Cloud technologies and services provide a significant opportunity for retailers to collaborate across their entire supply chain, from the raw materials to the end consumers.  In most discussions of the supply chain the end consumer is not included as part of this collaborative network.  I think this is a significant lost opportunity for retailers and the cloud technologies and services provide the tools for retailers to extend this collaboration to include the end consumer.  There is a great deal of competition in the retail marketplace and consumers are showing a desire for increased flexibility in shopping practices that is exerting a great deal of change in both demand and methods of shopping.  Retailers can maintain currency in the changing demands and retain customers and sales by knocking down the wall with consumers through collaboration.

Consumers, from their perspective, would also welcome the opportunity to collaborate with retailers, I say that from my own perspective and I know that I am not alone.  The cloud has provided shopping services that consumers have embraced to help them in their shopping activities from two perspectives; the opportunity to purchase and the notification of sales and discounts.  The combination of these two types of services has leveled the playing field between consumer and retailer and consumers have been using these services to support and even change their shopping practices.  Another critical factor in the consumers embracing these services is the elimination of customer loyalty which translates into lost retention and reduced sales.  As an example of the changes and the demands of the market you can look at the advertising for  who provides free shipping on ‘the big stuff’. 

Retailers are competing with all types of competition that is cost effectively supported by cloud technologies and services.  Consumers are also using these technologies and services to develop new relationships through their purchases with new companies.  Consumers are not hesitant to embrace these services and these nimble new retailers are also using the cloud capabilities to efficiently and cost effectively offer new shopping opportunities to the consumers.  This competition will just increase due to the demand of the consumer market and the imagination of marketers and the low cost of entry for new services due to the cloud. 

One method to counteract this cycle and retain customers and sales is for retailers to collaborate with their customers.  Retailers must overcome their hesitation to developing a partnership with consumers and utilize these same cloud technologies and services to develop a collaborative relationship with consumers.  This will provide the method and the opportunity to retain their customer and sales and counteract the competition from outside services.  Consumers are using the cloud to develop relationships across the retail market and now retailers are starting to realize and open up to developing these types of relationships to retain their customers.  

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?