Consumers generally provide a great deal of feedback, although it is also generally one sided.  The challenge and the requirement for future success is to create a framework and environment that encourages and generates two way feedback from the consumer, or a conversation.  This conversational feedback will provide the framework to increase replace some of the retailers’ currently forms of analysis with more valuable and accurate information.  This conversational feedback framework cannot just be put in place though and expect an immediate acceptance and utilization by consumers.  You must be patient in developing and improving the process, tools and most importantly the maintenance for the value to be fully realized.

Current, or what will quickly become legacy consumer feedback and analysis tools have been grouped into two general categories; sales analysis based and survey based.  These provide a broad based analysis based on history for product that consumers have purchased and controlled and focused reaction to products or services to be offered in the near future.  There are pitfalls to both of these types of analysis and this is where a little bit of luck and the capabilities of the supply chain comes into play.  What I mean by this is that the retailer selects a product offering for the next season based on past history and consumer reaction to styles and products through surveys.  The retailer then makes the initial purchase to support initial sales which they hope will provide a runway to identify the runners and dogs.  This is where the supply chain comes into play because the retailer must depend on the supply chain to deliver the product for runners in a timeframe that maintains the consumer interest so sales are not lost.  This, in a nutshell is why the supply chain is so important to the retailer.

In the future, in a consumer conversational collaboration framework, combined with the technology tools and capabilities quickly evolving, the analysis is a two-way conversation that supports clarification and more specific feedback.  The eCommerce sales analysis for instance is more accurate because it can track the ‘browsing’ interest and help to understand how consumers make decisions.  The feedback from consumers can be expanded and direct, through consumer purchase evaluations for instance and also consumer response to those evaluations.  The greatest value though will be achieved when the retailer develops the means to converse directly with the consumer.  Perhaps this conversation expands the Facebook relationship to begin with or perhaps it extends the chat function to include not only retailer representatives but also consumers that may be browsing the site.  The potential is vast and the cost can be supported by eliminating the surveys and focus groups that provide only limited return.    


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?