It recently dawned on me that keywords for retail collaboration are not popular and and not part of the general list of keywords and phrases popular in Twitter. There are also many more examples of collaboration keywords and phrases than there are examples of retail keywords and phrases. I do not know if this has any importance, or where the importance lies, of collaboration with consumers although I do think that it is a sign of the lack of focus and importance of this practice in most retailer strategy. Collaboration is a key factor with the consumer and they are embracing a wide variety of tools with which to collaborate every day. Consumers have embraced this practice and technology in big way and it is time for retailers to also embrace this practice.
For a very long time retailers have been able to survive and thrive by providing consumers with the capabilities products and shopping methods that the consumers felt were needed by the consumer. The large retailers utilized surveys and focus groups to convince themselves they were listening to the customer and they incorporated organizations focused on customer relationships and customer satisfaction to promote their idea of a strong consumer relationship. All of these organizations focused on their customer relationship with one very important caveat; this customer relationship must focus on sales first and the customer relationship second. The retailer was something of a benevolent benefactor in their relationship with the consumer; the retailer provided what they felt the consumer needed and desired, as long as it didn’t impact the sales for any channel.
This retail practice worked for a very long time and most retailers truly felt they were promoting the consumer relationship through their practices. When eCommerce came into the picture the beliefs, relationships and sales methods began to unravel for retailers. Consumers were given a choice in the method and channel to make a purchase and consumers made the choice to shop at their own time and place. Bookstores were the first casualty of the rise of eCommerce and retailers have overlooked a key factor in their relationship with consumers which is - consumers are interested in a social shopping experience that blends channels. In hindsight, the consumer ‘window shopping’ practice where they would try out products in a store and then purchase online was an indication of the consumer demands. Many retailers fought this consumer practice with only limited success but it still did not stop the consumer.
With the explosion of mobile technology and tools on the market consumers are taking the next logical step in their goal of the virtual shopping and purchasing practice across channels. Consumers are using mobile apps and technology that is provided by third party companies to build this capability themselves and this is already impacting retailers. Retailers must recognize the consumer demands and begin to incorporate them into a multichannel offering that supports the consumer demands of a virtual shopping and purchasing platform across channels. The first retailers to embrace and offer this platforms will be the game changers and success stories in the coming next chapter of retail.
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?