Inmar Inc. | September 4, 2012

Who really has the power in the "purchasing relationship?" Is it the retailer because it has the closest, most immediate connection to the consumer? (Perhaps, even the neighborhood store itself?) Is it the brand because it holds the purse strings while holding emotional sway over the consumer? Or is it the consumer because the fate of the other two rests in her hands?

You could make a relatively convincing argument for any, or all, of the above. But, in an interdependent industry like ours, the reality is that the power is shared. And, when brand, retailer and consumer share not only that power, but also information, trust and value, then the shared power can be put to work on addressing common problems instead of simply being wielded in an on-going struggle for control.

As John Ross, Inmar's new president, Decision Sciences and Analytics (meet him below), wrote in a recent white paper, "Success lies within the data. We must track and understand shopper behavior more scientifically."

While some might interpret this as so much "big brother," it's actually one of the kindest (and smartest) things we can do. That is, listen to what shoppers say, respond with products they want and deliver those products in an enticing shopping environment they will want to return to time and again.

That can't happen if we see shoppers merely as data points to manipulate, retailers as real estate to leverage and brands as just another asset to manage. "They" are not the enemy. "They" are your partners, your customers, your shared asset.

That's why John offers that, "The brands and retailers who get it right are rewarded — because while connected shoppers expect brands and retailers to know, and even anticipate their wants, they are prepared to reward those who do with their loyalty."

And, it's why Inmar is focused on collaborative commerce networks rather than the adversarial entanglements that can, if we are not careful, plague us all. When we work together on our most challenging problems, some amazing things can happen.