Consumer shopping methods and patterns have been changing dramatically over the last few years and I think they have now reached a point of critical mass where the pattern of change has become ingrained in the consumer interaction. Tools, practices and generational embrace of virtual capabilities are bringing about a rebuilding of the retail marketplace and relationships between consumer and retailer. I think that social media along with the growth of millennials in the marketplace are driving the direction in consumer practices and especially the expansion of a virtual shopping marketplace that blends the brick and mortar with the eCommerce channels into a marketplace that truly supports shopping any time and any place.
The millennial generation and their comfort and embrace of technology along with their drive to mold their shopping, work and play activities in a manner that supports their lifestyles and priorities is changing their interaction with all aspects of their lives. These millennial demands are changing all interaction across time and channels to support their lifestyles and their needs. I can easily see the changes in the retail marketplace simply from the interaction and practices of my children as they have grown up. There is now truly no barrier that has not been broken by the millennial demands and expectations through a combination of technology (mobile and wireless network), social network practices or the impatience with practices that do not support their needs.
Impatience or possibly boredom is an important aspect of the changes demanded by millennials. They have grown up with technology and have used their curiosity to change and grow social network interaction in ways that fit their lifestyles. I have said previously that retailers would be well served by hiring high school age children as consultants to help to understand and engage new trends as they are being developed. The method or practice of change starts with a boredom, or questioning the current practice, and this then develops into a new direction and practice through the mash-up of both new technologies and using existing technologies in a new way. As an example, most millennials interact through much different social network methods and combinations among themselves and when they want to interact with ‘their elders’ they use Facebook.
Retailers must change to focus on flexibility and collaboration with consumers in order to survive. One trait of millennials that retailers must embrace is the openness to collaboration. Collaboration allows millennials to change and grow in their shopping and purchasing practices and methods and going forward retailers must recognize and embrace these same collaborative methods in order to survive. This can be done if retailers embrace collaboration with the consumer and support the open and flexible shopping that is cross channel and geography.
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?