Retailers have survived major changes in the marketplace previously and they will survive the current changes to the marketplace being driven by a combination of consumer demands and technology capabilities. The challenge in this current upheaval is really related to the change in the consumer and the demands of the millennial generation. These changes are demanded from a generation of consumers that have grown up immersed in technology and more importantly immersed in change that is realized through technology. This comfort in technology and practice of experimentation combined with a practice of discontinuous change in the manner in which technology is used will cause the greatest challenge for the retailers related to the upheaval in shopping and purchasing.
The difference between this current upheaval and previous upheavals is the change in the way the new consumer generation base uses technology. Retailers will be challenged to meet the demands because of the change in the viewpoint of the millennials as it relates to their use of technology in all aspects of their life. This can be hard for a generation of retailers to understand that are not immersed in the technology to the same level. Retailers must also allow for and nurture the support for the older generation consumers that may not be as comfortable with social network technology capabilities and the discontinuous change in utilization that will be driven by the millennials. Retailers must allow for current generation technology along with the next generation technology and practices that are demanded by the millennials.
Another point of difference is the millennial viewpoint and response to business, commerce and work life balance in general. At this point at least millennials are focused on work life balance and social society benefits to world and much less focused on lowest price. Millennials are changing the retail world by moving from an instant gratification that heavily utilizes credit to a long term focus of saving and less use of credit. This is a great thing for the long term well being and success of the millennial, they seem to have learned from the recession and have incorporated those lessons into their day-to-day life. In general this means that they have a tendency to heavily research purchases and then delay the purchase until they can purchase without credit. This is a great thing for this generation of consumers and it is a challenge for retailers.
These consumer changes will require retailers to incorporate the ability to change and incorporate new technology quickly and just as quickly drop the technology when consumer usage changes. This can be difficult because at the same time the retailer will need to maintain the mainstream technology tools for the older generation usage a little longer. This requires a robust and flexible technology foundation and in addition it requires the retailer accept and embrace a higher level of risk. The risk is related to the requirement to incorporate new capabilities and technology prior to general acceptance from the entire customer base.
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?