Retailers and especially large regional and national department stores must develop and implement a virtual collaborative shopping strategy that supports and encourages consumer collaboration with both the retialer and other consumers. As I have stated previously, this collaborative shopping strategy is critical to the long term success of the retailer for the long term and this requirement is being driven by the consumer demands for more flexibility in shopping and demands for a more inclusive virtual community in which they can share and interact with both other consumers and the retailer. The key to success in this effort is flexibility in the retailer's ability to support current demands and flexibility to change and support future demands that haven’t been identified yet.
Flexibility is a key to the success in supporting the consumer demands for shopping tools and capabilities and these demands will only speed up and increase in the future, thereby increasing the requirement for flexibility. In my opinion, the requirement to support consumer demands for new apps and options in their interaction with the retailer while important still comes second to the requirements for flexibility. Without flexibility, the retailer cannot hope to support the continuously changing consumer demands. The second and probably even more critical key to the ability for retailers to support the demands of consumers is a stable and robust technology architecture and foundation that can support the flexibility requirement. You cannot plan for the types of changes that will or even may be demanded by consumers, but you can lay the foundation and provide the building blocks that will allow you to be able to support these future demands.
You only need to review the landscape of apps and consumer influenced offerings to see that the single greatest influence in these demands is mobile technology. Over the last couple of years mobile technology has expanded until now it is one of the key methods for eCommerce purchasing. In looking back you can easily understand the draw and the reasons for the increase in mobile technology use by consumers. In my own experience with my family we have embraced mobile technology for three purposes;
- The first is to perform price comparisons while shopping. I have apps on my smart phone that provide sales and discount offers directly to based on location. This is an important and compelling feature that is offered across all social platforms for recommendations of services, stores, restaurants and even suggestions for purchases in those locations.
- Virtual shopping with our family where we may see a product that we think other family members would like and we reach out through instant messaging and photos and videos to share thoughts and receive opinions before we purchase.
- Obtain special pricing and discounts at the time of purchase based on location from shopping apps.
These are benefits that my family has derived from mobile and social technology and we haven’t even tried to explore potentials, just think of the options and capabilities that the retailer can drive in social and mobile technology! This is why it is so important for the retailer to prepare and embrace these technologies to ensure future 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?