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Best Practices and Trends

Orchestrate Backstage Integration and Bring Customer Service into the Spotlight

At NRF 2019 this January, Oracle will preview the latest features of its industry-leading Oracle Retail Order Management solution in Booth #2321. With holiday shopping upon us, shoppers are increasingly finding that they can get similar merchandise from multiple retailers, within the same delivery window and at just about the same price. So how does a retailer differentiate themselves while still being in harmony with their customers? A recent poll asked 1,000 shoppers about how their past shopping experiences would influence their 2018 spending. It found that consumers—battle-scarred by last year’s memories of long lines, aggressive crowds, out-of-stock items, and poor service—are more than ready to seek out stores and websites prepared to give them what they want, how they want it. Over 60% of holiday consumers said they are willing to change where they shop based on their negative experiences last year.1 In this “anywhere anytime” landscape, retailers’ best opportunity to shine often comes after the sale. With all the noise, I personally lean to those retailers who I can conveniently return an item to or easily resolve an issue, and those who value my business. This is where the role of customer service can set the bar. Central to customer experience is a sense that customer service representatives (CSRs) can identify the customer, what they purchased and when. They need to resolve issues quickly to keep the rhythm of retail and retain the customer. Do you have a store location nearby? Can store, live chat, and CSRs not only respond to questions but also provide the level of personalized service that is memorable? Center Stage Consumers not only want a physical store location at which to return items, they expect store associates, and CSRs to know their purchase history and to be able to respond to situations in a way that demonstrates that they value the customer and want their repeat business. I may only buy that item once every year for a holiday gift and having an associate be able to find that item is a huge timesaver. It also means I don’t have to ruin the surprise of the gift by asking the person what it was. Harvard Business Review shared a global study of over 1,400 CSRs that reinforces today’s customers are impatient, they easily frustrate, and the thought of having to deal with a service rep can easily send someone off tune. We’ve all shared stories of ill-fated customer experiences and have seen how quickly these tales go viral on social media. Retailers must take center stage by arming their staff with the tools needed to bring a harmonic balance. To do this, the CSR must have options. In the case of a damaged item, for example, the representative can offer a discount or award loyalty points as well as handling a return or exchange. How situations like this are resolved must become part of the transaction record, both to guarantee the solution and to protect the retailer from fraud. Backstage That kind of flexibility requires a lot of backstage coordination. How that integration is created and maintained determines the speed at which a retailer can accommodate customer needs, introduce new services, or simply better serve its best customers. Often the job of creating and maintaining links between order management and other systems consumes resources within the retailers’ IT teams, a cost that can quickly overshadow the original investment in a new application or upgrade. Order management solutions must gather information and insight from the full array of merchandising, ecommerce, store operations, customer loyalty, pricing and promotions systems that comprise day-to-day retail operations. The overall business goal is to make order management and issues resolution as easy as possible, not create another pain point. Bringing the Band Together Pre-integrated solutions and cloud service platforms are instrumental in helping to shift the burden of integration, updates, and upgrades, away from the retailer and lend predictability to the total cost of ownership. Creating this smooth harmony is the approach that Oracle has taken by making Oracle Retail Order Management Cloud Service a major component of its integrated service options for Empowered Commerce. Oracle’s order management solution is and has always been, thanks to its roots in catalog retailing, a robust solution that provides customer service representatives with a 360-degree view of customer purchases, loyalty points, returns, price, and promotion capabilities. Today, the solution is integrated with Oracle Commerce Cloud and the Oracle Retail suite of store solutions. Making Music The result is a comprehensive approach to customer service with a beat that encompasses all channels and transactions, and empowers associates to keep the rhythm by better satisfying customer inquiries, returns and exchanges. Features and functionality reduce the need for retailers to customize, and that “vanilla” approach to implementation allows for pre-integration to deliver its own added benefits in the near- and long-term. Ultimately, the benefits of fully-integrated, feature-rich order management extend from the supporting IT staff to the customer-facing service representative and customer experience. All of which is designed to enable a better customer experience and enhance customer loyalty. Customer problems are going to happen, and the volume of inquiries will spike following the hectic holiday season. It’s how retailers respond that moves it from a loss to a win. At NRF 2019, Oracle will demonstrate how order management solutions serve as the fulcrum for an excellent customer experience after the sale. I personally invite you to stop by booth #2321 to see what all the noise is about. Are you ready for center stage?  Demo Oracle Retail Order Management at NRF 2019 - Request a Demo Today! 1Holiday shoppers have no patience for bad in-store experiences  

At NRF 2019 this January, Oracle will preview the latest features of its industry-leading Oracle Retail Order Management solution in Booth #2321. With holiday shopping upon us, shoppers are...


Maximizing Ugly Christmas Sweater (or Jumper) and Fruitcake Sell-through

The Competitive Advantage of a Forecast-driven Enterprise Most retailers are acutely aware: November and December have nearly twice the revenue potential as any other month, and the momentum continues to grow. According to research from the National Retail Federation (NRF) Holiday Headquarters, more than 165 million people shopped either in store or online during the Black Friday weekend and into Cyber Monday, and it is estimated consumers will spend 4.1% more than last year during the winter holidays. Studies report that 50% of shoppers say that limited-time sales and promotions convinced them to make a purchase and 77% have left a store on average four times during the holiday season when they couldn’t find what they were looking for. Delivering an effective holiday promotional strategy is key to driving traffic and accurate inventory availability is critical to converting that traffic to revenue. If your forecasts are not accurate, you are risking out of stocks, unhappy customers and long-term loyalty. Forecasting for the Holiday The fluidity and frequency of seasonal assortments and promotional events coupled with the high-stakes of peak season trading put even more pressure on forecast accuracy for multiple business units – from merchandising to marketing to supply chain. If you are attending NRF 2019 stop by and demo Oracle Retail Planning Solutions. As you prepare for your best season yet, here are some things to consider: Seasonal Assortments:  Retail is seasonal and the holiday high point aligns with the highest concentration of promotional activity. If the past can be any indication of the future, what sets promotions and seasonal demand apart? A highly accurate forecasting system decouples demand drivers with historical estimations of seasonal demand separate from causalities, to provide a foundation for optimizing accuracy over a suite of seasonal forecasting approaches that reflect everything from fast and slow movers to short and long lifecycle items.  Holiday Assortments:  From seasonal goodies to holiday sweaters holiday assortments are prevalent across all retail verticals and many times include new items that don’t have a history to draw upon, whether it’s a hot toy (e.g., last year’s Hatchimal) or the latest gadget. In this scenario retailers need a forecasting system that can leverage attributes, evaluate similarities against past performers and provide robust forecasts that reflect smart starting points for initial base rate of demand and a holiday lifecycle curves. Pricing and Promotions:  Advertising, display units, endcaps, personal offers, discount--whatever your marketing team cooks up--you need to be able to accurately anticipate demand drivers in aggregate. For example, Oracle Retail’s Demand Forecasting Cloud Service (RDF) mines for similar occurrences in the past to understand the net effect of overlapping promotions in the future. What about new items with no promotional history? RDF performs pooled pricing and promotional effect estimation over similar performing item-locations (detected using unsupervised machine learning and critical attributes) to provide accurate promotional forecasts in the absence of promotional history. Weather:  According to research done by Planalytics, a leading provider of weather-based predictive analytics, 4.2% of overall apparel stores’ sales are weather-sensitive during November. Impacts can fluctuate by over 35% across locations for key categories. For example, the weather in November when compared to the prior year drove a +17% increase in demand for boots in 'chilly' Knoxville while having a -19% decrease in 'warm' Denver. How do you capitalize on the uncontrollable, particularly for categories that are highly weather-sensitive? In partnership with Planalytics, Oracle Retail has developed approaches in RDF to incorporate weather analytics throughout the forecasting process – from de-weatherizing historical demand to reflect true trends and seasonality to incorporating imminent weather events into forecasting and exception-driven processes for weather-sensitive categories. Competitive Advantage of a Forecast-driven Enterprise Delivering on your holiday strategy depends on informed pricing and promotional decisions based on forecasting insights, efficiently coordinating those decisions throughout the supply chain and ultimately to sales execution: Convert up to 50% of shoppers into buyers during the holiday season with time-sensitive sales and promotions. Forecasts drive these decisions, from contextual what-if’s and predictive analytics to optimized and forward-looking prescriptive analytics. The forecast and corresponding pricing and promotional effects, paired with the underlying costs and inventory availability are the foundation for effective pricing and promotional decisions. Increase brand loyalty by up to 77% during the holiday season through higher in-stock rates. Forecasts drive replenishment and allocation processes, with automated intelligence at a massive scale. The forecast and corresponding statistical prediction intervals provided by RDF Cloud Service enable supply chain success of right product, place and time supported by forward-looking demand and statistical safety stocks balanced with minimizing inventory costs.  Maximize Your Holiday Potential The holiday season offers opportunity and the forecast-driven enterprise is key to unlocking that potential. RDF Cloud Service reflects the culmination of 15+ years leading the industry in demand forecasting with an integrated perspective across Oracle Retail’s enterprise portfolio and proven across 160+ retailers worldwide. You can learn more about maximizing your potential with RDF Cloud Service in our Guideb​ook: 3 Steps to Simplifying Retail Forecasting and Planning.  Demo Oracle Retail Planning Solutions at NRF 2019 - Request a Demo Today!  

The Competitive Advantage of a Forecast-driven Enterprise Most retailers are acutely aware: November and December have nearly twice the revenue potential as any other month, and the momentum continues...

Retail Science

Retail Science: Conversational AI and Enterprise Productivity

According to the RIS News / Gartner 2018 Retail Technology Report, “artificial intelligence (AI) skyrocketed from the bottom of the priority list in 2017 to number five for future investment (combining planned deployments within 12 months and planned deployments within 12-24 months). Gartner expects that “by 2020 retailers will be utilizing AI during many retail processes to make better and faster decisions.”   Smart digital interactions are an integral part of our everyday life as we query Alexa, Google Home, Siri, search Google to get quick and personalized information or accept Gmail’s quick reply recommendations. Conversational AI technologies have yet to go mainstream in business applications but much like mobile has become ubiquitous, personalized user interactions with core business systems is not a far-out concept. Most retailers think about conversational AI in the context of the store or ecommerce, but applying conversational AI to core operations, via voice or text, can accelerate and optimize processes. For example, the Oracle Retail Offer Optimization solution can now be directly integrated with Oracle Digital Assistant which uses natural language processing to understand human inputs (voice or text), applies context and provides intelligent next steps based on user prompts. Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA), is a comprehensive digital assistant that can be trained to support domain skills for several back office related actions.  Leveraging AI, Oracle Digital Assistant understands context, derives intent, and identifies and learns user behaviors and patterns to automate routine tasks proactively. Oracle Digital Assistant goes well beyond standard chatbots available today that provide simple, single skilled, linear responses. By applying AI for natural language processing (NLP), natural language understanding (NLU) and machine learning (ML), Oracle is in a unique position to leverage its breadth and depth in retail applications and offer a digital assistant that can optimize enterprise operations. A Deeper Look at Oracle Digital Assistant Models Oracle Digital Assistants are fast learners and improve dialogue flow over time with two methods (‘models') for classifying intent: Trainer HT and Trainer Tm. The Trainer HT model is optimal when you do not have a strong baseline of user utterances to train the model.  Trainer Tm uses machine-learning algorithms that can understand a broader, more diverse set of user utterances, while still accurately classifying intent. Case in point, maybe you’re rolling out a new line or applying a new promotional strategy or introducing a new brand to your portfolio. In this scenario, ODA recognizes intent using built-in rules and inferred rules from the utterance training set. The advantage of the rules-based approach is that training is very fast (about a second), only needs a small number of utterances per intent, and gives a high level of accuracy. On the other hand, in a case where a user is navigating through several queries, the model applies machine-learning algorithms that can understand a broader, more diverse set of user utterances, while still accurately classifying intent. Example queries:  “How well is store XX doing compared to store YY?”  “What promotions are running at store YY?”  “When was that promotion approved and how long has it been running?”  “Now let’s shift gears here and start running that promo at store XX – tell me what the lifecycle impact will be on the new jeans we have exclusively at store XX”.   In the case of Oracle Offer Optimization with ODA, areas such as location-specific sales forecasting, promotional deployment and performance, approval automation, target prioritization, to name a few, can be streamlined. Additionally, the solution allows managers and divisional leaders to be acutely in tune with business performance just by asking a question like, “what’s the current margin on our new BOGO offer for trendsetters?” Conversational AI can also give reprieve to understaffed IT departments by expediting basic, albeit time-consuming queries: Did my recommendations go through?, Did the batch process complete successfully? and Why am I getting this error? ODA will respond with a possible reason or recommendation to the user saving significant investigation time and effort.   The advantage of conversational AI integrated with an enterprise business solution and Retail Science are many and will continue to evolve with time. Shortterm, conversational AI drives better user engagement through personal interactions that learn from various user patterns. In the long-term, conversational AI shifts the paradigm from users seeing automation and intelligent technology as a threat to making them more efficient and effective. And making some new friends along the way. Related Articles Blog: The Oracle Mobile & Digital Assistant Blog Blog: Oracle Accelerates Data Insights for Retailers with Oracle Digital Assistant Blog: Accelerating Advanced Analytic Strategies with Retail Science Blog: Next-Gen Offer Optimization - Engaging Omnichannel Customers with Modern Retail Science Overview: Digital Assistant

According to the RIS News / Gartner 2018 Retail Technology Report, “artificial intelligence (AI) skyrocketed from the bottom of the priority list in 2017 to number five for future investment...

Planning and Optimization

Retail Science: How Retail CMOs Can Use AI to Drive More Personal Offers and Marketing ROI

Going into the holidays, one of the biggest challenges for retail CMO’s is overcoming the saturation of irrelevant and impersonal communications (especially via email). This coupled, with an acute concern over the handling and sharing of personal data by consumers, is something top of mind for brands world wide and accentuated by legislation like the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California's 2018 Data Privacy Act. The emergence of an “opt-out” culture is very real and it's up to retailers to hone their offers to not only standout in the mountains of noise but also land relevant and highly personal offers to drive brand engagement.  If we take email out of the equation completely, how can customers be reached with new offers? And do retailers truly understand what led to each unsubscribe? It could be that their customer felt the email offers weren’t relevant enough for them or they stopped trusting in the brand. Or maybe they just signed up to get that onetime "opt-in offer". In the age of over communication, retailers need a new approach. Let’s explore how artificial intelligence (AI) can help deliver personalized offers to the right customer at the right time resulting in better marketing ROI. The Right Offers at the Right Time with AI Advancements in AI are helping retailers gain insights into what offers may influence a customer to buy. Oracle Retail’s Offer Optimization is a powerful AI application that personalizes promotional offers with un-rivaled accuracy to drive better results. When connected to Oracle Retail Customer Engagement’s vast storehouse of customer omnichannel purchase and promotion response data, Offer Optimization is continually learning what works for who.  It gains insight into which offers individual customers are most responsive to, and then generates truly personalized offers and posts them directly into each customer’s promotional wallet so they can take advantage of that customized and most relevant deal. One-to-one marketing just got a whole lot easier. When retailers offer up the most relevant offer to a customer that in turn improves engagement and overall customer loyalty. By Using Offer Optimization Retailers Can:  Engage customers with targeted and contextual offers that maximize redemption rates. Automatically evaluate the trade-off between temporary promotions and permanent markdowns. Ensure consistency between strategy and marketing execution teams, by incorporating markdown budgets, promotional campaigns, projected receipts and forecasted returns.  Simplify decision-making through high-automation, exception-driven processes and on-demand scenario-based optimization.  Maximize accuracy and scale using artificial intelligence, machine learning and decision sciences. Proof is in the Research Our global research report, The New Topography of Retail, found: 52% of global consumers are aware of GDPR  86% of global consumers would exercise their right to be forgotten  75% of consumers believe there is a distinction between ‘personalized’ and ‘relevant’ offers 22% of consumers state offers from retailers are always relevant, and only 21% think they are always personal The perception that communications are not personalized means retailers need to work harder to understand consumer preferences, all potentially with less data from the consumer as they exercise their right to keep details confidential. The opportunity here for retailers is to give consumers what they want – relevant and timely offers. In fact, if retailers can catch consumers at the right time, with the right offer, they can compel them to buy. Other Findings:  34% of consumers are browsing online every day 47% said it would be awesome to receive real-time offers based on browsing history The more retailers take the time to understand the customer, capture a 360 degree of engagement and invest in building a personal conversation, the better off they will be at impacting marketing ROI and the bottom line. Consumers will continue to demand convenient, personalized, and responsive shopping experiences that extends across all channels and sometimes it’s that perfect offer that wins the sale. To compete, retailers and associates need to develop a one-to-one relationship with consumers, anticipate their needs with relevant offers, and deliver a delightful experience—regardless of where shopping is taking place. Are you ready to win your customers over with a little help from AI? Watch 2-Minute Video - Right Place, Right Now

Going into the holidays, one of the biggest challenges for retail CMO’s is overcoming the saturation of irrelevant and impersonal communications (especially via email). This coupled, with an acute...

Best Practices and Trends

The 4 Must-Haves for the Modern Black Friday Shopper

Black Friday is quickly approaching - historically known as the largest shopping day of the holiday season - how ready are retailers this year to support infinite shopper journeys and give customers the best possible experience? We dug into our most recent consumer research, The New Topography of Retail, which asked 15,500 consumers about their feelings on privacy and personalization, supply chain visibility, sales assistants in retail and more, to see what four must-haves retailers need to keep shoppers satisfied. View the Infographic Our study found that 62% of consumers prefer to purchase in-store, and it’s estimated 57% of 2018 holiday dollars will be spent online. So what consumers do in between will vary from person to person, brand to brand. From our findings, these are the four most important things retailers must deliver to keep customers coming back all season long: 1. Fast, Impulse Buys Online  71% say a fast, responsive online experience is vital 55% feel an online checkout process shouldn’t require an account setup  In-store 54% desire staff that can process payments anywhere in store 55% want the ability to use self-checkout 2. Personalized, Real-time Offers 63% think personalized offers and promos are important 66% find offers based on purchase history appealing 47% feel real-time offers based on browsing history is awesome           3. Smart, Transparent Interactions 74% want to encounter knowledgeable in-store staff 72% of consumers expect granular tracking of their delivery status 4. Hassle-Free Returns 58% expect retailers to always know the reasons for their return 60% expect customer service to know the date of their original purchase  Other Trends From the Study Consumers feel a need for: Privacy and anonymity of their personal data Information – whether it’s on shipping updates, inventory accuracy, real-time offers or dealing with knowledgeable in-store staff – consumers want to stay informed and every little detail matters New retail experiences (both on-line and in-store) - which can be delivered with the right retail software technology So whether your customers are looking to score the next hot electronic or kid’s toy this Black Friday, make sure you are making things easy, personalized, transparent, and hassle-free. Give your customers the experience they are longing for this Black Friday, download our study and stay on top of emerging consumer trends.

Black Friday is quickly approaching - historically known as the largest shopping day of the holiday season - how ready are retailers this year to support infinite shopper journeys and give customers...

Planning and Optimization

Retail Science: Oracle Accelerates Data Insights for Retailers with Oracle Digital Assistant

Integration of Core Retail Technology with Conversational AI Powers Targeted and Contextual Offers that Engage Customers and Drive Results. Enabling retailers to build personalized customer experiences as well as voice-enabled assistants to help employees work smarter and more productively, Oracle Retail solutions are now integrated with Oracle Digital Assistant.  Together, these offerings empower retailers to find answers to critical business questions such as, “What’s the current margin on our new BOGO offer for trendsetters?,” faster than ever before.  Announced at Oracle OpenWorld 2018, Oracle Digital Assistant leverages artificial-intelligence (AI) to understand context, derive intent, and identify and learn user behaviors and patterns to automate routine tasks proactively on behalf of the user. By integrating the technology with Oracle Retail Offer Optimization Cloud Service, analysts can easily streamline location-specific sales forecasting, promotional deployment and performance, approval automation and target prioritization. To see these technologies in action watch the video.  “Most retailers think about conversational AI in the context of the store or e-commerce, however, retailers can now apply conversational AI to their core operations, via voice or text, to accelerate productivity and optimize processes,” said Mike Webster, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Oracle Retail. “Smart digital interactions are an integral part of our everyday life as we query Alexa, Google Home and Siri for recommendations. This latest integration between Oracle Digital Assistant and Oracle Retail Offer Optimization Cloud Service brings the power and simplicity of voice to retail operations, speeding time to insight and action.” Built on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle Digital Assistant goes well beyond standard chatbots available today that provide simple, single skilled, linear responses. By applying AI for natural language processing (NLP), natural language understanding (NLU) and machine learning (ML), Oracle is in a uniquely positioned to leverage its breadth and depth in enterprise applications to offer a digital assistant that can truly span the enterprise. "Going forward digital assistants will transform how merchants, planners, and marketers collaborate, engage their company's information assets, and how they work," said Greg Girard, program director of intelligent product merchandising and marketing, IDC Retail Insights. "As digital assistants become more conversationally and analytically skillful and more aware of their users' intent and context we'll see more incisive decisions, made quicker, to deliver better business outcomes. Retailers should bring digital assistants into their digital transformation planning assumptions now."  In April, Oracle launched the next generation of promotion, markdown and offer optimization capabilities as a cloud service with the launch of Oracle Retail Offer Optimization Cloud Service. With these new updates retailers can analyze promotion and pricing decisions for the entire product lifecycle while providing consumers with targeted and contextual offers.  Next Steps Download Guidebook: How One Retailer Improved Profitability of Targeted Offers With Machine Learning    

Integration of Core Retail Technology with Conversational AI Powers Targeted and Contextual Offers that Engage Customers and Drive Results. Enabling retailers to build personalized customer experiences...


Don't Get Tricked: Retailers Share Tips on Transforming Merchandising Operations

Worldwide we are seeing retailers transforming their fundamental (but not mission-critical) operations, starting with analytics, planning, commerce and others. Those that have made the shift to cloud are seeing the benefits, including faster go-lives, enthusiastic user adoption, and ‘always on’ access to upgrades. Yet until now retailers have been largely reticent to move their core merchandising operations to the cloud. Long the embodiment of a brand’s bedrock in terms of inventory operations, "secret sauce," data masters and strategy, merchandising operations typically remain moored in the category of big, scary, don't touch it in case you break it, in-house domain of on-premises systems. So what’s holding them back from making a move to the cloud? In conversations, retailers often point to three common concerns regarding cloud services. These concerns are voiced by their internal leadership and business teams when they discuss moving merchandising operations off aging legacy systems and onto a cloud services platform. Top 3 Concerns About Moving to the Cloud: Upfront costs of transitioning merchandising operations Perceived security risk around proprietary data Difficulty getting executive buy-in for the upgrade Changing the Conversation Around Cost Making transformational changes to a merchandising operation is a major undertaking, one that has traditionally represented years of planning and significant capital expense, staff time, consulting and solution costs. When retailers opt for a cloud merchandising solution, they often do so when they are on the brink of making this type of major replacement to an existing on-premises system. This is the juncture at which transformational costs are already on the table, and implementing a cloud solution can result in lower costs as well as being more predictable. Add in the prospect of avoiding being right back in the upgrade spot years down the road, and the cloud solution is even more compelling. Worth considering are the immediate and near-term needs of the business and what an existing system may be costing in terms of missed market opportunity, hiring/keeping those specialized resources who know the legacy system, and missed security updates to name a few. In our new Oracle Retail Guide, “Top 6 Reasons Retailers are Transforming Merchandising Operations,” we look at what retailers are saying about their merchandising projects. Retailers say that merchandising “impacts everything that we do.” Download the guide today and you won't get tricked this Halloween. Retailers say updating merchandising operations to a current solution allows for: Business growth Provides competitive advantage in customer journeys and sales Provides greater flexibility Brings industry best practices that help to drive better performance Securing Merchandising Data For many retailers, panic sets in and alarms bells sound at the thought of placing merchandising data anywhere other than a location they control – with a redundant system at another location. People often ask “Is my data secure in the cloud?” The short answer is yes. Moving to a cloud service avails the retailer of global, specialized security teams that are always on and singularly focused. Oracle provides the industry’s best cloud security services with multiple layers of security and multiple levels of defense throughout the technology stack. The current environment has changed the conversation around security, requiring a different approach – one that often is better addressed with cloud services than internal systems. Letting Executives Lead the Transition Securing support from executive leadership often depends on their area of responsibility. For chief merchandising officers, the ability to use cloud services to automate and streamline processes – and boost productivity – is a driving force. But chief financial officers may balk at the cost of moving to a new IT platform. However, the opportunity to remove capital expenditures associated with IT systems purchases is attractive. By moving to a cloud solution, the organization shifts the cost to an operational expense while making the line item predictable, avoiding unexpected or ill-timed hardware upgrades and working through the expense of large software upgrades. By reducing the cost of the data center, and moving talent to retail-focused initiatives, the CIO is able to shift emphasis to those initiatives that have business value, such as having IT focus on creating customer facing solutions. The cloud solution remains current, delivering steady upgrades, and eliminates the disruption and cost associated with significant “down the road” upgrades. Don’t be spooked by the move to the cloud. It may be less risky than trying to make your own Halloween costume with a glue gun and glitter.  Watch The Power of Exception Based Retailing Video  

Worldwide we are seeing retailers transforming their fundamental (but not mission-critical) operations, starting with analytics, planning, commerce and others. Those that have made the shift to cloud...

Supply Chain

October Brand Matters – How Retailers Can Easily Meet Ethical Standards

Supply chain compliance and lifecycle management is now key to ensuring retailers can fulfil upon their brand promises. Offering consumers assurance in quality, transparency, availability and sustainability whilst exploring support for Fairtrade, ethical standards, value and environmentally friendly initiatives is complex and difficult to control. Enter Blockchain with a range of promises based upon the simple concept of all transactions being securely deposited into a central data source for all to see. This is great if like the financial industry 99% of your transactions are digitally captured, but in the consumer goods market with very complex supply chains across many of the world’s poorest countries, this is many years from reality and in truth, what value does the contributor get? The challenge and answer lies in the data capture and the value exchanged in providing this. To encourage cotton farmers, rice growers and every player onwards to contribute they need to see the value in doing so. Retailers need to be enabled to collaborate with their entire supply chain in sourcing, development, selection, assessment, compliance, sustainability and transparency providing true value in efficiency, productivity and assurance to all involved. In this month’s Brand Matters blog we explore how the Oracle Retail Brand Compliance suite and the Supply Chain Network enables benefits in: Managing the lifecycle of your supply chain Providing the ability for developing a sustainable, reliable and ethical fulfilment Presenting the opportunity to promote, market and differentiate your brand Ensuring you are ‘Blockchain ready’ for the future Expert Insight - Brand Compliance: Know Your Supply Chain Julie Farrell | Senior Product Manager Retailers and brand owners face an ever-growing challenge to improve supply chain awareness, to ensure that products are sourced from reliable and ethical suppliers, especially as consumers across the globe become more conscious, with social responsibility in mind. Legislative requirements across various markets and categories have increased the focus on environmental compliance and ethical sourcing across the globe. Legislations such as Europe’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals), and USA’s FSMA (Food Safety modernization Act), require companies to improve communication with suppliers on all aspects of policy, process and assessment and corrective action. Most recently, so-called ‘Conflict Minerals’ regulations are emerging in various geographies, to stop this trade being used to help fund conflicts and human rights abuse. Companies covered under these regulations are required to maintain approved supplier lists, capture details on the origin of materials, and gather information on supplier practices such as forced labour, trafficking and slavery. Oracle Retail Brand Compliance provides a suite of tools to handle all aspects of supplier assessment, management and review, with the ability to maintain a collaborative database of current, potential and past suppliers, including details of the head office and all applicable manufacturing and packing locations. Responsibility for entering much of the information lies with the supplier themselves, with system validation and notifications ensuring that they have completed all key set-up tasks and provided the required mandatory details. The site status enables the brand owner to identify the current approval and due diligence status of each location. Supplier and Site address details are captured, as well as key supplier and location information such as vendor codes. In addition, Brand Compliance promotes the maintenance of role-specific Supplier and Site contacts, which can be defined by the portal owner and can be mandated through routine prompts, to ensure these details are kept current. Each Site record captures the Product Categories which are manufactured at the location, enabling the brand owner to identify the presence of high-risk lines for the supplier. Site Risk Level identifies the overall risk assessment of the site location, which may be assigned based on various factors such as the product categories supplied and the overall competency and compliance of the Site.  Suppliers can list any location-specific References and Certifications that have been granted by approved third-party bodies. These details will support and complement the portal owner’s own verification programs, with scheduled reports alerting the portal owner to ‘Expired’ certificates. The assessment of new and existing suppliers is supported by Brand Compliance Scorecard functionality, with configurable questionnaires to handle both pre-verification of suppliers and ongoing supplier and facility assessment. Multiple types of scorecards can be configured to support multiple markets and categories, different aspects of the portal owner’s verification program and target suppliers with different risks. Each question response carries a weighting, so that a final Scorecard Score is automatically generated; the score can be used for assessment of the supplier against a specific brief or against their peers. Scorecards may either be issued to suppliers to complete or be completed by the portal owner on the supplier’s behalf. In either case, the retailer or brand owner will close out the final Scorecard. Scorecards can be automatically scheduled, based on a default frequency, with system notifications to alert users when the next Scorecard is due or overdue. Supplier and site inspections are captured using the Brand Compliance Audits and Visits functionality, providing ongoing visibility and maintenance of ethical and safety compliance for each location, with the current Audit status and Score contributing to the overall assessment of supplier compliance. Multiple types of audits or visits can be held against a single location, based on configurable templates, which can be created by the portal owner. The Audit record can be used for simple document collection, such as third-party accreditation, facility certification or vendor agreements. Alternatively, for extensive quality, safety and ethical audits, full checklists can be configured, which support automatic creation of non-conformances records. Details of any non-conformances can be captured within the audit, for monitoring and reporting. Corrective actions can be recorded, for collaborative review and sign-off with the supplier, and outstanding actions appear in users’ Task Lists and notifications. Both the portal owner and supplier have visibility of when inspections are due to expire, with future audits automatically scheduled and based on a risk-based frequency according to the Site Risk Level. Finally, the Brand Compliance Library facility provides a central repository for all documents that the portal owner needs to make available to suppliers, eliminating the need for a separate location to store these and ensuring that the most up-to-date versions are available to access. Importantly, for legislations such as FSMA, documents can be targeted to particular suppliers so that readership and acceptance of key documents is be mandated, so capturing suppliers’ adherence to policies, vendor agreements and other required standards. Readership and acceptance is fully tracked, so that exceptions can be followed up. Product News - Understanding Your Entire Supply Chain Network Jonathan Pickles | Director, Retail Strategy & Solutions Management Understanding your entire supply chain is becoming increasing important for retailers, from a supplier and product compliance perspective, to drive private label growth, underpin brand values and create brand loyalty, and ultimately drive revenue. The planned Brand Compliance Network platform brings together social, mobile, and cloud technologies to provide an extension to Brand Compliance. Enabling retailers to discover, connect, share data and collaborate with their entire supply chain network from suppliers and factories to industry bodies and ultimately consumers. The platform empowers retailers to achieve greater: Supply Chain Agility - Understanding the entire supply chain to be able to react quickly to market demands and drive growth and margin. Understanding supply chain resilience and exposure. Enabling responses to recalls quickly and efficiently. Supply Chain Compliance - Understanding the entire supply chain compliance and areas of product risk. Enabling verification of supplier and facility certifications to increase product safety and reduce liability. Supply Chain Transparency - Visualising the entire supply chain from ‘farm to fork’ and from ‘factory to consumer’. Better understanding a product’s point of origin and who supplies their suppliers, allows the surfacing of relevant data to consumers. Are You Blockchain Ready? Blockchain is one of the most hyped technologies of the last couple of years, and has been touted as the solution to everything including Brexit. Although hyped, Blockchain has the potential to change industries, and that includes retail. For Brand Compliance and the planned Brand Compliance network we see a great opportunity for Blockchain to enable industry-wide efficient and transparent supplier and product compliance. However, Blockchain is just one part of the equation. It’s a technology platform; an enabler. It is entirely reliant on the solutions and business processes which provide data to it (and ultimately the solutions which consumes it). That’s why Brand Compliance and the planned Brand Compliance Network are ‘Blockchain ready’ – designed to integrate with Blockchain solutions to capture and consume the right data at the right time through industry proven and adopted business processes.   Industry News – 86 Food Recalls in July - September of 2018 On a positive note, during July through September, there was a 4% decrease in the total number of food recalls, and 17% decrease in those items recalled for contamination when compared to the previous months. During this time, 86 food recalls were reported throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K., with the majority coming again from the U.S. During this time, 56% of the total number of recalls were due to mislabelling, with 15 more cases reported than in the last 2-month period. Headline News Aldi suppliers are being required to enhance their ethical sourcing practices as the discount retailer shifts its focus to corporate social responsibility. Confectionery giant, Mars, plans to put smallholder farmers at the center of its ambitious strategy, which is broadly welcomed by peers and suppliers. We label fridges to show their environmental impact and – why not food? Mandatory environmental labels would change how we produce & consume The world’s most ethical retailer chains are revealed and includes many Oracle Retail customers   Read Blog: Protecting Brands From Counterfeit Through Transparency

Supply chain compliance and lifecycle management is now key to ensuring retailers can fulfil upon their brand promises. Offering consumers assurance in quality, transparency, availability...


Highlights from ORUG Meetings in Minneapolis

Last month, around 30 global retail users of Oracle Retail solutions gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota for three days to discuss top industry challenges and learn process improvements from one another. The 5th annual Oracle Retail User Group sessions, known as ORUG, was led by retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters, DTPM and Kroger. Attendees ranged from retailers in fast fashion, grocery, DIY, hardlines and more, all eager to tackle burning retail business pains around improving inventory, achieving plans and improving merchandising processes. Discussion Areas in Retail Planning Bill Boezinger, Merchandise Planning Systems Manager at DTPM, led the planning group’s conversations. Here were some topics that were discussed: Why should retailers be moving to the cloud? Retailers such as Orvis stated that they knew the future was moving to the cloud. “We didn’t want to be left behind, so we wanted to become an early adopter for planning,” said Gregg Alexander, Director of Merchandise Planning for Orvis What is better - upgrading on-premises solutions or moving to the cloud? One benefit to moving to the cloud is retailers are assigned a customer success manager (CSM) that works closely with them to plan continuous enhancements. Retailers can accept the solution changes every month or as they see fit, so changes are only happening when the retailer is ready, with the help of the CSM. How are retailers using retail science applications? Some retailers are using customer segmentation to cluster on customer attributes or shopping frequency. A round-table discussion on Merchandising Financial Planning Cloud implementations Retailers shared product hierarchies, planning organization structures and roles and tips on how they run their retail operations. For example, DTPM was able to move to the cloud in 15 weeks and had a great experience. Discussion Areas in Retail Supply Chain Lindsay Plagge, the Demand Planning Lead at Kroger, led the supply chain group’s conversations. With over 64 customer journeys to support, it’s no wonder inventory accuracy remains a challenge for retailers. Other topics the group discussed included: Retail challenges such as: Where is demand coming from? Structuring supply chains to meet customer needs Bringing together separate channels into one view Bridging the gap within distribution center teams - when replenishment, planning and warehouse receiving solutions don’t talk to each other. Ways to optimize solutions, calculate out of stocks and forecasting best practices Retailer views on inventory accuracy (industry average is 65%), the majority of attendees shared they were around 80% inventory accuracy.  Retailers shared science innovations related to supply chain One retailer will be piloting driverless car grocery deliveries Another retailer uses an in-house science team that blends forecasts from a home-grown solution with Oracle Retail Demand Forecasting to create the best forecasting outcome. This innovative approach resulted in a 1-2% improvement in errors. Innovations for process automation and efficiency including addressing the challenges of reducing SKU costs Use of RFID tags for inventory accuracy, tracking and loss prevention One retailer uses RFID tags on every item, to connect where the product is and feeds that back to planning Another retailer uses RFID tags on display shoes, which saved associates time each morning in locating misplaced display shoes A fashion retailer uses RFID zones (front of the store, back of the store, and the fitting room area) to better understand fitting room abandonment and purchases Key things retailers are asking for: Simplified and streamlined omnichannel fulfillment on the back of a centralized real-time view of discrete inventory The efficiency of store personnel to deliver value to our customers and right size inventory across locations Ways to future-proof their business Discussion Areas in Retail Merchandising Randy Bolette, VP of Global Logistics and Supply Chain Technology at American Eagle Outfitters led the merchandising group’s conversations. Retailer discussions were focused on: Wholesale, consignment and deals Retailers shared how they are using consignment and challenges around using more than one SKU for an item based on when it’s returned and may be considered a consignment piece (for example if a vendor hasn’t been paid yet) Another retailer shared that they may have two identical items in stock and one may be a consignment item, while the other is not, and it is tracked by in-store associates on paper. Insights on cloud journeys throughout the retail operation Retailers shared experiences around core areas they have already moved to the cloud. Areas ranged from data warehousing, product lifecycle management, retail demand forecasting, item and assortment planning, merchandising, replenishment and more. Best methods and new functionality and examples of how cloud solutions are enabling retailers to decrease the window of a batch run. Member Benefits of ORUG I sat down with the SIG leader for the supply chain group, Lindsay Plagge, the Demand Planning Lead at Kroger, to see what value she has gained from actively being involved in the user group over the past years. “I started attending the Oracle Retail User Group meetings several years ago during a new project implementation,” said Plagge. “There is a wealth of experience and insight to be gained through ORUG, and I certainly have found value from every event I’ve been a part of.” Plagge went on to say that, “it is not as much about sharing the ‘secret sauce’ that a company uses, but rather discussing business problems that are universal and sharing ways we have overcome those with the support of our systems and processes.” Plagge has found that the connections she’s made with retailers, as well as the Oracle support team, have been integral in her personal development over the years. She says, “even more importantly, I can help shape the future path for our company and continue to drive efficiency and positive change for my team.” Top Reasons to Join ORUG Build connections with other retailers you can call on for new insights and process improvements. Meet Oracle solution management and get your pressing solution questions answered. Be the first to see the product roadmap and know what is launching next. Offer suggestions on product enhancements and improvements. Your Next Action: Watch Video on the Benefits of ORUG Access ORUG Presentations Join the Oracle Retail Users Group      

Last month, around 30 global retail users of Oracle Retail solutions gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota for three days to discuss top industry challenges and learn process improvements from one...