Monday Jul 27, 2015

Analysts, Customers, Partners Discuss New Commerce Cloud

It’s been a big month of media and glory for Oracle Commerce Cloud.

Just one month ago, in a press release on June 29, 2015, Oracle unveiled its new flexible, scalable SaaS solution -- Cloud Commerce -- built for the Oracle Public Cloud. This announcement came one week after Larry Ellison revealed that the company was launching 24 new cloud services.

We believe that analysts, customers, and partners are already touting the strength of Commerce Cloud and its competitive differentiation against other offerings on the market -- as well as a core differentiator in Oracle’s customer experience cloud applications offering.

Praise from Lead Forrester Commerce Analyst

For Oracle, the biggest highlight of the launch has been the July 2015 Forrester Research report, Brief: Oracle Commerce Gets the Cloud Treatment, written by Forrester Analyst Peter Sheldon. In his freshly released report, Sheldon states: “[T]he new platform has a high degree of commonality with the long-standing on-premises version in regard to features and capability.  However, there are many all-new capabilities that differentiate the cloud version that include:

  • The Oracle cloud itself.
  • Oracle Cloud marketplace for extensions.
  • Web-based administrative tools.
  • A new REST API architecture.
  • A new responsive starter store.
  • New “cloud”-exclusive features.
  • A new pricing model.

    Sheldon continues by outlining Oracle Commerce Cloud’s product strategy and target market. Read the full complimentary Forrester report here.
[Read More]

Wednesday Jul 22, 2015

(De)Constructing Customer Success for Consumer Brands – Is it More Than a Buzzword and does it Really Apply to Us?

Customer Success…is this just another buzzword, the new must have, a simple checkbox, or does it actually mean something?   I think we all know that big buzzwords (big data anyone?) can lose their impact and meaning but I am here to tell you that when you strip everything away, ‘customer success’ is really at the cornerstone of creating successful consumer businesses. 

Let’s look at the two words separately. Customers—every business wants to maximize the number of customers they have to grow revenues and spread out revenue risk. Success—achieving or exceeding ones goals, can be measured in revenues and metrics around growth, retention and adoption.

It’s interesting that when we put the words together, they take on a variety of meanings:

Customer Success = Superior Customer Experience = Part Process / Part Relationship = Doing whatever it takes to make the customer successful/happy. A few well-known examples: Zappos, Nordstroms, Chick-fil-A.

Customer Success = Helping the Customer Achieve their Goals = Driving their Success = Pro-active Engagement. A few examples: free nutrition classes at Whole Foods, the Genius Bar inside Apple Stores, pool maintenance courses at my local pool store, coffee shops offering lessons on coffee and brewing techniques, outdoor retailers such as Rock Creek utilizing ambassadors to introduce people to particular sports.

These two definitions are very distinct and have varying levels of adoption. The interesting part is that when one combines them, something really magical starts to occur. From the eyes of the business, they clearly want their customers to have a great experience and feel like they receive superior service, be it when they walk into a store, order something online or when they call. The reality is that, unless you are a monopoly, if your customer is not happy because of how they are treated, at some point they will leave you (about 68% of customers leave for this reason). On top of that, Forrester Research has conducted studies across 13 different industries and has shown that perceptions of customer experience are highly correlated to considerations of future purchases, willingness to recommend to a friend and defection rates to competitors (“The Business Impact Of Customer Experience, 2014, Forrester Research, March 2014”). For some businesses, shifts in customer perception equates to multiple, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, gained or lost.

But rather than just delighting them with great experiences, what if all businesses also started to say to their customers—we recognize that the experience doesn’t stop when you buy our product, we want to help you achieve your goals, help you succeed. The reality is, up until recently, few and far between would ever say such a thing to a consumer. At a very high level, telling someone is much easier than showing and helping someone. As an example, a health food store might say that eating xyz food will make you feel healthier but not everyone would show their customers how to make a food plan to actually make you healthier.

When one thinks about it, superior customer experiences + engagement is really a double whammy, a value proposition that is nearly impossible to beat. Let me put it this way—how many consumer businesses can you think of that focus both on delivering superior customer experiences and proactively help the customer achieve their goals? Those that do clearly know that underneath this catchall phrase of customer success is the pathway to creating successful businesses. Going back to the individual definition of each word, businesses obtain and keep servicing their customers to ensure their own long-term success.

So, where does this leave all of us? Great question. As you can guess, I am a big believer in customer success, from both an experience and engagement perspective. I also recognize that saying you have a consumer focused customer success program and actually implementing one (hint: sometimes simple actions go a long way) are two very different things. A first step forward is the recognition that customer success is not just a checklist item but also a way to grow your business, perhaps even developing into a viable competitive differentiator.

I plan to write more about the topic, using my professional and personal experiences to highlight ways to bring the various components of customer success to consumer businesses. Next up: A Tale of Two Interactions, Enabling the Customer Experience.

Tuesday Jul 14, 2015

Three “In-the-trenches” design observations to help keep your eCommerce competitive

I was at a trends conference in January of 1997 and the keynote speaker said something that I will never forget, The culture of the World Wide Web will never grow beyond an environment of sharing information."

Back then, there was a commonly understood respect for the Internet and the purists would never consider making it into a marketplace. It was a place where mankind shares knowledge for the common good. To use the Internet to buy or sell would have been to insult the Cyber gods.

2015 Coffee Purchase

Eighteen years later we hold our fingerprint smartphone in near proximity to a contactless reader and it vibrates to confirm the purchase of a $4 cup of over-roasted coffee. Trends can be subjective and misleading. Projected eCommerce US sales for 2016 may reach $316B and $98B* made with a mobile device.
*Statistic source…
Research date: 10.9.2014.

[Read More]

Thursday Jul 09, 2015

It’s Time to Get Omni-Geo: Applying Omnichannel CX Rules to International Selling

eCommerce growth in the more mature European markets has plateaued and many brands are looking to new country markets to achieve continued sales growth. But dealing with customer expectations becomes trickier as brands expand internationally. The headaches around offering shoppers a seamless, omnichannel experience on home territory simply multiply with each new country market.

Shoppers won’t understand if a product isn’t available to them when it’s available to customers in another country. The same is true of promotions, and delivery options.  Shoppers may expect to place an order using a money-off coupon in one country and collect from a store in another country, while adding points to their loyalty card. They won’t understand why that’s not possible – it’s all through the same brand after all.

Some brands try to tackle this issue by not allowing customers to see other country websites at all by geo-blocking, i.e. blocking access to websites based on location, or diverting the page back to a local browser - a practice which only further frustrates consumers.

So why don’t all the rules that apply to omnichannel – such as brand consistency, service offerings and stock consistency – also apply across geographical borders too?

[Read More]

Thursday Jun 25, 2015

Visual Commerce – Content + Commerce Evolved

Unlike a lot of folks around my age who are migrating toward city living and fighting a move to the suburbs, my husband and I recently took the opposite approach.  With a toddler, a massive dog, and a baby on the way, we made the decision to pick up our life in Boston and move to a more laid-back (read: less expensive) place to call home - Montana.   There have been many positives to the move, but one major downside is the lack of local retail options I’d become accustomed to in Boston.  I’ve always been a big fan of shopping online for items such as clothes and make-up but I was use to being able to go into a store to touch and feel bigger purchases – like furniture, sporting equipment, etc.

As if the move wasn’t complex enough, we purchased a home that needs a complete renovation.  If you’ve ever gone down the renovation path, you know it requires lots of imagination, creativity, and of course new, big purchases – everything from cabinets to light fixtures to furniture.  How was I going to do this with the limited options of physical retailers in my area?  Luckily, a lot of brands are taking the next step with their online sites to improve the experience, but I was surprised by how many brands still don’t incorporate anything more than standard product shots to help shoppers make decisions.    

In my quest for the perfect new purchases for my house I started thinking a lot about the types of experiences brands are offering to bring their products to their customers so they can visualize how the product looks, feels, and functions while shopping online.   I want to see what that new couch will look like in my living room, know how the motion activated on/off feature of the facet works…you get the picture.   The term visual commerce is used often to describe this type of content or experience but what does that actually mean?

[Read More]

Tuesday Jun 23, 2015

It's Cloudy. While SaaS and The Cloud create confusion in commerce, opportunity calls

SaaS. Cloud. On-demand. On-premise. Managed Services. Hosted. Multitenant. Single tenant. Public cloud. Private cloud. Hybrid cloud.

We are surrounded by these terms, but if you really know the differences, you are part of a seriously small minority. So when half of retailers say they want to go cloud in the next year – in commerce, what do they mean? And from a product perspective, what’s the right fit?

Software has been eating the world for years now, and Software as a Service (SaaS), hosted in The Cloud makes it all easier, faster, cheaper.

In an effort to be ready for the SaaS boom, “SaaS” and “cloud” in the commerce space have become interchangeable. But good messaging and subscription-like finance terms does not define a SaaS product.

And software doesn’t just live a singular “Cloud,” there are many clouds, and not all clouds are created equal. Public clouds, private clouds, hybrid clouds all vary in security, scale, performance, capabilities, and hardware depending on provider.  

From a product perspective, here’s what "cloud" can mean today:

SaaS (multitenant) delivers upon the promise of commerce in The Cloud: zero infrastructure or upgrade management, housed in a public cloud/data center on a server with other storefronts (multitenancy) to take advantage of automatic push upgrades, elastic scaling, and shared cost. True SaaS is appealing as it requires no CapEx budget, implementations are typically less expensive, and customers are typically billed via monthly subscription. Today’s SaaS commerce solutions offer slick tooling and beautiful templates, but not the brand control, features, or proven scale for growth needed by marquee brands (or those aspiring to be). For these vendors, in order to push a single release of software without breaking sites, the ability to customize each storefront is limited – leaving many sites looking the same. Questions about infrastructure and scalability raise concerns with performance and security.

On-demand / hosted solutions (single tenant / “private cloud”) can simply be an on-premise technology (or an on-premise platform re-architected for the cloud) deployed on a private server on or off site. It can also be a hosted in a private or hybrid cloud at a commerce vendor or hosting provider, and may feature a full or limited feature set of on-premise software that can be customized. On-demand / hosted deployments typically require moderate CapEx budget, and billing models vary. While these solutions offer benefits of multi and single tenancy, they are not SaaS products. An IT staff may not be maintaining the deployment on-site – but someone somewhere is still maintaining it, and someone is paying for that maintenance.  Longer custom deployments and upgrade management still leave much to be desired in terms of true agility with on-demand / hosted cloud solutions.

Then, there's:

On-premise (single tenant, on-site, private) ensures total customization – and everything that comes with ownership from a cost perspective. Many merchants welcome this approach, as it is the only option that can meet their requirements. They may look to the cloud – or move elements of their deployment to the cloud – but they see no other realistic option for their core site. Requires more substantial CapEx budget, billing models vary.

Today, the reality is that there is no perfect SaaS or cloud solution. Many merchants happily compromise because they have to – whether it’s scale, growth, control, customization, or cost. Some are left with a dilemma: do I lower my management and infrastructure costs, or do I make sacrifices with the customer experience?

Complex commerce organizations craving total control and customization won’t get what they need from a SaaS or on-demand solution. Growing organizations with limited resources kick the can down the road until their SaaS solution becomes restrictive to the brand experience, and cost prohibitive.  On-demand users can say they are cloud, but are still left wanting more in terms of agility and cost savings.

What if there was an opportunity in the market to marry the agility and cost-savings of a true multitenant SaaS solution, with the brand control and experience customization you’d get with an on-premise platform?

In a landscape peppered with cookie-cutter sites and environments that can’t scale, it’s time for a shake up. Online businesses have been waiting!

Stay tuned to hear how we are solving these challenges…

Monday Jun 15, 2015

Hacking Growth: eCommerce Innovators Re-Imagining Familiar Consumer Markets

I distinctly remember the evening I learned about Uber from a work colleague in 2012. It was a moment that forever changed my level of work-travel-stress forever – it seared into my memory.

We finished dinner at a restaurant just outside of Philadelphia – a location just exterior enough to the city that it would be a pain to call and then wait for a taxi. Probably a wait of “only” 20 mins – but just long enough to become irritating when you desperately just need some shuteye before the next long day.

So if you can travel back in time to the olden days of 2012 – still a moment in time before we did everything (well, everything mundane at least) on your mobiles – Uber seemed truly magical. My colleague pulled up her phone, showed me the little ant-like cars nearby, ordered one – and we were at the hotel in less than 10 mins … exiting the car without worrying about having enough cash, giving directions to the lost driver, or tipping. We pulled up to the lobby. Jumped out. Done. Done!

Problem solved. New loyal customer gained.

In the 3 short years since that evening, terms like “just Uber it”, “it’s an Uber-like” business – have entered the daily lexicon. And not just for companies like Uber – Airbnb, Amazon Prime, Instacart, Warby Parker are all changing the way companies sell online forever. 

More importantly – for us consumers -- the most innovative ecommerce startups are revolutionizing the mundane parts of our day-to-day lives. Saving us precious time! Making things easier for us – so we can use those collective saved minutes to become more interesting, read more books, travel the world, have more mind-space. At least that is what I’m using my extra time for … ;)

Just take a look at the list of top ecommerce startups for 2014-2015. They are all applying innovation to industries / services where shopping experiences haven’t changed in decades.

They are all about creating an “x” experience that looks nothing like the “x” experience of the olden days – a disruptive re-imagining consumer experiences in established industries.

[Read More]

Wednesday Sep 03, 2014

Oracle Commerce is Open for Business at OpenWorld 2014

There are a lot of great reasons for new Oracle Commerce customers and legacy ATG / Endeca customers to attend OpenWorld later this month. Oracle Commerce has scheduled more than 25 sessions presented by leading customers and implementation partners, as well as product management and consulting services.

Commerce @ CX Central—Moscone West, Floor 2
We know how important it is for attendees to  connect with Oracle product experts, implementation partners, and customers with similar interests and challenges. Therefore, all Oracle Commerce sessions will be consolidated on the second floor of Moscone West. Commerce @ CX Central will be the headquarters of all things Commerce at OpenWorld.

Commerce Kick-Off and General Session

  • “Commerce at Oracle: Commerce + CPQ Cloud Vision and Strategy,”  Tuesday at  10:15 a.m. and 12 noon, Moscone West, Room 3003 [TGS8714]
  • “The Future of Oracle Commerce: Roadmap and Release Update,” Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Moscone West, Room 3003 [CON7518]

[Read More]

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]
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