Every organization strives to develop and maintain an applications and technology test bed that allows new releases, modifications and systems patches to be validated prior to migration to the production, or ‘live’, environment and retailers are no different.  Many, if not most, organizations struggle with developing and maintaining a conceptual test bed to be used to validate concepts and this is probably the most valuable test bed to deploy, especially for organizations such as omni channel retailers that interact directly with the consumer.  The concepts and interaction with the consumer is the most contentious interaction driving by a breathtaking pace of discontinuous change.

The consumer interaction is continuously bombarded with new tools, services and demands that make it very confusing and difficult for an organization keep up with the pace of the change.  Sometimes it seems that new tools and services arrive on a weekly or even daily basis and then to confuse and make the job of evaluation and incorporation even more difficult consumers themselves then morph the tools and services in ways that sometimes are not recognized from the original offering.  This makes it very difficult for the retailer to develop and maintain a strategy, sometimes I think the best strategy is simply ‘embrace change’.  With all these factors swirling around the retail environment how can the retailer maintain their place with their targeted consumers? 

This is where the collaborative community comes into play to provide a test bed stage to experiment with tools and concepts when they are available through the cloud.  This test bed provides an isolated environment for the retailer to engage both new tools and services along with the consumer experimentation.  The greatest value will be derived from this collaborative test bed by encouraging consumers to interact and engage the site with a general focus and direction of developing a consumer community of uses and suggestions for the retailer’s products.  The site provides the retailer with the ability to experiment with tools and also encourage the consumer to experiment with new services and concepts in shopping.  This experimentation concept is important to the retailer’s ability to grow and retain the consumer interest.

In general, the majority of the retailers have never been known of bleeding edge, or even leading edge, technologies.  The cost and margin generally involved in the retail environment preclude heavy investment in new technologies as experiments.  This collaborative consumer community that is based on the tools and services available from the cloud provides a cost effective manner to achieve two important objectives; a test bed to experiment with new concepts and a method to maintain consumer interest that encourages consumers to return to the community.  This community concept provides the greatest value opportunity because of the encouragement for consumers to return, a sales site encourages consumers only when they are searching to purchase something while the community encourages the consumer to return to interact with others.

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?