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.

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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.

In the future, I think we'll see customers starting to really understand what their shoppers need and expect from a mobile offering and how they can adapt their content and delivery of that content to meet those needs.

And, mobile shopping doesn’t stop at the consumer / buyer. Because the in-store experience is compelling and has advantages that digital just can't offer, we're also starting to see the eCommerce services being leveraged for mobile for in-store sales associates. Brick-and-mortar retailers are interested in putting the omnichannel product catalog, promotions, and cart into the hands of knowledgeable associates. Retailers are now looking to connect and harness the eCommerce data in-store so that shoppers have a reason to walk-in. I think we'll be seeing a lot more customers thinking about melding the in-store and digital experiences to present a richer offering for shoppers.   

QUESTION: What are some examples of what our customers are doing currently to bring these concepts to reality?

Kristen: Well, without question, connecting digital and brick-and-mortar worlds is becoming tablestakes for selling experiences. If a brand has a foot in both worlds (i.e., isn’t a pureplay online retailer), they have to connect the dots because shoppers – whether consumers or B2B buyers –don't think in clearly defined channels anymore. The expectation is connectedness – for on- and offline experiences, promotions, products, and customer data.

What does this mean practically for businesses selling goods on- and offline? It touches a lot of systems: inventory info on the eCommerce site, fulfillment options across channels (buy online/pickup in store), order information (representing various channels for a cohesive view of shopper order history), promotions across digital and store, etc. 

A few years ago, the main link between store and digital was the smartphone. We all remember when “apps” became a thing and many of our customers were scrambling to get a native app out there. Now we're seeing more strategic thinking around the benefits of mobile web vs. native and how that ties in to the purpose and role of mobile within the digital channel. Put it more broadly, how these pieces fit together in the overall brand puzzle. 

The same could be said for “showrooming.” Where it was a major concern (i.e., shoppers using stores to look at merchandise and then order online from Amazon), in recent months, it’s emerged that the inverse is now becoming a a reality as well. "Webrooming" (using digital sites to do research before making a purchase in the store) is a new behavior pure play retailers are challenged with.

There are many technologies, behaviors, and information that need to tie together to offer a holistic omnichannel shopping experience. As a result, brands are looking for ways to connect the digital and in-store experiences to bridge the gaps: shared assortments across channels, assisted selling apps that arm associates with information about shoppers, shared promotions, inventory, etc.

QUESTION: How has Oracle Commerce been built to help brands make the link between in-store and digital over the last few years?

Kristen: Over the last seven years, the product has been in step with the changes in industry needs. Here is a brief history of the evolution:

Prior to Oracle’s acquisition of ATG and Endeca, key investments were made to cross-channel functionality that we are still building on today.

Commerce Service Center (v2007.1)

ATG introduced the Commerce Service Center in 2007.1 and marked the first entry into what was then called “cross-channel.” The Commerce Service Center is a call-center-agent-facing application that enables agents to see shopper orders, online catalog, promotions, and pricing. It is tightly integrated with the eCommerce capabilities of the platform and commerce engine and provided a means of connecting data from the call center and online channels. 

REST services framework (v9.1) 

In v9.1 we introduced the REST services framework and interface in the Platform that enabled customers to use ATG web services in other applications. This framework has become the basis for our subsequent omni-channel features and functionality.

Multisite Architecture (v10)

With the v10 release, we introduced the Multisite Architecture, which enabled customers to manage multiple sites (and channels) within a single instance of the BCC. Customers could create site- and channel-specific catalogs, promotions, targeters, and scenarios.

Endeca Page Builder (2.x) / Experience Manager (3.x)

With the introduction of Endeca for Mobile (now part of the core platform, available through the reference store – see blow) on top of Page Builder (and then eventually Experience Manager), Endeca gave business users the tools to create and manage native and mobile web applications.

And since the acquisition of both ATG (2011) and Endeca (2012), Oracle Commerce has leveraged the best of each leading technology’s capabilities for omnichannel commerce to continue to drive innovation for our customers.

Service enablement of core Oracle Commerce capabilities (v10.1.1, 10.2, & 11)

After the establishment of the REST services framework and interface, we followed up in subsequent releases with service enablement of core Oracle Commerce capabilities throughout the iOS native app and the enablement of the core Commerce Service Center features. The result is that customers can leverage these services for their integrations with other systems, as well as their omnichannel initiatives. 

Mobile web reference application (v10.1)

In 10.1 we introduced the shopper-facing mobile reference application that showed how to use Oracle Commerce to deliver a mobile web experience for shoppers. This included the use of Experience Manager and cartridges to drive those experiences on select pages. 

Native (iOS) reference application (v10.1.1) 

We came out with the 10.1.1 shopper-facing native iOS ref app that illustrated how to use the Commerce REST services to deliver an iOS app. Also included Experience Manager-driven pages.  

Assisted Selling reference application (v10.2.1) 

The Assisted Selling reference application is our first reference application designed for the in-store associate. This iOS app shows customers how they can use Oracle Commerce data and information to provide a high-touch, consultative sales environment as well as to put the endless aisle into hands of their associates. Shoppers can start a cart online, and in-store associates can access that cart via the application to provide more information or add products and then transact using the ATG engine.

Support for Retail promotions (v11)

As part of the v11 release, we worked with teams in the Oracle Retail Global Business Unit (RGBU) to assess which promotion types and capabilities are supported across our products. Those products included Oracle Commerce, Oracle Point of Service (ORPOS), and Oracle Retail Price Management (RPM). The result is that customers can now more easily support omnichannel use cases between the store and digital. 

Making sure Oracle Commerce can help support the omnichannel needs of our customers is core to our product strategy. With 89% of consumers now use two or more channels to make a single purchase, ensuring that cross-channel interactions are linked is critical to a great customer experience – and to sales. As Oracle Commerce evolves, we want to make it simple for organizations to create, deliver, and scale experiences across touchpoints with our create once, deploy commerce anywhere framework. We have a flexible, services-oriented architecture that allows data, content, catalogs, cart, experiences, personalization, and merchandising to be shared across touchpoints and easily extended in to new environments like mobile, social, in-store, Call Center, and new Websites.

[For the latest downloads and Oracle Commerce documentation, please visit the Oracle Technical Network.]

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Thank you to both Brian and Kristen for their contributions and to this blog series and their continued thought leadership for Oracle Commerce. We are all looking forward to the coming years of months of new shopping behaviors and opportunities to innovate. Because – if the digital fabric of our everyday lives continues to change at the same pace – the next five years (that just under 2,000 days), will be dramatic.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND MAY NOT BE INCORPORATED INTO A CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT

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