliver.  Retailers in general have developed a type of bunker culture that is based on a viewpoint that sharing information and collaboration helps their competitors.  This is also actually a key challenge for all members of the extended retail supply chain from the materials through manufacturing, purchasing and delivery to the consumer.  This cultural change requirement has been holding retailers back for a long time.  Interesting enough though, I see this to be an issue with large retailers; the small and local retailers have embraced the collaborative culture and implemented this culture in their relationships from consumer to supplier.

This cultural change involved can best be shown by the recent efforts from retailers to stop shoppers from going into the retail outlet to look and touch the item and then complete the purchase online.  This shows the bunker mentality culture from the retailer that I mention where the retailer looks at this practice as a negative activity that must be stopped.  The simple reality of the matter is that consumers are changing their shopping practices and have already blended their shopping over all outlets, or platforms.  Shifting the viewpoint of the retailers from of view of stopping a lost sale to embracing and encouraging customers to utilize the brick and mortar outlet as a showroom will engage the consumer and encourage the retention of the shoppers. 

Retailers must change their view of the consumer from a transactional view and the sale must be captured to a relationship view where the focus is an open and long term relationship will increase the consumer engagement with the retailer.  This engagement will translate to retention of sales and also the social recommendations and encouragement from the consumer for others to join them in shopping with that retailer. This focus on the long term relationship and engagement also changes the focus from a lowest cost transaction to a value add relationship.  This will help the retailers get out of the lowest cost transaction battle which simply cannot be maintained over the long term.  Local small retailers understand this reality, they provide an environment that is friendly an open to the consumer and not focused on the transaction, they don’t focus on the lowest cost and yet they still maintain their customer base.

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?