Consumers are not searching for a retailer to simply sell them products, consumers are searching for a retailer with whom they can collaboration in product selection, variety, purchase and delivery.  Consumers are showing now with their purchase methods that they searching for options in pricing, and selection in a minimum and I would add to that the option to select different methods of product delivery.  Unfortunately, there are still a great number of retailers that are fighting the collaboration because of the difficulty it brings to their internal and external processes.  The successful retailers are providing a selection of options that the consumer can determine how to utilize.

 

One of my favorite examples is the shop online and pick up in the store capability that is becoming an omni channel retail standard.  On the surface this is a great feature that can simplify the consumer’s shopping as long as they are still going to the store.  In my opinion this feature loses its shine during the holiday season when the benefit of shopping and purchasing online is the elimination of the store visit.  I think this remains an important option for the majority of the year and also for some types of retailers.  For instance, this option is great home improvement retailers because it allows the consumer to plan for their weekend projects and have the materials ready for pickup on Saturday to provide more time for their project. 

 

The option that consumers are searching for is purchase anywhere and ship to anyone from their place of purchase.  This is the next wave of retail and retailers are starting to embrace and deploy the tools to support this option.  This option requires an investment in technology in both networks for wireless capabilities in the store and also the sales and fulfillment capabilities to use the retail stores and product picking locations to fill customer orders.  The wireless network capabilities in the store is a key step to collaboration with the consumer and allows the retailer to better understand consumer shopping when paired with the consumer's purchases. 

 

The challenge involved in expanding the relationship with the consumer is accepting the potential loss of a sale.  The retailer must be willing to lose one sale to a consumer for the opportunity to build the long term relationship with the consumer.  Retailers will always have consumers that focus solely on the lowest price and this cannot be the focus of the retailer.  The retailer must focus on the long term relationship and the long term benefits of a collaborative relationship with the consumer.  This means that the retailer must provide added value to the consumer experience that the consumer will not find with another retailer.  A retail battle for customers based on low price is a cannibalistic and losing battle and the retailer must focus on the collaborative relationship with the customer to build long term success.

 

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?