Tuesday Jul 21, 2015

Turning Insights into Action

All the great science described in Unlocking the Secrets of Big Data with Science certainly helps planners make better decisions, but what about the rest of the organization?

Oracle Retail Insights

Oracle Retail Insights provides role-based, mobile-enabled dashboards that illuminate relevant insights for better decisions. The data model is shared with Oracle Retail Advanced Science Engine so less duplication of data is necessary, and there are open integration points that ease bulk data import and export.  It handles three types of analytics that are key to retailer success:

  • Descriptive: what is happening and why?
  • Predictive: what will happen and why?
  • Prescriptive: how can we influence what happens?

Built on Oracle's Business Intelligence Platform, this solution provides both a wealth of packaged dashboards and the flexibility to create your own using thousands of preconfigured metrics and attributes, along with OBI's abillities to create alerts, export content to MS Office, create static operational reports, and explore your data in "self-service" mode.  The specific insights being offered are packaged into three separate cloud services:

Merchandising Insights

This solution provides omni-channel insight into sales, returns, pricing effectiveness, product performance, inventory health, supplier performance, and seasonal impacts.  It leverages a balanced scorecard approach to Monday Morning Reporting with direct line-of-sight between corporate objectives and leading and lagging indicators of performance.  It reports on year over year comparisons, fast sellers, and potential out-of-stock situations.  Many additional metrics are included to help make better merchandising decisions.

Customer Insights

By marrying customer data with that of core retail performance concerns (e.g. product, pricing, promotion, and placement) Oracle Retail Customer Insights underpins the analytical side of Commerce Anywhere with deep insights based on thousands of metrics, attributes, configurable alerts and role-based dashboards.  Through performance analysis by segment (e.g. demographic, geographic, psychographic), customer loyalty (RFM) and market basket analysis, this solution helps retailers know their customers, and therefore better serve them.

Advanced Science Insights

This solution provides market basket analysis that helps identify product affinities, halo and cannibalization effects, and how store clusters perform relative to each other.  Additionally, it reports on promotion effectiveness, stock turnover, and drive-time across store clusters.

Complete Solutions

Merchandising Insights and Customer Insights are offered as standalone cloud services, but Advanced Science Insights requires at least one of the other two.  All three share the same data model.

These solutions can work with many source systems including Oracle Retail Merchandising System, Oracle Retail Merchandise Financial Planning, Oracle Retail Invoice Matching, Oracle Retail Price Management, Oracle Retail Sales Audit, Oracle Retail Category Management, and Oracle Retail Customer Engagement.

Monday Jul 20, 2015

Unlocking the Secrets of Big Data with Science

Buzzwords abound in the tech world, and mobile, social, big data, and cloud are the four horsemen.  Of those I think big data is least understood, but possibly the most powerful as exemplified by my favorite quote:

“Data is the new oil; analytics the new refinery.” -- unknown

The retail industry has always been dealing with large volumes of data; it's just that now the velocity and variety have dramatically increased. So the problem for retailers is two fold: first, how do they convert all that data into meaningful information? And second, how do they make the information relevant and actionable to employees?

Oracle Retail's answer comes in two families of cloud services: Oracle Retail Advanced Science and Oracle Retail Insights.  Continuing our momentum in delivering cloud services, these products simplify implementations allowing retailers to realize value faster and with less IT effort.

Oracle Retail Advanced Science Engine

We have a long history of employing data scientists that cull through donated data to find useful insights that can be productized in algorithms.  Over the years we've led the industry in areas like demand forecasting, markdown optimization, and localized assortments.  To make it easier to bring new algorithms to market, we've built our Advanced Science Engine, a platform tuned for analyzing data at scale and exporting the results.  Over the past six months, we've adjusted the architecture to provide this in a cloud deployment.  The specific science being offered is packaged into three separate cloud services:

Advanced Clustering

This solution provides insight into how store clustering best benefits the business.  It helps to answer questions such as:

  • What categories or merchandise classifications benefit most from clustering?
  • At what level of product or location hierarchy should clusters be created?
  • What product/location attributes should be leveraged?

The solution automatically selects the best clustering method depending on the clustering approach selected, and allows for what-if scenarios that help explore the data.  Is scores clustering approaches for comparison, and recommend the optimal number of clusters.  This fosters consumer-centric assortments that ultimately increase sales.

Customer Decision Trees & Demand Transference

CDTs map the decision process made by shoppers to purchase items.  They help a retailer understand if they have the right variety of sizes, flavors, colors, etc. in their assortment.

Suppliers often provide consumer decision trees that help retailers understand the impact to assortment decisions based on "generic" consumers.  But when a consumer is identified, they become a customer.  Our solution focuses on customer decision trees, which reflect the actual customers in your stores.  The solution even allows a side-by-side comparison of imported consumer decision trees alongside the calculated customer decision trees.

Using this science helps to reduce duplication in assortments, and prevent dropping unique items to which customers are attached.  Demand transference helps forecast if customers will switch to alternatives so that the number of variety of items offered can be optimized.  This solution often works closely with Category Management.

Assortment & Space Optimization

This solution helps to identify the optimal targeted assortment withing the space constraints.  It understands shelves, pegboards, and freezers and incorporates various business rules and visual merchandising standards.  The what-if analysis is very helpful in exploring options while seeking to maximize profits for any given space within the store or store cluster.

Integrated Planning

These cloud services can be used with existing planning products, or with Oracle Retail planning solutions such as Category Management Planning & Optimization, Macro Space Optimization, Retail Demand Forecasting, and Advanced Inventory Planning.


Wednesday Jul 01, 2015

Cloud Momentum

You likely have heard that Oracle is undergoing a massive business transformation to embrace cloud solutions.  According to reports, cloud sales are going better than expected and this part of Oracle's business is growing fast.  The retail business unit is, of course, on-board and picking up momentum. Recall back in April we released a set of cloud services based on assets acquired from Micros.  They are:

Then earlier this week we released Oracle Commerce Cloud, a SaaS solution for online retailers looking to simplify their IT while still driving innovation and growth.  Retailers Elaine Turner and Rock Creek were early adopters and have reported positive results.  In developing Oracle Commerce Cloud, the team really focused on speed-to-value, making it easy to implement and continuously incorporate new ideas.


And later this month we'll be offering two additional families of cloud services based on science and insights.  We're rapidly delivering the cloud services the market is requesting.

I first talked about the cloud's applicability to retail in this blog back in 2009, and at the time I was on the fence.  Conceptually it made perfect sense, but I wasn't sure retailers would be willing to give up the control.  But over the years I've seen examples of retailers not only embracing the cloud, but also advocating for it.  Every situation is different, and there are still ample opportunities for on-premise and hosted solutions, but SaaS is certainly gaining greater acceptance.


Wednesday Jun 24, 2015

Perspective from NRF Protect 2015: BJ's Wholesale + Analytics + XBRI = Big Data Value

As the booth opens at #NRFProtect 2015 this morning, here is a continued look at what some of our customers are doing to reduce and respond to fraud in stores. 

As we look at retailers who are using exception-based reporting to identify employee theft – which accounts for more losses than the higher profile categories of shoplifting and organized retail crime.  To curb the problem and improve employee oversight, retailers are using advanced analytics combined and proactive exception-based reporting to better identify cases for investigation; identify training issues or processes that need to be modified; and reduce shrink across the organization.

From Big Data to Actionable Insight

Last month we were fortunate to have Brendan Fitzgerald, Assistant Vice President of Asset Protection Operations, BJ's Wholesale share his perspective and lessons learned with Oracle Retail XBRi Loss Prevention.  Warehouse club retailer BJ’s with more than 200 locations in the Eastern U.S. saw an opportunity to identify theft with an analytical view of operations and cashier activity to identify shrink, fraud, and theft. The retailer implemented Point-of-Sale Analytics, using Oracle Retail XBRi Loss Prevention, to empower their asset protection organization with actionable insight. The multi-dimensional reporting and persona-driven dashboards allowed the company to transition from block-and-tackle data mining to an exception-based approach, to drive action at the regional, store, departmental or individual level. 

In the webinar, Brendan talked about the catalyst for Point-of-Sale Analytics, the requirements to get started, the organizational design to support the process change and the implementation approach. The uses cases for BJ's Wholesale sparked an interactive Q&A session throughout the conversation. Communication is vital to the success of an implementation to get the people, process and technology working in harmony. BJ's Wholesale did an outstanding job of truly partnering with the Oracle (formerly MICROS) team to manage through change management and service turnover. Listen to the webcast

The Oracle Retail XBRi Loss Prevention is now available as a cloud service and can automatically identify, track, and respond to unusual POS activity – including intentional fraud or innocent non-compliance – at the regional, store, departmental, or individual level. As it gathers real-world transactional trends, the Oracle solution refines its algorithms using learnings from every transaction. The result helps loss prevention teams consistently address and prevent fraud across regions. With hundreds of prebuilt reports and mobile applications, loss prevention specialists can take quick action and regional leadership can flag areas of concern anytime, anywhere. 

BJ’s improved its “case closers” more than 240% in the first year following its implementation of Oracle Retail’s XBRi exception-based reporting solutions and recently upgraded to a newer cloud-based version of the Oracle solution. NRF STORES Magazine highlighted BJ’s Wholesale Club in the June 1st Need to Know feature on Loss Prevention on June 1st. Learn how BJ's Wholesale Drives Shrinkage Down and Profitability Up https://nrf.com/news/need-know

To learn more, be sure to visit us at the Oracle Retail Booth #1227 at #NRFProtect. If your schedule did not allow for travel to California, I would encourage you to reach out to learn more. I would be happy to get you in touch with our team of experts. Email: oneretailvoice_ww@oracle.com 


Tuesday Jun 23, 2015

Perspective from NRF Protect 2015: Adidas Uses Oracle Retail XBRi to Reduce Fraud at the Point of Service

Analytics and exception-based reporting, made available across all stores brings Big Data-style science to loss prevention

In advance of NRF Protect, here is a look at what some of our customers are doing to reduce and respond to fraud in stores. This is the first in a two-part series. To learn more, be sure to visit us at the Oracle Retail Booth #1227 at #NRFProtect this week in Long Beach, CA. 

Retail loss prevention professionals are well aware that employee theft and employee-related fraud account for the biggest single segment of shrink. According to the November 2014 Global Retail Theft Barometer, employee-generated shrink accounted for just over 40% of the previous year’s $128 billion total, even more than the one-third generated by shoplifting and organized retail crime.

Given these facts, retailers have a compelling interest in understanding and curtailing employee-generated shrink. The conundrum, however, is that no retailer can effectively investigate every single transaction in every single store. Fortunately, employees who commit fraud tend to follow specific patterns. By using tools that apply science to the problem, retailers can shift this challenge from a Big Data problem to an opportunity for insight.

One of the most important loss prevention tools is exception-based reporting, using advanced algorithms to constantly monitor point-of-service (POS) activity, identify potentially fraudulent transactions, and alert specialists automatically. Trends, outliers and “red flags” can be measured and tracked by region, store, or individual employee. By providing essential data to multiple levels of staff – from individual loss prevention specialists in the field to regional managers – an organization can effectively empower their team to root out fraud, and act quickly to resolve it. Doing the same thing manually is impossible when transactions multiply over dozens or thousands of locations. 

For adidas, the global designer and manufacturer of athletic shoes, clothing and accessories, it was nearly impossible to consistently identify the causes of shrink and fraud in its 2,470 stores worldwide. The company was unable to perform loss prevention exception reporting and faced operational challenges including lack of data protection, multi-system misalignment, difficulty adjusting to time zone and language variances, and system failures resulting in non-compliance issues.  In a recent Chain Store Age article, adidas shares how it reduces fraud in employee and administration losses following its implementation of Oracle solutions. Adidas shared their experience at Oracle Industry Connect. You can download the presentation adidas: Measuring and Managing Loss to Preserve Profit from the Oracle Retail RACK. 

Now available as a cloud service, Oracle Retail XBRi Loss Prevention Cloud Service captures all POS transactions and then administers advanced business analytics that apply a laser-focused look at key loss patterns. Designed to be completely agnostic to the POS solution and source data, XBRi integrates with both Oracle and third-party POS solutions – even multiple solutions – giving retailers flexibility and freedom of choice. The cloud service shifts funding from a potential capital investment in software and IT infrastructure to an operational expense. 

To learn more, be sure to visit us at the Oracle Retail Booth #1227 at #NRFProtect this week in Long Beach, CA. 


Thursday Jun 04, 2015

IRCE 2015: Retailers Ramp Up for Holidays with Cloud Solutions and Fine Tuning

This week we spent time in Chicago showcasing the latest in our Oracle Commerce solution, our new Oracle Retail Cloud Services for omnichannel and the Oracle Retail Xstore solution at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exposition. Thanks for spending time with us. We had such a great turnout both days of the exhibition. We also hosted several retailers and had great conversations at our networking dinner with Rackspace and McFadyen.  With our ear to the ground, here is what we heard from the community. 

The holidays are a retailer’s best chance to maximize sales, profits, and positive customer impressions.  Orchestrating a successful season requires a steady rollout of new features and functionality as consumers’ descend on e-commerce sites, turn to mobile devices and shop nearby stores.

While each retailer’s holiday readiness agenda differs depending on factors such as its size, product assortment and customer base, a good rule of thumb is to focus first on the digital experience. According to the National Retail Federation’s report on holiday 2014, 56% of consumers surveyed prior to the season said they planned to shop online, up from 51.5% in 2013 – the highest figure in the survey’s 13-year history. The average person planned to do a significant 44.4% of their shopping online, the most since the question was first posed in 2006. These consumer intentions were borne out by the season’s sales results. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, non-store sales grew 6.8% for holiday 2014 to $101.9 billion, accounting for 16.5% of the total holiday sales figure of $616.1 billion. We believe that 2015 will also bring good fortune. 

Sophisticated tools sharpen customers’ digital search and purchase experiences, and new features bring the best of online shopping into the physical store. E-commerce is not just a significant shopping channel but a primary customer interaction vehicle. Internally, e-commerce platforms increasingly serve as a key interaction point for major systems such as inventory management, merchandising operations, loyalty and rewards programs, customer service and call center applications, promotions and recommendation engines, and the point of sale. 

Question: Can retailers prepare for the holidays with technology solutions that add value quickly to differentiate the experience in-store and online?

Answer: Yes. The advent of retail-specific cloud-based solutions that are implemented in the space of weeks rather than months, such as Oracle Cloud Services for e-commerce and retail, make this not only possible but practical. Cloud services enable retailers to prepare for any number of peak sales opportunities throughout the year. For apparel and office supply retailers, back-to-school is its own holiday season; for home and gardening retailers, spring is their prime growth season. With the accelerated deployment schedules and more frequent upgrades made possible via cloud-based solutions, retailers can test out a new solution during one peak season, then refine and customize it for the next one.

Question: What can I do to prepare for the holiday season now? 

Option 1: Search Tuning. Search tuning is a dynamic process as your business needs and data are in a constant state of change. Search tuning should be conducted on a regular basis. The Oracle Endeca application provides optimal results for specific keyword search to maximize conversion rates increasing revenue. The recommended tuning exercise is a two week workshop with Oracle Commerce Consulting tailored to your specific  mplementation and business. 

Option 2: Performance Tuning. The testing and tuning is an iterative process. The key is to discover the balance between all the different levers to optimize the performance and scale of your site through a series of engagements. A load and performance test will identify opportunities to brace and optimize in a peak trading period. Understand your site performance and functionality today. Evaluate your business planning requirements to understand the site capacity. 

The bigger question is....

Are you ready for an upgrade? Are you taking advantage of the latest and greatest functionality within the Oracle roadmap?  

In an effort to achieve new competitive advantage while lowering total cost of operation, you may consider upgrading your online commerce applications to make use of features and improvements available.  Managing a software upgrade is a complex process. Obtaining buy-in from your stakeholders, understanding the timescales, and estimating the risks involved in upgrading your commerce installation is challenging at the best of times. Making this decision in a climate of budget cuts requires a compelling and thorough business case which takes into account benefits, risks and commercial impacts. 

Focusing holiday readiness and peak trading efforts on the digital experience helps customers move seamlessly from device to device as well as between physical and digital locations. When their experience isn’t seamless – for example, when a shopper can’t use online rewards in a store, or the call center operator isn’t able to call up transaction histories – the customer experience markedly suffers. Customers don’t care about the back-end challenges retailers face with cross-channel coordination; they just know that they want their interactions to be consistently relevant, personalized, and contextual to their location and the device they are using.

Cyber Monday November 30th is 179 days away. What can you do today to get ready? Let us know if we can help you prepare for the holidays. Email us at oneretailvoice_ww@oracle.com.  Our experts are standing by. 


Wednesday May 27, 2015

Insights from OIC: LIDS Sports Group Makes Inventory Easy to Access Across Channels

In late March, retail executives gathered at Oracle Industry Connect 2015 to share perspectives. Here is a glimpse of what you missed from the sessions....


Making complete store inventories available to both its online shoppers and associates in physical stores has given Lids Sports Group a 1.5% in-store sales boost and helped e-commerce sales rise “dramatically,” according to Vice President of Information Technology Larry Havlik. He and Lids Director of Applications Development Kevin Thompson revealed the bottom-line and customer service benefits of implementing the Oracle Retail omnichannel order broker solution at Oracle Industry Connect earlier this year.


Prior to going live with the Oracle Retail Order Broker solution (formerly Oracle’s MICROS Locate) in February, online shoppers only saw the caps, apparel, and sports memorabilia currently in stock at Lids’ Indianapolis distribution center, meaning that some items and sizes would display as “unavailable.” However, by adding the on-shelf inventory of 800 of its 1,400 brick-and-mortar stores, Lids immediately moved an additional 72,000 UPCs into the “available for purchase” category.


“Where the inventory is currently located isn’t visible to the online customer, and it doesn’t need to be,” said Havlik. “Locate’s job as an order broker is to accept an order and then look for the best ‘match’ for filling it, whether that’s the DC or another Lids store.”


In addition to expanding offerings to its online shoppers, the Locate deployment has created flexible save-the-sale options in physical stores. Associates can arrange for a requested item to be shipped to a customer’s home or for it to be picked up at another Lids store.


The enhanced availability is particularly beneficial for Lids, which features a large amount of branded team merchandise. Home-town loyalties to different sports teams means stores located in different cities, or even just in different parts of a region, can carry widely varying assortments. “Even stores located only 15 miles apart can have stock differences of as much as 65%,” explained Thompson.

Havlik and Thompson both appreciate the ability to apply Lids-specific business rules to Locate’s order management and fulfillment functions. Settings can be adjusted to decrease available quantities of an item from an individual store to ensure it doesn’t go out of stock, or to increase available quantities if the item is easily available from a DC or other source. For fragile items such as Tiffany lamps, the system can be set up to only fulfill from the DC to ensure products are packaged and shipped so as to avoid breakage.

Other factors used by the system’s decision tree include choosing the fastest/cheapest shipping option; consolidating multi-item orders into as few shipments as possible; and even using different stores’ sell-through and shrink rates as a “tie-breaker.” “Locate could choose to fulfill an item from a store where this item hasn’t been selling well, or it could take into account that a store with a high shrink rate might not be trusted to actually have the inventory on hand,” said Thompson.


Havlik expects even bigger sales increases, both in stores and online, as Lids brings additional stores’ inventory into the system and as “people get more comfortable with saving ‘lost’ sales via Locate.”


Now Available: Augment the Store Experience with Cloud Services


Cloud-based applications essentially outsource many elements of IT management including maintenance and upgrades, leaving time for internal teams to focus on driving business improvements (versus keeping the lights on). Like most industries, the retail industry is increasingly looking to cloud-based solutions when an IT organization can’t carve out time to explore and implement new functionality that the business side seeks due to a lack of resources and competing priorities. Cloud deployments free up IT resources for more strategic projects, and they also allow technology vendors to deliver innovation to retail users more quickly and with more frequent updates. On April 1st, Oracle Retail announced the Cloud Services offerings.  By taking advantage of the flexibility afforded by cloud-based solutions, your team will find it easier to extend and support new technologies to stores located throughout your geographical footprint. 


Call to Action: How will you differentiate your store experience? 

Oracle Retail Xstore with Order Broker will also be available for demonstration at booth #709 during the IRCE conference on June 2-4, 2015 in Chicago. Stop by and see us or contact Oracle Retail oneretailvoice_ww@oracle.com to take steps that will impact your bottom line. 

For more insights from OIC, see the remarks by NordstromULTA BeautyOur Executive Team and watch here for more Oracle customer stories. And for another perspective on Lids’ success, click here.

The Oracle Retail team loves the LIDS co-branded shirts. Photo credit: Steve Paradise

Tuesday May 19, 2015

Insights from OIC: ULTA Beauty Fuels Growth with Tech-Enabled Personalization and Participation

In March several of our customers shared some fantastic experiences at Oracle Industry Connect 2015. ULTA beauty was showcased as the keynote. We thought this story would be relevant as we approach the Internet Retailer Conference and Exposition in Chicago on June 2-4, 2015.

Here is a glimpse of what you missed from the sessions....

ULTA Beauty is a favorite success story among industry watchers. The retailer is growing fast, offering a wide variety of beauty products (including cosmetics, fragrance and hair products) at price points ranging from mass to prestige, and also combining its beauty superstores with on-site salons. ULTA also believes in the uniqueness of each of its customers/guests, emphasizing personalization and participation fueled with online, mobile, and in-store technologies.


The 774-unit chain has opened approximately 100 stores per year for the past two years and is continuing this expansion rate for 2015. The retailer’s fast-growing e-commerce business benefited from 2013 site improvements using Oracle Commerce (formerly Oracle ATG and Oracle Endeca) solutions. Home, category and product pages now feature product metadata and easier access to user reviews, along with offering ULTA guests the ability to check available inventory of specific products at the store/salon they’re planning to visit.


New online enhancements include more shoppable “haul” videos, according to David Kimbell, Chief Merchandising and Chief Marketing Officer of ULTA Beauty, who along with CIO Diane Randolph discussed ULTA’s strategies at Oracle Industry Connect 2015.


“Guests can click on products to buy while watching video content, which is a great way to organically get people engaged with our business,” said Kimbell. “We’ve also launched live interactive chats with entrepreneurs and trend experts, which are supported with rich content linked back to the site for more detailed information and authority-building content.”


ULTA has also enhanced its mobile commerce capabilities, with an iPad-optimized site offering new ways for guests to share and engage via social media. “Guests can share things they’re interested in, including products, trends, and new looks – including a haircut she particularly liked at one of our salons,” said Randolph.


E-commerce is also helping to build store traffic, with the recent addition of the ability for guests to schedule salon appointments online. ULTA has also seen an uptick in the number and types of salon services guests are opting for when they can see them online prior to the appointment.


A pilot clienteling program puts iPads in the hands of ULTA associates in a few of its stores. The program builds on ULTA’s loyalty program, which already includes 15 million active members. “Something like a makeup consultation or brand preferences can be easily recorded on an iPad,” Randolph explained. “If it’s a guest already in our system, the associate can bring up their purchase history, and it’s also easy to enroll her in the loyalty program if she’s not a current member. We can list the guest’s concerns, and those are shared across all channels, so if she goes to another one of our stores, that information is available. We can also alert people about in-store events with our vendor partners.”


“This requires our associates to be ‘front and center,’ but it also helps our goal of being the beauty connection for our guests,” said Kimbell. “Our goal is provide value at every touchpoint – in stores, on desktops and via mobile technology.”

For more insights from OIC, see the remarks by Nordstrom and watch here for more Oracle customer stories. For more on ULTA’s transformation, click here.

We encourage you to demonstrate the Oracle solutions and see the ULTA vision come to life at www.ulta.com or visit a store near you. Oracle Commerce and Oracle Retail Xstore will also be available for demonstration at booth #709 during the IRCE conference on June 2-4, 2015 in Chicago.

Tuesday May 12, 2015

Insights from OIC: Oracle Helps Retailers Turn Today’s Most Disruptive Trends to Their Advantage

In late March, retail executives gathered at Oracle Industry Connect 2015 to share perspectives. Here is a glimpse of what you missed from the sessions....

Retailers at the recent Oracle Industry Connect sessions talked about numerous “forces of disruption” that are changing their business and creating new opportunities.  Setting the tone for two days of presentations by retailers, for retailers, Jill Puleri, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Oracle Retail Global Business Unit, talked about what retailers are doing to thrive in the midst of new market opportunities.

The most disruptive forces, said Puleri, are often consumer-driven and offer subtle but important insights.  Among them:

● People using their mobile devices differently: “Instagram has a 25% greater engagement rate than Facebook, which tells you that visual is more engaging than text on these devices,” said Puleri.

● Greater willingness of consumers to reveal where they are to third parties: “People are using Uber to hail a cab, which says the ‘creep factor’ about revealing their locations is lessening,” she said. “That’s important because people are keeping their mobile devices within one meter of their body for 23 hours a day.”

● However, people are still wary about data breaches, which have not been limited to retail but have spread to health care and other industries.

● With same-day delivery, “Amazon has set the bar,” said Puleri. Even though the e-tailer loses money on many of its lower-value shipped orders, it has raised consumer expectation levels about service. In addition, the growth of third-party companies handling the “last mile” of delivery have the potential to disintermediate the customer’s loyalty to the retailer. 

Puleri revealed results from New Consumer Study: Retail Without Limits that surveyed 5,000 consumers in 10 countries: 83% insist on the adoption of new technology by retailers, “Because they want to use that technology in their shopping process,” she said. “In addition, 70% rate stock transparency to be very important in e-commerce. Consumers don’t understand that this is a hard thing for many retailers to accomplish; they just want it. And 50% of respondents expect to use their mobile devices for product research, which points to the need for responsive design” that provides optimal experiences on different mobile devices.

More than 160 Oracle customers shared their success stories at OIC. Apparel retailer Lilly Pulitzer’s CIO Keary McNew revealed that Oracle helped the company implement responsive design for its e-commerce offerings last year, and that the retailer would launch a new mobile app for iOS integrated with the Oracle Open Commerce platform in May 2015.

For sports apparel retailer LIDS, the Oracle Retail Locate solution provides visibility into 800 of its stores’ inventories to the retailer’s e-commerce website, and also gives in-store associates tools to find items on the shelves at other stores, and also to arrange for these items to be shipped to different stores or to customers’ homes, according to Vice President of Information Technology Larry Havlik.

Offering these customer-friendly services can create additional challenges to how retailers operate. “In many cases, process changes are harder than technology,” said Puleri. When instituting ship-from-store, for example, “questions arise such as, Where do stores get packing material? What happens when someone cancels an order? Oracle is documenting these processes from retailers all over the world.”

In other remarks, Mike Webster, SVP and General Manager of the Retail and Hospitality Global Business Units at Oracle Webster noted that in addition to its technology offerings, Oracle has deep retail expertise that it makes available to customers. “Omni-channel is an enterprise opportunity that involves getting to a single enterprise view of inventory, customers, orders, price, and promotion,” said Webster. “Focusing just around the edges won’t help: the conversations now are about what retailers need to be thinking about in planning, supply chain, e-commerce, point-of-sale, business intelligence, and customer engagement to support omni-channel. We’ve built that out into our Oracle Retail Reference Model.

“That’s important because ultimately omni-channel isn’t about channels, but about how we bring the power and the process of the entire organization to deliver a differentiated customer experience,” he added.

Dive into the research a little further: Read the full research report


Friday May 01, 2015

Five Quotes from Amazon's Shareholder Letter

If you're serious about understanding the retail industry, you have to closely study Amazon.  I've come to have great respect for the company and its leader, and I continue to be amazed at their accomplishments.  That said, here are my five favorite quotes from Jeff Bezo's most recent annual letter to shareholders:

Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton and started his career in the financial industry, so he's always been interested in business models.  This first quote references Tinder, a dating site where "a swipe can change your life."

A dreamy business offering has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time – with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married.

Jeff is very proud that Amazon is not just a single business, but many related businesses with synergy.  In his letter he called out three main businesses: Marketplace, Prime, and Amazon Web Services.  This next quote refers to Amazon's ability to efficiently fulfill orders quickly.

Our worldwide network of fulfillment centers has expanded from 13 in 2005, when we launched Prime, to 109 this year. We are now on our eighth generation of fulfillment center design, employing proprietary software to manage receipt, stowing, picking, and shipment.

While Prime started out focused on free shipping, many additional benefits have been added including instant video. This year, Transparent, an original series won a Golden Globe award.

I’m pretty sure we’re the first company to have figured out how to make winning a Golden Globe pay off in increased sales of power tools and baby wipes!

Combining the benefits of Prime and Marketplace has been a successful endeavor that accelerates growth in both programs, or in Bezos-speak "powering the flywheel."

Every time a seller joins Fulfillment By Amazon, Prime members get more Prime eligible selection. The value of membership goes up. This is powerful for our flywheel. FBA completes the circle: Marketplace pumps energy into Prime, and Prime pumps energy into Marketplace.

No doubt you know Amazon's $5B cloud business is growing fast.  What started as a platform mostly used by start-ups is now maturing to attract many established enterprises.  This quote refers to AWS:

What customers really want in this arena is “better and faster,” and if “better and faster” can come with a side dish of cost savings, terrific. But the cost savings is the gravy, not the steak.

Whether you love Amazon or hate them, you have to respect what they've accomplished.  And there are lessons we can all benefit from in our ongoing quest to serve shoppers.

Thursday Apr 30, 2015

A New Kind of Discount Retailer

It used to be that I always assumed Amazon had the lowest price.  Now I have to double-check before placing an order.  Lately Amazon has been focused more on customer experience than price, offering lots of goodies for Prime customers and really fast shipping.  Might that allow a new competitor to enter the market?

In the early days, Diapers.com sometimes had to buy diapers at Costco to ship to its subscription customers, sacrificing margin for share while the rest of infrastructure caught up.  The company was based on supply chain efficiencies and a lower cost to acquire and retain customers.  It worked so well that Amazon first fought them, then bought them.

So after spending two years with Amazon, Marc Lore is on his own again building a new kind of retailer. Jet.com is a cross between Costco and eBay with a huge focus on squeezing out every nickel of savings.  Consumers pay a $50/year membership fee, which is the only income for Jet.com.  Then Jet.com offers products from various retailers at deep discounts.  Those discounts come from passing on sales commissions, using the most economical shipping, combining orders, and avoiding credit cards.

To be successful, Jet.com must have the world's most efficient supply chain.  Perhaps more efficient than Amazon and Walmart.  The lynchpin will be an intelligent order management system that can efficiently source, combine, and ship products at the lowest cost.  Then there will also need to be lots of creative deals with merchants to lower prices in exchange for waiving the right to return merchandise, sharing customer data, or establishing subscriptions.

Of course this business plan requires massive scale, so the trick will be staying in business long enough to establish a large and loyal customer base.  Jet.com has already raised $220M before the website is even live, every penny of which is required for infrastructure and marketing.  But I just don't think Amazon and Walmart will stand by idly.  I think a major online price war is on the horizon, and consumers will be the big beneficiaries.

Monday Apr 27, 2015

Insights from OIC: Nordstrom’s New Canada Stores Become Testing Grounds for Enterprise IT Initiative

Last month our customer shared some fantastic experiences at Oracle Industry Connect 2015. Here is a glimpse of what you missed from the sessions....

Among its other accomplishments, Nordstrom has been a retailing technology pioneer, beating its competitors to market with customer-focused offerings including save-the-sale and endless aisle capabilities, buy online/pick up in-store, and coordinating returns between multiple stores and channels.

From 2001 until 2013, the Oracle Retail Merchandising System (RMS) served as a technology backbone for Nordstrom’s increasingly complex operations, but this required more and more customization as time progressed. When the retailer realized it was reaching the limits of customization, it initiated the Nordstrom Next Generation (NGEN) initiative, a six-plus-year program to support the company’s growth by replacing its current enterprise foundation solutions with new Oracle Retail systems offering advanced capabilities and scalability.

Nordstrom’s recent expansion into Canada is doubling as the first phase/pilot for NGEN, according to Nordstrom Director of Supply Chain and Fulfillment Brenda Glasgow, who spoke in late March at Oracle Industry Connect in Washington DC. The retailer has already opened two of a planned 10 full-line stores in Canada, with the next opening planned for fall 2015, and also plans to open its off-price Nordstrom Rack stores beginning in 2017.

The Canada expansion “gives us a chance to test, learn, and adjust with our business partners and technologists,” said Glasgow. “It’s allowing us to socialize the ‘vanilla’ implementations of Oracle solutions, and giving us practice managing the scope of these implementations.”

Nordstrom is still relying heavily on Oracle solutions, particularly in merchandising with Oracle Retail Merchandise Operations Management (MOM). This system is supporting international requirements around currencies and import/export issues, and Nordstrom is also taking advantage of new trade management and invoice matching modules that supplant older legacy applications for these functions.

Glasgow and Deby Hansen, Director of Program Management and Architecture for Nordstrom, identified key learnings from the Canada opportunity that include leveraging best practices identified in the Oracle Retail Reference Library, and using a process-led design approach that makes extensive use of personas and job roles. “By painting a full picture of a job’s process flow, it’s been easier to work through what’s been different from one system to the next,” said Glasgow. “We need to balance respecting our people’s business requirements with our motivation to stay ‘vanilla’ with these implementations.”

Nordstrom will apply these learnings as NGEN progresses, supporting long-term corporate goals that include sustaining the company’s growth, supporting its Nordstrom Rack stores becoming more of a separate entity, and “keeping us on an upgrade path that leverages our research and development investments,” said Hansen.

Congratulations to Nordstrom for their hard work and success. Nordstrom continues to impress the industry with their approach to the enterprise transformation. Read the press release or check out the presentation in the RACK to dive a little deeper. 


Tuesday Apr 21, 2015

Aerosoles Taps Responsive Design, Omni-Channel Fulfillment to Boost E-Commerce Performance with DMI

From Amazon to Zappos, shoe retailers vie for consumer orders and Aerosoles is gaining ground by keeping loyal fans happy and winning new ones with a modern e-commerce experience and a tightly-integrated fulfillment strategy. In a press release with partner DMI, Aerosoles executives share insight to creating a “future-proof omnichannel” platform that has grown e-commerce sales using Oracle Commerce, Responsive Web Design and cross-channel fulfillment.

Aerosoles completely overhauled its ecommerce operations in 2014, took steps to improve the customer experience and tapped its stores and warehouses to get orders in the hands of shoppers efficiently.  Retail news magazine Retailing Today covers Aerosoles’ e-commerce initiative here, noting that the retailer promptly delivered a record performance on Cyber Monday. 

Enhancements focused on both the front-end shopper experience and the cross-channel fullfillment operations behind the scenes. First, higher-resolution color and images, state-of-the-art search and cleaner checkout were employed as part of Aerosoles’ new Oracle Commerce platform. Whether consumers sign on with a mobile device or with a personal computer, the Aerosoles ecommerce website responds immediately with a format that performs well and is easy to navigate. This Responsive Web Design feature, Oracle Commerce enhanced dynamic search and guided navigation, and site mapping and SEO capabilities are designed to deliver more overall site volume and sales.

Aerosoles supports the customer experience with some astute back-end strategy. E-commerce transactions are fully integrated with stores and warehouse locations for fulfillment to the customer quickly, effectively and with an eye toward balancing inventory availability. Call center integration with DMI OrderSync OMS ensures customer service and sales associates can readily help with orders, add-ons, returns, cancellations, backorders and customer service.

According to DMI, Aerosoles’ mission was to “provide an atmosphere that optimizes its customers’ shopping experience not only online but through all sales channels.” An omnichannel commerce and retail data integration strategy delivers a seamless experience for Aerosoles customers across online, mobile, call center or in-store shopping.

For a closer look at Aerosoles in action, shop the new website and enjoy the spring and summer collection! 

Wednesday Apr 15, 2015

Wicked Fast Delivery

Amazon announced one hour delivery for Austin so I had to give it a try.  My daughter needs a larger camera bag, so I decided that would be a great item to order.  You have to order via the PrimeNow mobile app and its a reduced set of available items, but I had no problem finding what I wanted.  I waited until 8am to start my order, which took six minutes because I used my office address and had to verify my credit card.  Here are some screen shots of the order:

Two hour delivery is free, and one hour is $7.99.  It also recommends a tip of $5.00.  Between the delivery charge and tip, I guess they cover the cost.  It might even be cheaper than two-day shipping according Paula Rosenblum, a retail analyst with RSR.  I chose the one hour delivery and received a text message at 8:11am stating, "Your Amazon Prime Now order will arrive soon."  Then at 8:21am I received a second text message stating, "You Amazon Prime Now order has been delivered."  Yep, it was delivered in 15 minutes.

Now you can see in the map above that the DC is very close to my office, but its still impressive how fast I got my order.  I can definitely say I'll use the service again.

Retailers have the opportunity to offer similar services by partnering with delivery companies.  They key is managing in-store inventory and the picking process.  I expect to see this service from local stores in the next year.

Monday Apr 13, 2015

Glance User Experience

The Apple Watch seems to be getting mixed reviews in the press, but plenty of people ordered one on launch day.  I visited an Apple store on Friday to see them for myself, but I'm not yet swayed to make the investment.  However, prior to launch I purchased a Pebble smartwatch in order to assess the utility of the category.

I've found that the smartwatch doesn't have much in common with the traditional watch beyond its location on the wrist.  Its better characterized as an electronic information hub that goes far beyond displaying just the time.  But its no substitute for a smartphone, and in fact its really just an extension of one.

The same impetus behind the migration of the watch from one's pocket to the wrist is powering the smartwatch -- the Glance UX.  People want to get information in a glance, and at this the smartwatch excels.  No need to pull out your smartphone to see the time, date, weather, texts, tweets, etc., just glance at your wrist and be informed.  The guys at AppsLab even named their first smartwatch app "Glance."

So from a retail industry perspective, I don't see wrist-based commerce being the norm.  Rather, the smartwatch will surface location-based marketing messages, coupons, and help with paymentsTarget, for example, provides a shopping list via the smartwatch.  But that's just the consumer side -- there are plenty of applications for employees.  In fact, our Retail Applied Research (RAR) team created a prototype app for a hotel manager to quickly receive information about the business.  Corey Nash, head of RAR, says it allows the manager to conveniently get "sips of data."


In simple terms, use the watch to receive notifications, the phone to research products, and the tablet/PC to consummate the purchase.  Each device has a unique role in the commerce ecosystem and together they provide and efficient shopping experience.

About


David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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