The retail consumer supply chain is focused on providing the consumers with a positive experience, products that the consumer likes and desires, in addition to a value in the service, the experience and the products offered.  This relationship with the consumer is something that must be nurtured and based on a set of values that is embraced and guided by the consumers. The retailer provides and supports a consumer community that is the vehicle for collaborating with the consumers to understand their values in order to incorporate their values into the retailer’s shopping and sales channels.  The consumer community provides the means for the retailer to understand what consumers value and desire in their shopping experience.

 

The capabilities that the consumer channel provide an important ingredient in the relationship between the consumer and the retailer.  In the past the sales clerk was able to provide the capabilities to collaborate with the consumers to understand their values and desires for the shopping and purchasing experience.  This is still true of the small, one or two store, neighborhood retailer where the sales clerks and the owners develop a personal relationship with the consumer.  A coffee shop, or a small independent bookstore is a good example of the types of personalized relationships with their customers that allow the owners to focus and meet their customer's’ needs and values. 

 

The large retail chains generally do not have the opportunity to develop these personal relationships and when they do have the opportunity it is localized to one store. There is no process for these retailers to share the customer response from one sales clerk to another or from one store to another or from one region to another.  In most large retail stores the sales clerks are busy stocking new inventory arrivals, fixing displays and now many of these retailers have assigned their store sales clerks eCommerce order filling activities.  All of these activities and assignments leave very little time for the sales clerk to develop a personal relationship with the customer and this leaves no opportunity or ability to share learnings with other clerks, stores or regions.

 

This is where the online consumer community will bring value to the retailer by encouraging the retailer to develop the virtual relationship with their customers.  This community provides a channel for the consumer to interact with both the retailer and other customers in a manner that encourages the customer to return and provides the opportunity to easily purchase from the retailer based on the suggestions of the community.  The data capture, display and interaction capabilities of the community provide the retailer a basis to explore the consumers desires and values and then to validate these responses through the interaction and purchasing that is derived from the community.  This community provides the large retailer with an opportunity to develop an individual relationship with their customers that cannot be achieved in the brick and mortar store.

 

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?