Retailers relationships with their customers has changed over the last few years due mainly to the technology tools and services available to consumers.  The impact to the retail industry continues be impacted by these tools and services as a result of the expansion of mobile technology.  In the past, retailers would have been successful in their strategy and actions to fight and limit the impact.  Due to the broad impact and the consumers’ embracing these services and technology the ability of retailers to limit their use of these services is almost non-existent. 

Retailers have lost the upper hand in their relationship with consumers and the simple fact of this new reality is that retailers must maintain the focus on the personal relationship with the consumer and demonstrate that this relationship is important.  Consumers now have the technology to turn the purchase experience into a shopping experience.  These same consumers have been searching for the ability to create a shopping experience for a long time, they have missed this shopping experience due to the increased demands on their time that limits their ability to spend time physically with friends and family.  The new technology and especially the mobile technology allows consumers to blend the virtual with the physical to create a shopping experience.  Retailers that focus only on the purchase transaction will lose the battle of customer retention that maintains their sales.

Retailers must change their culture to focus on the relationship with the customer in order to remain successful.  This needs to be a critical factor in hiring practices and it also must be front and center in the reporting and business strategy development.  This is a dramatic change in strategy for most large retailers and this change needs to come from the top in order to change and this means that the senior leadership must show in both words and actions that they have embraced this change.  Large retailers must re-learn the techniques that small and local retailers have always maintained as a cornerstone of their business.  This can be difficult for the large retailers, this is a dramatic change in focus and requires a continuous focus from leadership in order to institutionalize the practices.

I am sure that everyone will agree that relationship building is very difficult, and especially when you are trying to institutionalize these habits in a culture that did not previously place a high level of importance on building and maintaining relationships. Consumers now are demanding this relationship and are actively engaged in developing these relationships utilizing the technology, tools and services in new methods and cannot be ignored.  No one can say where this will lead, what we can say though is that future success depends on recognizing and embracing these new demands from consumers.  To ignore these demands will only lead to failure and the demise of the retailer.    

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?