By Chris Petersen and Adam Simon
Consumer demands are driving a retail renaissance, not an apocalypse
In reviewing world headlines regarding store closings and retailers filing for bankruptcy, it would be easy to conclude that a retail apocalypse is upon us. If you only look through the retail lens of “stores”, many bricks and mortar store formats are struggling. But through the eyes of today’s consumers, it is no longer a question of shopping stores versus online. Customers simply don’t see “channels”, or separate physical from digital shopping.
Customers expect a seamless experience across time and place, with multiple choices of how and where to acquire their purchase. It is these rising consumer expectations for “real time retail” that are outstripping the capacity of individual retailers, distributors and vendors to independently deliver. The future of retail is quite literally becoming a transformation of the traditional linear supply chain into an ecosystem of strategic collaboration.
Innovations are increasingly the product of strategic collaborations
The e-tail giants of Amazon and Alibaba are increasingly viewed as the great innovators and disruptors of retail. Both have driven innovation focused on customer centric choice, convenience and personalized service which has disrupted traditional stores. However, not all of these innovations are internally driven and executed. Both e-tailers collaborate extensively with vendors and resellers in a “marketplace” in order to expand breadth of assortments, without undo inventory exposure and risks. Amazon has even collaborated with the very traditional US Postal Service in order to gain weekend delivery and capacity, and last week announced a collaboration with Kohl’s for the reception of returned goods.
The wave of strategic collaboration is not limited to ecommerce. In its race against Amazon, Walmart is collaborating with a host of partners for assortment breadth, fresh produce and last mile delivery. Walmart’s newest pilot involves partnering with August Home smart devices to enable a Deliv delivery driver to have one time home access to put the groceries in the refrigerator. A unique aspect of this service is the customer can remotely control and watch the delivery real time on the Wi-Fi web cam. It is too early to tell if customers will opt in for this level of in home service. The crucial point is that this level of differentiated, personalized service would be inconceivable without strategically thinking “outside of the box [store]” on how to collaborate with the right combination of partners who can create and deliver it.
Today’s consumer dynamics drive demands that few can solve alone
Today’s omnichannel consumers are quite literally shopping anytime and everywhere. In addition, their purchase has become a journey across both time and place. Regardless of where the purchase takes place (in home, online or on phone), customers now expect a seamless experience with personalized service on how and where they take delivery. Even the very largest retailer, distributor or vendor does not have enough trucks for the “last mile”.
The new dynamics of executing retail dynamically in real time requires technology, systems, expertise and resources beyond the capacity of a single retailer, distributor or a vendor. There are a host of new “retail” issues driving demand for strategic collaboration:
- Long tail breadth inventory – Who holds the inventory, where and at what cost?
- Drop shipments – Are forecasts accurate to enable overnight fulfillment?
- Inventory “everywhere” – Who owns it and who has the risk if it doesn’t sell?
- Real time availability – What’s required to show store stock plus virtual options?
- Customer experience – If more SKUs go online, who owns experience and pays for it?
A new partnership and blog series focused on Strategic Collaboration
Chris Petersen and Adam Simon have collaborated on a host of projects and retail events. As they jointly explored omnichannel and digital transformation of retail, clear patterns began to emerge. Omnichannel is the consumer normal, the execution is inherently expensive. Relatively few retailers or vendors can afford all of the infrastructure, systems and costs associated with inventory and fulfillment. They also discovered that many of the innovative retail breakthroughs are in fact a function of strategic collaboration, which in turn is creating a new ecosystem.
As strategic collaboration evolves as a new ecosystem for retail, there are many more questions than there are answers. Over the course of the next 12 weeks Petersen and Simon will share their findings and discussions with leading vendors, distributors and retailers regarding their views of strategic collaboration, including:
- What are the best practices and pitfalls of strategic collaboration?
- What are the parameters and guidelines for collaboration?
- What do you look for in a strategic partner?
- What are the criteria and requirements for success?
- How do you measure results?
This blog series will culminate with a worldwide panel at the ContextWorld CES CEO Breakfast where a global Vendor, Distributor and Retailer will share their perspectives. Please contact us for more details on the event or to register!