Wednesday Aug 14, 2013

Commerce China Part 2:– ‘Talk to me in Internet’

China is booming - and merchants are using social media, multi-media and web sites in innovative ways to reach the growing potential consumer base.  All signs point to a market moving towards differentiation.

Our commerce sessions during Oracle Open World in Shanghai were chock-full.  The experience was surreal with what looked like a DJ box at the at the back of the room containing two humans, translating simultaneously to audience-members wearing headsets.  My only tip if you ever find yourself presenting in this situation is to avoid jokes – the timing is all off.

But I digress.  My greatest curiosity while interacting with the audience was – what are their end customers seeking today?

I found that the Chinese consumer wants to be transfixed and beguiled, all while in transit.  They seem to be the ultimate mobile users.

I was personally frustrated in Shanghai by being unable to post my beautiful and ‘bizarre-to-me’ meals on Facebook, leading me to understand why every one of the social media channels familiar to me in North America and Europe have a Chinese-specific counterpart.  Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Foursquare, Vimeo, Blogger, Blogspot, Hulu and Skype are all blocked in China.  This is leading to a China-specific tech boom as the local Chinese versions grow and prosper. 

Youku – Chinese Youtube - I should have been spending some of that down time visiting Youku, the Chinese version of Youtube. Youku has started  innovative methods of product placement in original videos.  Because of the relatively low number of home-owned recording devices and subsequent low volume of user-created content, much of the content on Youku is produced by brands.  

[Read More]

Friday May 31, 2013

Improving Customer Experience for Segment of One Using Big Data

By Irem Radzik, Senior Principal Product Marketing Director -- Fusion Middleware

Customer experience has been one of the top focus areas for CIOs in the recent years. A key requirement for improving customer experience is understanding the customer: their past and current interactions with the company, their preferences, demographic information etc. This capability helps the organization tailor their service or products for different customer segments to maximize their satisfaction. This is not a new concept. However, there have been two parallel changes in how we approach and execute on this strategy.

First one is the big data phenomenon that brought the ability to obtain a much deeper understanding of customers, especially bringing in social data. As this Forbes article "Six Tips for Turning Big Data into Great Customer Experiences" mentions big data especially has transformed online marketing. With the volume and different types of data we have now available companies can run more sophisticated analysis, in a more granular way. This leads to the second change: the size of customer segments. It is shrinking down to one, where each individual customer is offered a personalized experience based on their individual needs and preferences. This notion brings more relevance into the day-to-day interactions with customers, and basically takes customers satisfaction and loyalty to a new level that was not possible before.

One of the key technology requirements to improve customer experience at such a granular level is to obtaining a complete and up-to-date view of the customer. And that requires integrating data across disparate systems and in a timely manner. Data integration solution should move and transform large data volumes stored in heterogeneous systems in geographically dispersed locations. Moving data with very low latency to the customer data repository or a data warehouse, enables companies to have a relevant and actionable insight for each customer. Instead of relying on yesterday's data, which may not be pertinent anymore, the solution should analyze latest information and turn them into a deeper understanding of that customer. With that knowledge the company can formulate real opportunities to drive higher customer satisfaction.

Real-time data integration is key enabling technology for real-time analytics. Oracle GoldenGate's real-time data integration technology has been used by many leading organizations to get the most out of their big data and build a closer relationship with customers.  One good example in the telecommunications industry is MegaFon. MegaFon is Russia's top provider of mobile internet solutions. The company deployed Oracle GoldenGate 11g to capture billions of monthly transactions from eight regional billing systems. The data was integrated and centralized onto Oracle Database 11g and distributed to business-critical subsystems. The unified and up-to-date view into customers enabled more sophisticated analysis of mobile usage information and facilitated more targeted customer marketing. As a result of  the company increased revenue generated from the current customer base. Many other telecommunications industry leaders, including DIRECTV, BT, TataSky, SK Telecom, Ufone, have improved customer experience by leveraging real-time data integration.

Telecommunications is not the only industry where single view of the customer drives more personalized interaction with customers. Woori Bank  implemented Oracle Exadata and Oracle GoldenGate.  In the past, it had been difficult for them to revise and incorporate changes to marketing campaigns in real time because they were working with the previous day’s data. Now, users can immediately access and analyze transactions for specific trends in the data mart access layer and adjust campaigns and strategies accordingly. Woori Bank can also send tailored offers to customers.

This is just one example of how real-time data integration can transform business operations and the way a company interacts with its customers. I would like to invite you to learn more about data integration facilitating improved customer experience by  reviewing our free resources here and following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Linkedin.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at

Thursday May 09, 2013

How jcpenney Learned Some Tough Lessons on CX

In order to provide exceptional customer experiences, you must first understand what exceptional customer experience is. But it doesn't work the other way around. Understanding CX does not automatically mean you will be able to deliver. There are no foolproof methods to understanding what consumers want and expect, much less how to provide these things in a way that will garner positive reactions from your customers. A recent example is the department-store retailer jcpenney (JCP). Recently, as jcpenney has sought to update its brand and provide better customer experiences, they've suffered massive losses and are still struggling to find their footing.

jcpenney storefront

Here's a timeline of recent events at jcpenney:

June 2011 Ron Johnson, former Senior VP of Retail Operations at Apple, is named the next CEO of jcpenney, effective November 2011 JCP stock at 35.37 on the day of the announcement
October 2011 Michael Francis, former CMO and EVP of Target, is named president of jcpenney with high hopes that he will turn around the brand JCP stock at 26.12
November 2011 CEO Mike Ullman is replaced by Ron Johnson JCP stock at 31.71 on Johnson's first day
February 2012

Johnson eliminates coupons and endless sales in favor of a new pricing strategy, permanently lowering product prices by up to 40%

Johnson also announces a plan to build mini stores within jcpenney to provide a town-square like feel to the department store

JCP stock hits its peak during Johnson's tenure at 43.13 per share
May 2012 JCP reports $163 million loss in sales during its first quarter under Johnson's new pricing strategy Stock drops overnight from 33.32 to 26.75
June 2012 Francis is let go from jcpenney, citing his marketing messages which failed to resonate with customers. Johnson begins to oversee marketing and merchandising himself. Stocks dip to 24.33
October 2012 JCP steps away from its new 'no coupon' policy by sending out a $10 'gift card' to customers via e-mail JCP stock creeps up to 26.18
November 2012 JCP reports a loss of $123 million in the third quarter (27% drop in sales) Stocks reach their lowest point since March 2009, now down to 16.28
February 2013 JCP reports fourth quarter sales are 28.4% lower than in the previous year. Fourth quarter losses are $552 million. February's highest stock price: 22.47. Six days later, following the announcement: 17.57.
April 2013 Johnson let go from JCP, to be replaced by his predecessor, former CEO Mike Ullman Stocks reach a low of 13.93. JCP stock has not been so low since February 2001.

JCP stock closed yesterday at a new peak since Johnson's departure, at 17.61.

So what went wrong after Johnson stepped in? JCP was clearly looking for a change, and Johnson had a great track record. He innovated the Apple retail experience by creating the Genius Bar and eliminating traditional checkout lines, in favor of roaming salespeople with mobile checkout on their iPhones. These changes made the Apple store a fun place to hang out, bringing in higher traffic, and increasing their annual retail sales in brick-and-mortar stores per square foot to about $4406, outpacing even Tiffany and Coach. There are no easy answers to the question of what went wrong, just mountains of speculation.

During the effort to bring in a new generation of customers, jcpenney's old customers felt like they were being pushed out. I represent part of the new target market. I remember noticing the new ads put out under Johnson's tenure, and liking what I saw. But there was a disconnect, because it didn't bring me into the store. Had all of us new shoppers been drawn in en masse, there might have been a different end to Johnson's story.

Following the JCP story since Johnson's departure has made me realize that I might have liked the new JCP. The first time I stepped into a jcpenney store since my childhood was after I knew I'd be writing this article. I noticed one of Johnson's stores within the store, and thought it brought a fresh look to the universal department-store shopping experience. As much as I enjoy the occasional shopping trip, I can't stand the clutter of many stores. At jcpenney I enjoyed stepping into the mini-Sephora, without tripping over racks of clothing to find the product I was looking for.

Sephora mini-store inside JCP

As for Johnson's new pricing structure, it seemed logical to me. I understand that paying lower everyday prices can save me more in the long-run than getting a discount on a marked-up item. Plus I don't have the patience of the mega-couponers to figure out when my coupon will be combined with in-store promotions to provide me the deepest discount.

But I don't share the mindset of the traditional JCP shopper, and that's where many people think Johnson went wrong. For the bargain hunters, the more products to sift through, the more thrilling the chase. Once they find that item and combine all of their discounts, it's a great personal achievement. Their adrenaline gets pumping to see how much they can save. So even if they walked away during Johnson's tenure paying the same price for an item as they would hvae before, some of the magic was lost in their shopping experience. They didn't leave the store on the same high, and that didn't leave them wanting to come back for more.

The first customer experience lesson to learn here is understanding who your customers are and what they want. And the second lesson is: what works for one brand might not work for another.

Under Ullman's second go-around as CEO, JCP has launched a new ad-campaign, publicly apologizing to customers for the ill-received changes over the past 18 months and asking them to return to the store. The ad promises that JCP is listening to its customers, with the implication that new changes will be brought about to reflect customers' wants and needs, including reverting back to some of JCP's old policies.

The ad above was posted to their Facebook page and has received greater than 56,700 likes, over 3700 shares, and nearly 19,500 comments. JCP has done a great job of responding to each initial poster's comment, although some of the longer threads might deserve further attention. Understandably there are mixed feelings throughout these comments. Some of the old shoppers are still upset by the changes to JCP stores. Some of the new customers are upset to see the low prices they became accustomed to under Johnson's new pricing strategy shoot back up in preparation for the return to deep discounting. But many customers are sharing positive comments about some of the changes Johnson initiated, while others are happy to see old policies coming back.

St. Johns Bay brand brought back to JCPHere's proof that jcpenney really is listening. Several comments asked for the St. John's Bay brand to be brought back to the store, and sure enough I found St. John's Bay on my recent shopping trip.

Now the pressure is really on. JCP has very publicly promised that they are listening to their customers. They are lucky to be getting a second chance from many of their loyal customers, and if jcpenney doesn't react to what they're hearing, this will likely be their last chance.

A third customer experience lesson to take away is that good intentions are not always enough. Johnson has the best intentions for jcpenney, but his execution missed the mark. Johnson publicly stated that he felt there wasn't enough time for market testing on his radical changes. Although JCP was expecting a rapid turnaround, if they had eased customers into these changes, or spent the time to test sample markets, I wonder what Johnson's title would be today. The final CX lesson from this example is to let your customers guide you. If they're not happy, it's frighteningly easy for them to walk out your door.


Stock information from

Other sources include,,, and JCP (stores, website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest)

Friday Feb 22, 2013

Tough Customer

As one who is willing to pay more for a great experience, I may be a tough customer, but I am one of millions placing significant demands on companies to serve me better. What was surprising to me about the outcome of Oracle’s recent Customer Experience (CX) survey was the gap in perspective between how companies think they are doing relative their customers’ perspectives.[Read More]

Wednesday Feb 20, 2013

Europe Perspective: Building a Business Case for Customer Experience

As a Customer Experience (CX) professional you’ll be used to dealing with questions about the CX return on investment. You’ll also know that sometimes it’s challenging to elicit from colleagues the same CX fervour you have.[Read More]

Thursday Feb 14, 2013

For Customer Service, Social Isn’t the End Game – It’s a Way to Change the Game

Differentiating your business through your customer experience is paramount. For Service organizations Social brings new strategies and tactics to be mastered and tuned to your business. There's also a lot of hype around Social in-general. Keeping your existing business objectives in mind and adding Social to the mix through achievable steps and strategies will yield the best results. 

  • Avoid the Social Silo – It’s a new channel that needs to be incorporated into your overall Service strategy
  • Social isn’t a Marketing or a Service Thing – It’s a customer experience thing and we’re all on the hook to deliver.
  • Social Will Change the Game – The pace and transparency of Social will change certain aspects of Service, but the right approach and right-sized strategies can make this a win-win for both you and the customer.
[Read More]

Wednesday Feb 13, 2013

Regional Approaches to Customer Experience

When it comes to delivering a positive customer experience (CX), it never hurts to look around and see where others are in their CX initiatives. Earlier this week, we discussed how different industries are doing. Now, let’s look at how the different regions around the world compare in Oracle’s new CX survey, Global Insights on Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era.[Read More]

Monday Feb 11, 2013

I Am Leaving You for Someone Else…


I awoke this morning and decided to leave you. I have been thinking about this for a long time and I am just getting the courage to make the move. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate everything that you have done for me up to this moment. I appreciate your loyalty to our relationship. It’s just that I have found someone else.

[Read More]

Friday Feb 08, 2013

Which Industries Hit the CX Mark?

Which industries lead the pack? Which ones are bringing up the rear? Who has more to lose?[Read More]

Wednesday Feb 06, 2013

What Happens When Brands Can No Longer Dump You?

Once being a “customer” of a brand was almost a privilege. And if you were unable to navigate their complex business policies, tolerate their long inconvenient wait times, or continue to pay for over priced lack of service, then you were kicked out into the cold with a “denial of service” and needing to beg at the door to be let back in.[Read More]

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