I view the consumer chain as a series of hub and spoke mechanisms that are connected by a chain of collaboration across the partners.  Each participant, or member in this consumer chain is collaborating with other members in providing and receiving value to the other members in the relationship while in most cases managing a collaborative chain internal to their own organization.  In other words, each supplier or customer in the particular retailer’s consumer chain can also be a supplier or customer in many other consumer chains and can even be controlling a consumer chain of their own.  This makes for a complicated relationship that is best managed and controlled by the organization that has defined their consumer chain, in the case of this discussion this would be a specific retailer. 


The retailer is in the position to identify and coordinate the needs while encouraging and supporting the collaborative efforts to support those needs.  The retailer becomes the hub in their consumer chain to develop and coordinate the execution of the collaborative initiatives while maintain the data resulting from the consumer chain activities.  This consumer chain hub and spoke concept provides the framework for the network to achieve the greatest value for all members.  In this framework the retailer, as the hub, becomes the translator and traffic cop that coordinates and encourages and maintains the flow of information and the collaborative efforts.  There must be a participant in the consumer chain that in effect owns the collaboration and the participant that will obtain the greatest value is the retailer, so it is a logical conclusion that the retailer should own these responsibilities.


This role of translator and traffic cop is very important to the success of the consumer chain and will require a great deal of effort to develop the framework.  This is because the retailer must first develop the consumer collaborative community that will generate a great deal of the feedback to the consumer chain.  Sales data provide a single dimension of information to the consumer chain where the consumer community will fill in the missing information and provide the color that will enhance the sales data into an increasing stream of data to the other members of the consumer chain to increase performance and accuracy of demand evaluations. 


The sales numbers provide the ‘what’ part of the retail channel and the objective of the consumer collaboration community must be to provide the ‘why’ part of the retail channel.  The ‘why’ part of the equation is the information that will help the retailer to maintain and grow the sales through a balanced equation rather than the hit or miss method of retail sales. 


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?