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The Elves that Power the Retail Busy Holiday Season – Our IT Managers

Meg Hall
Product Marketing Manager

Each year, customers flood into retail and online stores hoping to find a deal on the latest holiday gifts. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, often known for being chaotic, put a lot of pressure on customer service and IT workers alike. This year, e-commerce sales were up 24%! As holiday shopping transitions from brick and mortar stores to online, the pressures on the retail infrastructure has changed as well. Offering a smooth e-commerce process requires inventory management, website updates, prepared customer service call centers, securely protecting the user’s data, and fast website loading times.

Walmart’s 150-minute site outage on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving affected an estimated 3.6 million shoppers and resulted in somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million in lost sales. Besides the immediate monetary impact, the frustrating shopping experience could cost more down the road as unhappy customers spread the word to friends and across social media sites.

According to CIO Dive, these site outages are typically the result of overburdened APIs, slow third-party functions, graphics-heavy sites, failure to accurately assess regional performance levels and—most often—servers that just can’t handle the peak traffic.

One thing that is often overlooked is how much data is required to run an e-commerce website. Every item listing pulls an image, title, description, star rating, and any correlating reviews from your database. To make things more complicated, many e-commerce websites use lookalike modeling to suggest relevant offers so the data must be well organized and have consistent terms. Once a buyer has selected an item, the website must query its inventory management system, such as Manhattan, to see if you have it in stock or how long it will take to ship.

The customer’s digital experience depends on the website being able to collect and use the myriad data that is being pulled from the database. By connecting all the data coming from an individual, the retailer can get real-time insights and make personalized offers or deliver a friction-less customer experience. Oracle’s Engineered Systems—designed from the ground up to handle enormous amounts of data and applications—provide the infrastructure needed for robust predictive analytics, POS solutions, access to key data, and other innovative retail technology that creates a unique and personalized experience.

If most presents are purchased online - does that make IT managers elves and Santa's workshop a data warehouse? 

If a majority of presents are coming from online websites, what does that make the IT Managers who are managing the data warehouses, infrastructure, and analysis of the full shopping experience? Does that make IT managers Santa’s elves and your data warehouse Santa’s workshop? I know it sounds silly, but IT managers might just be Santa’s elves that save the holiday season and make the magic happen.

IT Managers Enable a Smooth Web to Store Experience

IT Managers are leading the way in the digital revolution. Many are laying the foundation and enable a smoother online and in-store experiences with leading technologies including Oracle Engineered Systems like Exadata, Recovery Appliance, Oracle Database Appliance, and Exadata Cloud at Customer.

Customer Example: Target

With more than 1,800 US stores, 38 US distribution centers, a robust e-commerce site, and 323,00 team members worldwide, Target’s retail operation is not short on complexity. Just three months after deploying Oracle Exadata—and just in time for the holiday season—Target was able to build and roll out “pick up at the store” and “ship from store” buying experiences at more than 1,000 locations.  

Similarly, Tractor Supply Company,   one of the fastest growing retailers in America, also rolled out a program for consumers to purchase online and pick up at the store. Exadata has helped Tractor Supply Company organize their data and successfully make it through the busy holiday season with no downtime.

IT Managers Reduce Your Database Operating Expenses  

Database optimization, when set up right, can reduce labor costs, minimize downtime, and result in faster analytics and reporting.

We recently interviewed Drew Diamond, the head of IT solutions at Tractor Supply Company.

“What I'm most proud of in the Oracle Solution is that we were able to go from a frequent downtime situation to a literally no downtime situation. One of the things in retail that you have to plan for is, obviously, the holiday season. So with the holiday season coming up, the day after Thanksgiving is our highest retail moment for us at Tractor Supply. In order for us to curtail the number of outages or potential outages, we plan thoroughly through that holiday season to make sure we can provide the most uptime. So that holiday season-- which starts, really, in September because replenishment has to start stocking the stores for the holiday season-- goes all the way through January through returns. And last year, one of the things that I think my team was probably most proud of is that there were zero bumps or blips coming out of anything on the Oracle side.

 I feel ecstatic about the Exadata Solution because I know that it is a reliable platform for us to be running our stores on. It kept a lot of my team able to sleep at night rather than work at night.”

IT Managers Ensure Faster Transaction Processing

Faster Oracle workload transaction processing matters. What would happen if your online transaction processing was lagging and you had two customers trying to buy the last online item? Oracle’s Engineered Systems such as Exadata feature 103% faster transaction processing!

IT Managers Make Sure Your Website Doesn’t Crash During Peak Times

Maintaining traditional DIY infrastructure with different hardware, middle-ware, operating system, and database companies (IT Frankenstack) requires large teams and excess machinery. They aren’t built to scale, so companies are forced to maintain enough database machines year around just to prepare for the busy holiday season. Oracle Engineered Systems, however, are built to scale so your system won’t crash during peak times.

IT Managers Make Sure Your Customer’s Data is Secure

IT Managers work with your security team to make ensure data protection and recovery. Every layer of the Engineered Systems technology stack (hardware, middleware, operating systems, and database) can be patched at once. This minimizes security threats and downtime when applying security patches because you can patch the entire Oracle IT stack at one time, rather than patch individual systems, storage, and networking products in typical do-it-yourself environments.

Data center outages can cost millions of dollars and, potentially, loss of data. While some outages are unavoidable, quick recovery with no data loss is a must in the retail industry since can lead to heavy fines for failure to comply with regulations. Oracle’s Recovery Appliance, addresses backup and recovery for Oracle Database with a unique architecture that quickly recovers the database and eliminates data loss exposure.

With the increase in online shopping, the IT Managers, database administrators, and application managers are Santa’s elves to make it happen smoothly for all shoppers.

If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it with your favorite IT Elf!

Discover how target prepared for the holidays



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