Tuesday Nov 25, 2014

The Increasing Role of ERP in Customer Experience and B2B E-Commerce

When most people in e-commerce talk about B2B they often talk about the consumerization of B2B and things they can relate from their experience in Retail (B2C).  I always want to tackle the bigger issues that are very specific to the B2B e-commerce community and the challenges that you face.  One of our greatest challenges is the role that our ERP systems play.

The increasing role of the ERP system

The complexity of our ERP systems is one of the key differences between B2B and B2C.  The reality is that we have to focus a tremendous amount of resources on integrating the ERP as it is the lifeblood of our company.  Think about this:
  • Integrating to the ERP system(s) will most likely be one of your biggest initial and ongoing cost in your B2B e-commerce project.
  • Most B2B companies have more than one ERP system because of multiple acquisitions and the time and cost involved in consolidating into a single ERP.
  • Many of the B2B features that exist on websites today are really just about making ERP functions customer facing.

You may now be asking "With all of that complexity, you see the role of the ERP system increasing?"

I do.

ERP the Foundation of a Great Customer Experience

In an  article by Manufacturing Business Technology magazine, their survey describes the increasing role of the ERP system in the Customer Experience.

The ERP has a significant role in streamlining interactions with suppliers and customers:

  • Nearly 40% of all IME manufacturers surveyed believe the ERP is vital as the platform that connects the back office and front office
  • Nearly 85% of large IME organizations with 5,000 employees or more indicated that their ERP is a vital platform for delivering a good customer experience
  • IME manufacturers have come to realize that providing superior customer experience has to be one of their top initiative

To improve our Front Office, we have to consider our Back Office.

When you think about it, most B2B e-commerce sites are simply about exposing specific functions of their ERP system to customers.

Take for example the shopping cart.  By providing an online shopping cart you move the transaction from your inside sales team entering orders into the ERP,  to your customer.  By giving them their pricing based on their terms and conditions and contract online moves that function from the back office to your customer.

Customer Facing ERP

Order status, inventory availability by location, ATP (available to promise), taking payments, and even providing the catalog itself is about giving your customers transparency into your back office.  Product content used to be housed only in marketing catalogs and cryptic codes in the ERP, now we have customer facing product content.

This transparency started very basic, but take a look at your backlog of customer requests.  Do you pick up any patterns related to your ERP?  I do not see that stopping.  If I am correct in stating the secret of B2B e-commerce is about helping your customers do their job easier on your site then that means giving them more and more access to complete self service.   ie More transparency into the ERP.  The new Customer Facing ERP.

Tuesday Jul 29, 2014

What the Content+Commerce Equation is Missing: the Customer and Their Context

There’s been a lot of talk about content and commerce and the role of each in the customer experience. But we think there’s a lot to the story that isn’t being addressed. So, we’ve joined the conversation – and brought a unique perspective. This perspective is what drove our major product release last week, and a new whitepaper on content and commerce environments.

 

It’s no secret that content and commerce have collided. Enabling brand exploration and selling product should now be thought of as the same process. But the unification of content and commerce goes beyond having a single website URL or videos on the product detail page. Shoppers want to see rich content in context of their product searches – and in turn, they want to be inspired to explore brands in new ways. Bottom line: how consumers engage is not predictable. Researching, buying, advocating or seeking help is no longer tied to specific steps in the funnel, or to touchpoints. It’s all just interactions, filtered by their need at that moment.

 

But delivering this type of experience is hard. Inside of organizations, legacy ways of thinking about Marketers telling authentic brand stories (inspiring) and Merchants as being the eyes of the business (selling) has forced everyone to ask: who and what should drive our collective experience?

 

It’s not just org charts that create confusion over what path to take at this crossroads, it’s the technology each team has separately invested in over the last decade. Marketers have historically used WCM/WEM (Web Content or Web Experience Management) systems to inspire, and Merchants typically leverage the eCommerce platform to sell. Over the years, each technology camp has evolved to include capabilities that now overlap in certain areas, creating more confusion over which technology to use where, especially when it comes to powering the “glass” of the customer experience. Some firms lead with WCM/WEM, others with commerce, others with a hybrid side-by-side approach.

 

But the question people aren’t asking is the most important one. It shouldn’t be about what group or what technology should drive the experience, the focus should be: how can we leverage the customer and their context to deliver relevant experiences. We believe this is what the CX movement is all about, and its what drives our product, and our customers’ results.

 

A predetermined page shouldn’t define what’s delivered, the consumer’s context should. This is the core of the Oracle Commerce product, and the basis of our stance that content and commerce is only part of the equation.

[Read More]

Monday Jul 21, 2014

Bringing Content, Commerce and Digital Experiences Together: Oracle Commerce V11.1 Release Announcement

ORACLE COMMERCE V11.1 NOW AVAILABLE

A short six months after the v11.0 release, Oracle Commerce 11.1 provides an impressive payload for enabling our customers to deliver differentiated digital commerce experiences. Oracle Commerce is a Digital Experience Platform that approaches content, commerce and experience in a fundamentally different way than any other solution on the market. Oracle Commerce 11.1 brings the Oracle Commerce 11 series to the next logical step to the unification of content, commerce and experience, solving the challenges around creating, automating and scaling inspired selling experiences to any shopper, in every context.

From the shopper’s perspective, v11.1 provides further enhancements to deliver relevant, persistent commerce experiences wherever they are. From an internal operations perspective, v11.1 makes creating and scaling these experiences across all enterprise sites simpler.

The Oracle Commerce 11.1 release continues four major themes, which are in direct response to challenges our customers have shared with us:

1. Omni-channel Experience Delivery

2. Digital Experience and Content Management Business User Control

3. B2B Commerce Feature-set Enhancements

4. Platform TCO Enhancements & Integrations

Summaries below describe what we have done in v11.1 in each of these areas and why. For more detailed information on key release features, read the v11.1 What’s New Document or join the Oracle Commerce Product Management team for a live webcast, demos and discussion of the latest release.

[Read More]

Wednesday Jul 16, 2014

My Real-Life Commerce Experience

Babies need a lot of stuff.   I have an almost 1 year old son and this week alone (it’s only Wednesday) I’ve purchased diapers, baby wipes, a travel high chair, first birthday party supplies, and let’s not forget about the birthday presents.   Thinking back, I made all of these purchases through different channels and had different experiences along the way.   

Being a working mom, I’m constantly on the go.   Everyone has different reasons for purchasing whether it is price, customer service, selection… but for me it is all about convenience.  I need to be able to research and order what I’m looking for immediately when I think about it, so this week it meant I placed orders from my mobile phone, my laptop, and I even ordered online and had my husband pick-up in-store.   Along the way, I expected my experiences to be tailored to my needs and preferences no matter the channel.   The retailers that got it right got my business (and most likely will again).  

The best part about my job at Oracle is that I work on a product that is at the forefront of enabling businesses to truly deliver the relevant, personalized experiences that we all expect when shopping.   Many companies are exceeding customer expectations when it comes to the buying experiences they deliver, but there are also many companies that are falling short.  In fact, according to a 2014 Accenture report on “The Secrets of Seamless Retailing Success” a significant 38 percent of retail shoppers still cite delivering a seamless customer experience as the main area for retailer improvement. 

So, what can companies do to make sure that they deliver the best experience possible to each of one their customers no matter the interaction point?   Take 5 minutes to watch our new Oracle Commerce demos so you can see what’s possible today in B2C commerce and B2B commerce

Tuesday Jul 15, 2014

What's New in Oracle Commerce v11.1

Are you a current Oracle Commerce customer or are you interested in learning about what's new in the latest release of Oracle Commerce?  Join us for a live webcast on July 24th at 11:30am ET to learn more about the exciting enhancements being delivered with Oracle Commerce v11.1.

Why should you attend?  Oracle Commerce product experts will highlight the most exciting and critical updates, and provide:

  • In-depth reviews of new features and benefits for Oracle Commerce v11.1
  • Comprehensive demonstrations so that you can see new features in action
  • Answers to any of your questions via chat or phone

During this in-depth 90 minute webcast, you will learn about important updates including:

  • Business user tool enhancements to Experience Manager and Business Control Center including creating and managing site specific pages and web content assets.
  • Core platform enhancements including Single Sign-On, Coherence Web Support, and Guided Search.
  • Channels and accelerators including expanded multisite capabilities, and enhanced integration with Oracle POS.

Don’t miss this comprehensive update on Oracle Commerce and the opportunity to talk with Oracle Commerce product experts.  

Register Now

Thursday Jul 03, 2014

Design for complex ATG applications

Overview

Needless to say, some ATG applications are more complex than others.  Some ATG applications support a single site, single language, single catalog, single currency, have a single development staff, single business team, and a relatively simple business model.  The real complex applications have to support multiple sites, multiple languages, multiple catalogs, multiple currencies, a couple different development teams, multiple business teams, and a highly complex business model (and processes to go along with it).  While it's still important to implement a proper design for simple applications, it's absolutely critical to do this for the complex applications.  Why?  It's all about time and money.  If you are unable to manage your complex applications in an efficient manner, the cost of managing it will increase dramatically as will the time to get things done (time to market).  On the positive side, your competition is most likely in the same situation, so you just need to be more efficient than they are.

This article is intended to discuss a number of key areas to think about when designing complex applications on ATG.  Some of this can get fairly technical, so it may help to get some background first.  You can get enough of the required background information from this post.  After reading that, come back here and follow along.
[Read More]

Key ATG architecture principles

Overview

The purpose of this article is to describe some of the important foundational concepts of ATG.  This is not intended to cover all areas of the ATG platform, just the most important subset - the ones that allow ATG to be extremely flexible, configurable, high performance, etc.  For more information on these topics, please see the online product manuals.
[Read More]

Wednesday Jul 02, 2014

Building Infinite Scrolling in Oracle Commerce

I have to start by saying that the approach I've taken to implement infinite scrolling may not be considered best practice.  I simply found an approach that worked for my purposes and I thought I would share…

Background
The application I'm working with is an internal Oracle application built on Oracle Commerce (version 10.1.2 / 3.1.2).  It's not a commerce application, but it does use the ATG 'platform' (modules DSS and below), as well as Endeca.  I have a repository that I index in Endeca, and I leverage Endeca Experience Manager to render some of the key pages of the application.  So, as it relates to infinite scrolling, I was starting with an experience manager driven page which contained a ResultsList cartridge, not unlike what you may see in the Commerce Reference Store (CRS).
[Read More]

Wednesday Jun 04, 2014

The Internet of Things & Commerce: Part 3 -- Interview with Kristen J. Flanagan, Commerce Product Management

Internet of Things & Commerce Series: Part 3 (of 3)

And now for the final installment my three part series on the Internet of Things & Commerce. Post one, “The Next 7,000 Days”, introduced the idea of the Internet of Things, followed by a second post interviewing one of our chief commerce innovation strategists, Brian Celenza. 

This final post in the series is an interview with Kristen J. Flanagan, lead product manager for Oracle Commerce omnichannel strategy. She takes us through the past, present, and future of how our Commerce Solution is re-imagining the way physical and digital shopping come together.

-------

QUESTION: It’s your job to stay on top of what our customers’ need to not only run their online businesses effectively, but also to make sure they have product capabilities they can innovate and grow on. What key trend has been top-of-mind for you and our customers around this collision of physical and digital shopping?

Kristen: I’ll agree with Brian Celenza that hands down mobile has forced a major disruption in shopping and selling behavior. A few years ago, mobile exploded at a pace I don't think anyone was expecting. Early on, we saw our customers scrambling to establish a mobile presence---mostly through "screen scraping" technologies. As smartphones continued to advance (at lightening speed!), our customers started to investigate ways to truly tap in to their eCommerce capabilities to deliver the mobile experience. They started looking to us for a means of using the eCommerce services and capabilities to deliver a mobile experience that is tailored for mobile rather than the desktop experience on a smaller screen.

[Read More]

Wednesday May 28, 2014

How Mary Meeker’s Latest Findings May Make You Re-Imagine Commerce

Today, Mary Meeker released her highly anticipated annual “Internet Trends” presentation for 2014. All 164 slides are jam-packed with pretty much everything you need to know about the state of the Internet.

And as luck would have it, Oracle is staying ahead of these trends (but we’ll talk about that later).

There were a few surprises, some stats to solidify what you likely already know, and Meeker’s novel observations about where we are all going. What interested me the most is not only how people are engaging in their personal lives, but how they engage with brands.

As you could probably predict, Internet usage growth is slowing while tablet user and mobile data traffic growth continue their meteoric rise around the globe, with tremendous growth in underpenetrated markets like China, India, Brazil and Indonesia. Now hold those the “Internet is dead” comments. Keep in mind there’s still plenty of room to grow, and a multiscreen model is Meeker’s vision for our future. Despite 1.5x YOY growth for mobile traffic, mobile still only makes up about 23% of all traffic today. With tablet shipments easily outpacing figures for PCs even at their height (in 2007), mobile will only continue on it’s path, but won’t be everything to everyone. Mobile won’t replace every touchpoint, it’s just created our shorter attention spans and demand for simpler, more personal experiences. As Meeker points out TVs, tablets, PCs, and smartphones are used for different activities at present, but lines will blur (for example, 84% of smartphones owners use their device while watching TV).

Day-to-day activities are being re-imagining through simple, beautiful user experiences. It seems like every day I discover a new way a brand/site/app made the most mundane or mounting task enjoyable and frictionless – and I’m not alone. Meeker points out the evolution of how we do everything from how we communicate, get information, use money, meet someone, get places, order a meal, and consume media is all done through new user interfaces that make day-to-day tasks simpler. This movement has caused just about everyone’s patience for a poor UX to take a nosedive. And it’s not just the digital user experience, technology is making a lot of people’s offline lives easier, and less expensive. Today 47% of online shopping utilizes free shipping— nearly half. And Meeker predicts same day local delivery will be the “next big thing” (and you can take a guess on who will own that).

Content, Community and Commerce creates the “Internet Trifecta.” Meeker pointed out that when content, communities and commerce occur in a single experience it’s embraced by consumers, which translates to big dollars for brands. The magic happens when consumers can get inspired, research, and buy in a single experience. As the buying cycle has changed and touchpoints (Web, mobile, social, store) are no longer tied to “roles” or steps in the customer journey, brands must make all experiences (content and commerce) available in a single, adaptable experience. (We at Oracle Commerce have a lot to say on this topic – stay tuned!)

And in what Meeker calls the “biggest re-imagination of all:” consumers enabled with smartphones and sensors are creating troves of findable and sharable data, which she says is in the early stages, by growing rapidly. She notes that transparency and patterns of consumers with this hardware (FYI - there are up to 10 sensors embedded in smartphones now) has created a Big Data treasure chest to be mined to improve business and the life of the consumer. The opportunities are endless.

[Read More]
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