Consumer collaboration programs have quickly become a priority and taken a prominent place in the retail marketplace almost everywhere.  This is especially true in shopping and search type tools in addition to many progressive retailers.  The next logical step for consumer collaboration is into the inventory management and placement programs to improve inventory availability and placement across channels to increase transparency and eliminate friction across channels.  Over the last couple of years retailers have been struggling with the changes consumers are bringing to eliminate the barriers across channels through the consumer collaboration not only with other consumers but also with third party shopping and product search tools. 

 

These consumer actions have certainly disrupted the brick and mortar retail outlets especially in malls and strip mall outlets because of the continuing shift to purchasing online.  While consumers have been shifting shopping and purchasing practices, retailers have basically stuck their heads in the sand and doubled down on the levers that worked in the past, namely sales and reduced prices.  These efforts have been largely unsuccessful mainly because there is always someone that will provide a lower price.  The large retailers have struggled with develop and acquiring capabilities to counter the consumer shifts in shopping and purchasing with Wal Mart providing the most significant example of this practice. 

 

To date, however, retailers are still simply providing expanded capabilities across the channels, with a mix of low price thrown in.  For example Wal Mart is now advertising two day delivery service as standard, without the membership to a customer program such as the Amazon Prime program.  This is good as a stop gap however retailers must expand their horizon into greater collaboration practices, along with shopping analysis via big data services to be able to create trends rather than react to trends.  Amazon is a good example of a retailer that creates trends, while Wal Mart, to date at least, is a good example of a retailer following trends. 

 

Consumer collaboration to enhance inventory management is one of the next trends that retailers should focus to support their future needs.  Rather than fighting the consumer demand to shop in the retail store and purchase online, retailers should embrace these practices because the online interaction with consumers provide additional data points to understand shopping that these retailers cannot capture simply in the store purchase.  Retailers must provide a cohesive collaboration program that allows the free flow of information between consumer in any channel.  This requires interaction and collaboration on the part of the store sales clerks along with the combination of eCommerce data related to the customer that will allow and encourage the store clerk to personalize the experience in the store with data captured online.  This collection of data combined with developing the consumer relationship will help retailers to re-evaluate their inventory management and improve the strategic inventory placement.

 

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?