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The Networked Economy Is Changing Everything We Know About the Retail Experience – and for the Better

Now that we’re heading towards the beginning of a brand-new year, it seems as though everyone is trying to predict how life will change in 2015. And this is especially true in the retail industry. My motivation for this posting was from an interesting article I had read on TechCrunch about retail trends – check it out and send me feedback on what you think.

Without a shadow of a doubt, customers are at the center of the retail universe. And happily, there are no signs of that reality changing anytime soon. But, there are so many moving parts beyond customer centricity that make the retail experience possible.

Hyperconnectivity is reinventing everything


More people are connected through mobile devices and social networks. It’s not just the millennials and Gen Xers who are participating in the new networked economy. In fact, the baby boomers are in on it too – with 59% of adults ages 65 and over using the Internet and making it a part of their everyday lives. On the other side, businesses are getting connected through integrated supply chains and business networks to better service customers.

When you apply these truths to the retail industry, you quickly understand that the retail omnichannel experience isn’t just limited to the supply chain. It’s no longer just about bringing products to store shelves – in exactly the right color, size, and moment it’s desired. Rather, the retail experience has been expanded and integrated into our daily lives. As a result, retailers are accessible 24x7x365 and anywhere in the world – even if the closest physical store is over 1,000 miles away.

However, one of the most interesting trends is that of “click and collect”. This is how over 19% of U.S. consumers are purchasing goods online, but picking up at a local outlet. If you think about it, this really does deliver on the omnichannel promise. I would be interested to see just how much this statistic changes throughout this holiday season.

The complete retail experience – brought to you by the networked economy

It’s obvious that online (or digital) sales is a critical piece of the total omnichannel shopping experience. And when channels work in together in lock-step, overall sales increase. For example, we’re seeing the eroded popularity of well-known brands that follow traditional models. All the while, an extraordinary number of startups are taking advantage of this opportunity to grow and expand their following.

And wherever a top-notch retail experience occurs, so does customer service. Any time a customer has an issue with an order – no matter where and how the transaction is taking place – a helping hand in the form of a customer service agent is available. This is true whether you’re in the store, online, using an app, or on the phone. Plus, retailers that interact with customers through social media and encourage online reviews tend to increase customers’ comfort with online purchases.

Of course, it would be nice to watch your guilty-pleasure show and get that must-have coat worn by your favorite character with a quick purchase on a mobile remote control app while a 3-D printer gets to work. But honestly, do we really want that kind of retail experience?

In the networked economy, retailers have an opportunity to go one step beyond that kind of experience. Through the use of intelligent agents or bots, retailers can act as our own personal shoppers. Behind the scenes, they negotiate with brands on our behalf to adhere to certain rules or limits we specify. Whether you’re following a gluten-free diet, refuse to pay for shipping, or want a specific size or color, retailers can recommend products that meet your needs and preferences. Bots can also analyze your shopping patterns and preferences to suggest sizes, new products, or even store locations. There’s even a significant potential to build ad-hoc communities that come together just to negotiate for goods and services based on attributes that all participants have in common – something way beyond Groupon.

For consumers, the networked economy means less time and frustration is dedicated toward the shopping experience. All the while, retailers – of all sizes, locations, and niches – can win by getting the information they need to fuel their promotions.

Learn more

For more perspectives about the Networked Economy and its impact on our world, read my Forbes article “3 Things Retailers Need To Thrive In The Networked Economy” and check out Conversations on the Networked Economy.

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