The integration layer framework that separates the internal and external applications and business operations applications provides another value to the retailer and that is a method and framework to encourage and support collaboration across their business partners, suppliers, service providers and consumers.  In fact, I think the best way to reference the integration layer framework is to call it a collaboration layer framework.  This name focuses on the value that the integration layer provides to the business and also aligns with the realization and acceptance of the importance of collaboration in the long term success of the businesses. 


The omni channel retailer is in critical need of a means to quickly and easily connect and collaborate with partners and service providers to support the changing demands of consumer shopping and purchase practices.  This has become especially important after the most recent holiday season where the mobile sales volumes increased dramatically.  With the increased acceptance of smartphone technology and the increased network capacity and capabilities consumers are taking control of their shopping and purchasing practices to support their own personal requirements rather than fitting into any preconceived mold developed by retailers.  This requires that retailers improve their abilities to redirect and add features and capabilities at a rate that is continuously increasing.


The collaboration layer allows the retailer to focus on the value add features and functionality through a standard communication protocol that reduces the integration time and effort requirements.  This allows the retailer to focus on the collaboration and value derived from the collaboration without the need to re-invent the integration functions for each new partner.  This is a huge benefit, especially when you consider the opportunity to collaborate with consumers. 


The opportunity to collaborate with consumers is the next frontier that retailers must embrace in order to maintain sales and retain the customers.  This starts with customer programs designed to encourage community and interaction of the consumers, in other words, the retailer must provide a social network for their consumers that encourages the interaction between consumer and the retailer in addition to the interaction between consumers.  This consumer community can bring a great deal of value to the retailer from a customer retention perspective.  Customer retention is one of the keys to success for the retailer and must be nurtured in every step of the way.


Retailer customer collaboration should take the form of requesting feedback and advice from customers regarding products, and the type of service, both shopping and purchasing that provide the most value to the consumer.  Mobile technology allows the retailer to identify and embrace the customer as they enter the store, if that is the retailer provides a robust in-store wireless network access capability. 


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?