Cloud technologies and services have brought retail and eCommerce to an interesting crossroad where the retailer must make a decision that truly is one of those life and death decisions for the long term success of the retailer.  The industry has reached this crossroads as the result of the spread and availability of technology and especially the technology and cost of the technology available to the consumer.  The wireless network and smartphone industry has been a key driving factor to bringing us to this crossroads through that cloud technology and services that are driven by that industry.  This cloud framework provides the technology at a cost that consumers have embraced to change their shopping methods and demands on the retail industry.

This cloud framework is truly a collaborative framework that supports the consumers’ collaboration across social networks and technology services and this framework then changed the shopping demands of the consumer to support their lifestyle.  Consumers have embraced this framework because it allows them to access information, images, music and social networks any time and from any device.  Consumers have already begun pushing the envelop of the shopping experience based on these mobile and cloud technologies to collaboration across their networks to enhance and improve their shopping experience. Consumers have jumped to the next platform or framework of commerce they have eliminated their view of market channels to flatten to one inclusive shopping experience where the mobile and cloud tools provided a framework for consumers to collaborate and shop based on their needs and desires at the time. 

Retailers, on the other hand, as an industry have yet to embrace and embed this mobile and cloud tools and services framework to integrate into this new collaborative framework.  Retailers for the most part are still at least a couple of ‘releases’ behind the demands of the consumer due to their limitations from internal technology limitations and also their failure to fully embrace the cloud and mobile technology framework.  I see this as a reluctance to walk away from internal technology investments that may not have been fully capitalized and more importantly a reluctance to embrace the collaborative nature of the cloud and mobile technologies.  I believe that many retailers have hesitated to embrace the collaborative cloud framework because they are stuck in the command and control culture that made up the business and retail environment for so long. 

It can be extremely difficult to break from a current culture and practice unless forced by outside influences.  These outside influences from cloud and mobile technology are currently forcing retailers to recognize and address the new collaborative cloud framework with a speed and force that is new to the retail industry.  This is where the difficulty comes into play, the rate and force of change has been increasing quickly over the last few years and this will only increase more in the future.  Retailers must embrace this cloud framework in order to survive and even flourish in this environment going forward.  The rate of change will cause success and more importantly failures with a speed that can be overwhelming, retailers must embrace the cloud framework in order to survive.

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 consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s 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?