The retail supply chain will gain major benefits from the collaboration community that provides consumers a virtual community to collect and participate in activities and services related to shopping and product usage.  It truly is a connected world that we live in and the consumer collaboration community is a great example of this connectivity.  A great deal, if not all, of the activities and interactions between consumers and the retailer host should also be viewed from the supply chain network perspective as well as the consumer sales perspective. Consumers are searching for quality products and ways in which to use these products and the retail supply chain’s goals and objectives is to produce quality products that the consumer is drawn to purchase.

We have been connecting the supply chain in the retail market from the materials and manufacturing through to the delivery to the consumer for quite some time now.  This supply chain network provides the ability to track and manage the products and deliveries through from the beginning to the the end consumer.  There are many opportunities for suppliers, manufacturers and the retailers to connect, collaborate and partner in a manner that reduces the friction and the costs through the network.  This connected network provides the opportunities and the capabilities for the partners to connect directly and collaborate to improve the throughput and therefore the cost, inventory availability and delivery schedules based on real time events.  This is very important due to the elongated supply cycle when you include the import manufacturing and delivery schedules.  This is the strength of the connected extended supply chain network; it support the early communications of schedules and issues to efficiently manage the supply chain.  This network also supports fail over capabilities for supply and delivery to reduce the impact of disruption.

The consumer collaboration community should then be connected to this extended supply chain to provide a direct input funnel of response and feedback from the consumer to the extended supply chain.  Retailers have been striving for a method to obtain consumer feedback for ever and along the way have tried various scenarios from focus groups to surveys and they all have provided some level of limited information that has provided value but not the type of information that can really drive product improvements.  The collaborative consumer community can provide the method to really collect direct valuable feedback on products and services that is the result of honest consumer interaction rather than surveys.  The challenge now is for the retailer to take advantage of the opportunity.

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?