The consumer collaborative community will enable great innovation breakthroughs to the extended supply chain network by providing a means to collect and analyze direct feedback from consumers.  The innovation opportunities and resulting value propositions will grow as time progresses and data is collected.  It will be difficult to pinpoint the innovation when starting because quite frankly you will have no idea where the data will take you and what information will be gleaned from this data.  I can however say that the potential for innovation in the extended supply chain will be dramatic if the network accepts the data for the analysis and quantification of information.  In other words, the innovation and value that will be derived from the data provided by the consumer collaborative community will be limited by the imagination.

I base this proposition on the value and the range of the data that would be provided by a robust collaborative community.  This proposition is also based on the requirement of the long term support and nurturing of the consumer collaborative community.  This requires a culture change to understand and accept that an investment may return only indirect benefits derived through the investigation of data to develop or quantify actionable results.  In order to encourage the support of the consumer collaborative community the retailer must realize and embrace the fact that direct consumer surveys and focus groups are providing less and less value because consumers are less and less inclined to participate.  In addition to the reduced participation, retailers must also realize the difficulty in determining the correct questions for surveys and focus groups. 

Finally, retailers must accept the fact that surveys and focus groups have a strong tendency to provide false results because of the manner in which the consumer is encouraged to participate.  By this I mean that consumers are encouraged to respond to a survey in the most positive manner producing false results and potentially reducing the participation and more importantly impacting the honesty of the results.  As an example, how many times have you been given a receipt after a purchase and been requested by the associate to respond to the survey will ‘all fives’?  Most people respond to the request, if they respond to the request at all by providing the response of ‘all fives’.   This results in the retailer making potentially false assumptions.

This is where the consumer community provides value by providing an environment that encourages responses to other consumers questions and providing product reviews anonymously and without coercion.  The key to value is the phrase ‘without coercion’, it is the honest response that results from the interaction between consumers that will bring the value.  It is only a matter of time before retailers realize that surveys and focus groups do not provide the value for the expense and turn to engaging the consumer in conversations through a collaboration community.

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?