We are in the middle of event season, which means lots of airplanes, hotel rooms and restaurant dinners (some better than others). During the past few weeks I have flown to all the event hot spots – Las Vegas, San Francisco, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago, New York, San Jose, Miami, Washington DC to name a few. I have also attended a wide range of events, from the likes of Infosys, JDA, Plex, Demandware, SAP, Oracle, Epicor etc etc. There has been one thread that is common – the rise of the consumer. Now this is nothing new to us here at Constellation Research. We have been been touting the rise of the consumer in the commercial ecosystem (B2B and B2C) as the biggest disruptor to date. It is good to hear that the solution providers are recognizing this shift as well.
So why is the consumer gaining in strength?
They have the voice because of social. A growing number of retailers are making sure they do better social listening to gauge how their customers are viewing them. What kinds of features or services might they be interested in. Companies like Newell Rubbermaid or Best Buy, have done a lot of work to keep an ear to the social sounding boards.
Consumers have the reach via mobile. As Demandware pointed out at their show, mobile is king. True mobile meaning our phones, not our tablets, are what sit at the top of the food chain when it comes to customer interactions and touch points. We all know the statistics about how often we check our phones and the fact they are with us almost the entirety of our waking hours. Who could have imagined what Marty Cooper did in 1983 would give us such reach when it comes to the relationship consumers have with the commerce ecosystem.
The internet provides consumers with virtually unlimited choices. Before we saw the rise of the world wide web and subsequently eCommerce, our choices were often time tethered to the stores that was within a reasonable physical range or whatever inventory that could be displayed in a catalog. All this changed with the rise of the internet. Suddenly if you were a purveyor of fine wine in the Rhone valley, you could attract buyers from Hong Kong to Pittsburgh. Regardless of your size, through a few clicks of a mouse your products were accessible by anyone with a browser and a dial up modem! Consumers now had access to a treasure trove of products.
Finally the consumers’ expectations have been set by the likes of Amazon. Not only can consumers access a wide swath of products through the eCommerce giant, but they also expect perks such as free shipping, returns, access to long tail products, to name a few.
All this taken together is why consumers are becoming, if not are already, the biggest disruptors within the commerce supply chain. Based on what I am hearing this event season, the vendors and service providers are agreeing with this assertion. The challenge will be how to best offer the solutions and technologies that can allow participants in the commerce supply chain to meet their consumers’ needs. These solution providers must keep in mind their customers’ customers as they design and offer new solutions. How can they empower their customers to be able to better meet the growing expectations and needs of the end customer? No small challenge indeed. As this crazy event has demonstrated, at least most if not all the vendors are reading off the same music sheet.