The consumer chain influences across the retail organization, the sales channels, the internal and external partners will grow from insignificance to a major influencing factor.  This growth prospect require some vision and patience on the part of the retail senior leadership along with a great deal of imagination and persistence from the partners.  The consumer chain provides an opportunity to collect and analyze an immense amount of data, especially from the eCommerce sales channel and the consumer community.  The consumer community and the eCommerce sales channel provide a sandbox environment to experiment and measure results of those experiments to then influence decisions across the chain.


Supply chain partnerships from the raw materials to the retail distribution have been in place for a long time and the addition of the consumer partnership to create a consumer chain is in its infancy.  As with all new opportunities there is a great deal of potential and there is a great deal of risk to achieving the potential.  The potential though is worth the effort to realize and as I have previously stated, I believe this will become a cost of doing business in a short period of time.  The consumer has always influenced the retail marketplace based on purchasing trends and surveys.  These tools are cumbersome and more importantly not very accurate predictors of the future purchasing patterns of the consumer.  Over the years there have been improvements in accuracy of these predictions and there have also been a lot of inaccuracies.


The data that can be captured and provided by a robust consumer collaborative community can provide the information that will dramatically improve the accuracy of the forecasts.  This data and the analysis of the data will provide the information to influence not only product selection and sales forecasts but also presentation, sales and discount presentation.  The data can influence the decision to mark down product and in addition to what to mark down but also when to mark it down and how to present the markdowns for maximum reaction with minimum impact to other products.


It is important to be influenced by facts rather than by assumptions and the consumer collaboration community provides an opportunity to collect facts from a new outlet to use for more accurate and robust analysis.  This data from the consumer community can all but replace the majority of surveys and focus groups by providing real life examples of consumer reactions by tracking their flow and activities through the consumer community and the eCommerce sales site.  As the consumer participation grows the value of the data will grow as well.


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?