Monday Nov 09, 2015

Shoe Carnival Selects Oracle Retail Customer Engagement Cloud Services

With growing sales across its more than 400 stores and e-commerce site, family footwear retailer Shoe Carnival is implementing Oracle Retail Customer Engagement Cloud Services to transform its “ShoePerks” loyalty program. The Oracle Retail solution is part of a larger strategic marketing push at Shoe Carnival, and will make it easier for the loyalty program managers to customize and enhance offers, roll out new promotions, and drive sales in stores and online.

Shoe Carnival will use the loyalty program to better understand its customers’ purchase behaviors and segment shoppers by VIP, first-time buyer, and other categories that will help to match the right promotion with the right shopper at the right time. Shoe Carnival will leverage Oracle Retail Customer Engagement Cloud Services to support key aspects of its customer marketing, segmentation and loyalty awards operations. More specifically, Shoe Carnival plans to implement Oracle Retail Customer Management and Segmentation Foundation and Oracle Retail Loyalty and Awards Cloud Services.

We look forward to Shoe Carnival’s success. Become part of the Shoe Carnival customer community, check out and take time to browse the new winter selections. 

Wednesday Nov 04, 2015

Collaboration, Creativity and Contribution: Observed Characteristics of a Successful Category Management Strategy

Author: Amber Trendell, Director of Retail Marketing, Oracle 

The Annual Category Management Conference had a strong underlying thread that weaved all of the sessions together this year and that was the demonstrable upside when retailers and suppliers collaborate. And that collaboration starts with data. Lots and lots of data. From consumer insights to store transactions, category managers have one thing in abundance and that is information. On the flip side, category managers on both sides of the fence are stretched super thin as they attempt to create compelling, localized assortments that are varied enough to make consumers feel they have the best selection and targeted enough to maximize space and revenue. 

So how are category managers successfully transitioning from tactical to strategic and delivering wins for their business? I heard three primary messages at the event this fall: Collaboration is key, Creativity is not a luxury but a necessity, and with the right strategy and tools you can clearly demonstrate Contribution to the business. Here's some additional detail:

Collaboration: when retailers and suppliers work together to identify upside and define a collaborative strategy the results can be phenomenal. Take the case study presented by Wawa and Redbull. Redbull knew empirically that Wawa lagged behind its competitors in the energy drink category and based on their projections demand for the product is on a steady climb well into the future. By working together to define a strategic goal of making Wawa the destination for energy drinks the C-store not only took the leadership role in the category but enjoyed double-digit organic growth. If we extend this concept of collaboration further to include technology and data science-as-a-service there is far more upside to be captured. Learn more about leveraging Science to Drive Profit and Differentiation in Grocery Retail here.

Creativity: it's likely safe to say that virtually everyone in retail knows that the impact of eCommerce on stores is really only in its infancy. If stores become an experience destination and media becomes the new eCommerce vehicle as predicted by Doug Stephens in his keynote session, how will category managers for products that may not translate as exciting or engaging ride the wave of store as experience destination? The answer is creativity and that is not something you can aggregate, pivot and deliver a report on. You need time to think and interact and actually go out into the field and experience your stores. So where is the time going to come from? By transitioning space optimization, consumer decision trees and demand transference analysis to a partner like Oracle you can effectively get out of the business of data crunching and into the business of experience orchestration.

Contribution: understanding the future of retail and how to capitalize (or just stay relevant) is important but where the rubber meets the road is in your ability to demonstrate lift and value to the business today. Oracle Retail has thoughtfully designed its planning and optimization solutions to align with varying degrees of business maturity particularly in respect to retail science and cloud applications. Whether you're just getting started or are ready to apply advanced retail science to your data, we have options.

Download the recent Oracle OpenWorld presentation on our planning solutions from retail expert Marc Koehler: Planning: Consumer Inspired Assortments

Friday Oct 30, 2015

Reporting from Oracle OpenWorld: Real-Time Inventory the Key to Commerce Anywhere

For the benefit of our global community, here is an editorial view on the presentations from Oracle OpenWorld 2015. We have had a fantastic week in San Francisco.

Whatever selling strategies retailers choose, they have to have access to what’s in stock.

Oracle OpenWorld’s retail sessions launched Monday, Oct 26, with a General Session discussing Commerce Anywhere strategies, including a case study examining how international wireless carrier and retailer Vodafone streamlined its enterprise solutions to cut integration costs and improve inventory control.

“The term omnichannel is overused and ill-defined but it captures what happens from a holistic brand perspective,” said Jill Puleri, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle’s retail global business. “All it means is how a customer can interact with your brand.”

Each brand must define omnichannel or ‘Commerce Anywhere” on its own terms, she said, by personalizing the customer experience, offering convenient options for delivery, and accepting new types of payments. But most of all, Commerce Anywhere depends on real-time visibility of inventory. “The battleground is going to be around inventory,” Puleri said.

Review the Oracle Retail Keynote from Oracle OpenWorld from the Oracle Retail RACK: Oracle Retail State of Union & General Session

Across Channels, Across the World

Commerce Anywhere isn’t only about shopping, agreed Mukesh Nakra, associate vice president of the tech consulting company and Oracle partner Infosys Limited—it’s about mastering company data and the supply chain. And businesses are eager to adopt real-time inventory systems to expand worldwide. “Everyone wants to grow global,” he said.

For example, Infosys recently helped a university bookstore chain with 1,100 outlets manage the sale, rental and exchange of textbooks, using Oracle solutions to furnish the chain with a common view of inventory and tools to forecast demand.

But integrating the solutions necessary to handle inventory and meet customers where they want to be is an ongoing challenge, Nakra said. Even a point-of-sale system can be difficult to overhaul, he said—and so, too, is winning acceptance from stakeholders accustomed to legacy systems.

Here is the link to the Infosys presentation: Infosys: The Future of Retail

Vodafone: Building a New Legacy

U.K.-based wireless company Vodafone knows these challenges all too well. With 12,852 owned and franchised shops in Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia, the company was spending as much as 70 percent of its IT budget on software integration three years ago. “Moving the needle” just a bit with an “agile” software deployment could save millions, said Paul Booth, the company’s global technology head of Terminal Logistics.

The company launched a plan to streamline its system functions, and deployed it quickly in South Africa. But in the second year, deployment to other territories stalled, and stores were clamoring for new product. “It was like a bear pit—there was the product itself, and all these dogs just yapping at it all of the time,” Booth said. “Nobody could get anything done.”

With Infosys, he launched a “9-6-1” plan to speed Oracle solution deployment in Vodafone markets worldwide in just nine months. Since introducing the plan, Vodafone has been able to streamline the delivery of inventory and improve demand forecasting for stores in South Africa, Greece, Spain and the U.K., where it delivers an average of 37,000 handsets per day.

The solution ultimately helped Vodafone slash inventories by 15 percent worldwide, and the company expects a 1 percent increase in sales this year thanks its enhanced promotion and pricing capabilities—and that’s a lot for a company with £42.2 billion ($64.7 billion) in revenues for fiscal 2015. Selling stakeholders was the biggest hurdle in the process, Booth said: “It boiled down to trust.”

Emphasizing Oracle’s built-in best practices can also help retail IT leaders to embrace a new deployment and move their companies forward, Puleri added. “This is how retailers are doing it,’” she said. “Here’s how it works now, and here’s how you can do it a different way.”

Download the full presentation for Vodafone: Vodafone: The Future of Retail “TAPaS”

Wednesday Oct 28, 2015

Reporting from Oracle OpenWorld: The Road Ahead

For the benefit of our global community, here is an editorial view on the presentations from Oracle OpenWorld 2015. We have had a fantastic week in San Francisco. Wish you were here. 

Oracle will continue to bring retailers new and more flexible capabilities expanding the integration of its more than 50 software products designed for retail, according to Jeffrey Warren, Oracle’s vice president of Solutions Management.

Warren outlined what’s ahead for the company’s retail software solutions in an “Oracle Retail Roadmap and Vision” session at Oracle Open World in San Francisco on Monday. “We’ve done some very exciting things in the last year,” he said. “We have several integrations and new products that are coming out as a result of hard work within our R&D organization.”

Customers no longer question the need for a “Commerce Anywhere” solution that helps satisfy customer demands across channels, Warren said; instead, they need assistance in implementing a solution. “As we talk to our partners, the most common question is, ‘We understand what we need to do, but can you help us create a roadmap for how we are going to do it?’ These are the products we believe are going to help get you there.”

Common Goals

Retailers’ goals are fairly straightforward: They want to better identify who their customers are, better engage with those customers, help them convert and reward their loyalty in an increasingly complicated, omnichannel environment. “We believe we have the capabilities to help you achieve these four goals successfully,” he said.

Commerce Anywhere retailers must be ready to fulfill demand regardless of the source, and Oracle’s end-to-end solution is the only one of its kind on the market. “We are the only company that allows you to manage and create everything from operational-level financial planning down to the in-store experience,” Warren said.

New analytics features from Oracle will help retailers manage features such cluster forecasting, mobile merchandising management, exception reporting, and improved XBRi loss prevention in an easy-to-upgrade package. Users can switch functions on and off simply by making a phone call. 

The system will help retailers plan across channels. “Commerce Anywhere is not just the ability to buy online and return in-store,” he said. “Oracle gives you the ability to plan, forecast and manage across all of your channels.”

And new analytics features will offer insights to help retailers streamline every aspect of their businesses. “The goal is to use science and analytics to make you successful,” Warren said. “It’s an arms race that not everyone can keep up with. We can help you get better insights into the data you already have, and make it easier for you to leverage and mine that data.”

Easy to Implement

At the same time the Oracle Retail platform is going to deliver a better, more intuitive user experience. Retailers will be able to access simplified dashboards that unlock operational data that helps them merchandise better at a lower cost, Warren said. The interface is already so simple that many retail associates can learn to operate the system in 15 minutes, and companies are skipping formal training programs.

A new mobile interface, expanded exception reporting, XBRi loss prevention, and other aspects of Oracle’s retail package are also getting upgrades and integrations. “Having 50 products in your portfolio is a challenge,” Warren said. “People expect all 50 of those products to work together. With every release, we will invest in integrating both process and product.”

Oracle will continue to invest in retail software development at a “disruptive” rate, Warren said, to offer clients enhanced flexibility and ultimately, marketplace success. “This is a platform that allows us to innovate,” Warren said. “We have over 100 active patents in retail, and this is something we are investing in for your benefit.”

Oracle will help retailers access the right solutions, he added, with attentive customer care. “When you need us, you can pick up the phone and we’re going to be there,” he said. “Our goal is to allow you flexibility of deployment. Our goal is to help you find the right fit for your organization.” 

The full presentation is posted in the Oracle Retail Rack: Oracle Retail Roadmap and Vision

Friday Oct 23, 2015

The Magic of a Vibrant Customer Community

We are in the final days of the preparation for Oracle OpenWorld. The conference continues to grow year over year drawing about 60,000 people to the SF area to share experience across applications, technology, database and industries. The Oracle brand is impressive at #16 on the Interbrand ranking this year and we shine brightest next week.

The community is even more impressive. Oracle employs some of the brightest minds in technology to deliver innovation to the market at scale. Our ecosystem is vibrant and motivated to deliver customer results. The Oracle Retail community is comprised of 12,500 business partners. We have spent over 3,100 days in the last 12 months enabling our ecosystem on our latest releases.

On Sunday October 25th will welcome nearly 900 retailers to San Francisco for three consecutive days of insightful conversations, best practice sharing and presentations from our customers. For our retail community, it’s always about creating an experience. My job is to create the forum to foster these relationships and sharing. My proudest moments are seeing brands working together to figure out solutions to the latest challenges in the retail industry. We have a vibrant community of customers and partners that I am privileged to participate in. When you do the right thing for your customer community, magic can happen. At the Oracle OpenWorld 2008, my late friend and former CIO of SUPERVALU Paul Singer gave an inspiring keynote that led to the creation of the RetailROI community.

This year Oracle will be featuring stories from Nordstrom, Guitar Center, Gap Inc, TOMS shoes, Vitamix, Vodafone, Verizon, Furniture Row, and Ascena in the retail track at the Marriott Marquis. Click on the Focus on Retail document to see the details. We will have @OracleCommerce customers like Elaine Turner, Hollander, Rock Creek and Vitamix offering demonstrations in the Exposition Hall.

We will compliment the customer stories with a great line up of solution experts to talk about the latest developments in our footprint as we move toward the unveiling of Oracle Retail Version 15.

We have multiple partners who have contributed to the OpenWorld 2015 program with customer stories including Sparkred, Cirrus10, SapientNitro, Infosys, and Deloitte. Infosys is the retail track sponsor. Deloitte is sponsoring our Retail Executive Summit. IBM, Logic, Rackspace and OLR are sponsoring the networking activities. 

If you will be in San Francisco connect with us on Twitter for live updates on sessions, available demonstrations or if you just have a question and we will make sure your experience is outstanding. As a sign of appreciation, Oracle is throwing a concert on Wednesday night for the community at Treasure Island featuring Elton John and Beck. 

Thursday Oct 01, 2015

Oracle Commerce Cloud Maximizes Retailers’ Control Over Their Ecommerce Sites

Oracle recently hosted a webcast featuring our solutions experts, Elaine Turner, Rock Creek and Object Edge. The demonstration was comprehensive and the customer interaction was informative. Here is a view of what we learned.

Two mid-sized retailers, each with big growth plans, are relying on ecommerce to acquire new customers and cement their relationships with existing ones. Both companies now have pixel-by-pixel control of their digital sites along with speed, agility, and ease of use, but without the need to “babysit” the technology, via the Oracle Commerce Cloud.

Elaine Turner, a fashion designer with 10 brick-and-mortar stores, and Rock/Creek, an outdoor gear and apparel retailer with six locations, are both early adopters of the recently released Oracle Commerce Cloud. This SaaS solution features responsive design for highly configurable storefronts across multiple devices, along with out-of-the-box features allowing online retailers to quickly customize sites, manage catalogs and inventory, and show relevant content to shoppers no matter what device they’re using.

“As a small to mid-sized business, it’s just not possible resource-wise to maintain separate strategies for desktop, mobile, and a native app,” said Carrie Leader, Elaine Turner’s director of eCommerce. “It was critical for us to have a truly, fully responsive website, so that we could implement one cohesive strategy across all devices. But we also need a lot of added features and functionality so that we can customize the design, feel and experiences on the site. Ecommerce is constantly changing, so you can’t just set it and leave it, even for six months. Because we need to push new things, we’re excited about the new releases Oracle has planned for Cloud Commerce.”

Leader, who along with Mark McKnight, director of eCommerce for Rock/Creek, spoke about their companies’ experiences with Oracle Commerce Cloud during a recent webcast. For Elaine Turner, Oracle Commerce Cloud has allowed the retailer to incorporate more video into its marketing strategy and has helped that video go viral more quickly. The result is greater brand awareness among new customers beyond the retailer’s base in Texas.

Rock/Creek’s point of differentiation is the expertise its associates can share about outdoor activities and gear. When the retailer needed to get information out about the proper way to clean a popular brand of sandals it sells, Rock/Creek used a combination of article content and a humorous Vine video on its site. “It’s become the go-to resource, so much so that when the manufacturer gets questions about care and cleaning, they send people to the Rock/Creek site,” said McKnight.

For McKnight, one of the big advantages of Oracle Commerce Cloud is that it provides Rock/Creek with a technology partner that does much of the day-to-day management of the application. “We want to be showcasing our expertise and be retailers,” said McKnight. “But because we have a lean team, every phone call and status meeting I have with a vendor takes time away from that. Oracle Commerce Cloud allowed us to eliminate several vendors and create more streamlined relationships.”

“We’re looking forward to an ecosystem where partners build other integrations, so that we’re not using our capital to build new features but to drive our customers to features that are coming with new releases,” he added.

Both Leader and McKnight also praised the speed and agility afforded by Oracle Commerce Cloud. “We can put new content out within a day, and we have more control over the website and how it affects the customer experience,” said Leader.

“We’re able to set up a quick collection, add some text and drop in a video much more quickly than we could before,” said McKnight. “We’re entrepreneurs, we want to move quickly, execute something, drive traffic to it and see if it takes. If customers don’t like it, we’ll move on to something else. The ability to ‘fail faster’ is huge, so the speed of Oracle Commerce Cloud is key for us.”

Watch the Webcast to learn more about both of these retailers’ ecommerce strategies and the functionality within Oracle Commerce Cloud. We will be showcasing the solutions at booth #901 at next week as well. 

Wednesday Sep 30, 2015

Oracle’s Powerful Merchandise Operations Management Solutions Available on Oracle Managed Cloud Services

To reduce total cost of ownership, speed time to value, and deliver state-of-the-art merchandising solutions to a wider range of retailers, Oracle recently announced the availability of Oracle Retail Merchandise Operations Management on Oracle Managed Cloud Services.

 Oracle Retail Merchandise Operations Management is a complete suite of integrated solutions that enables commerce anywhere—the ability for customers to shop and complete transactions 24/7, whether in stores, online, at a kiosk, or from a mobile device—by seamlessly executing every phase of the merchandising lifecycle across all channels—from purchasing, to invoice matching and trade management, to allocation and inventory management.

 “This new offering enables growing retailers to compete with their larger competitors by leveraging the full power of Oracle’s gold-standard merchandising solution, while taking advantage of fast, cost-effective, easier-to-manage, lower-risk implementations,” says Oracle Retail Senior Director Lara Livgard.

Faster Time to Market, Reduced Total Cost of Ownership

 As a managed cloud service, the new offering enables retailers to leverage the full power of Oracle Retail Merchandise Operations Management, plus Oracle’s state-of-the-art hardware and middleware—all without the cost and risk associated with implementing and managing their own IT infrastructure.

In addition, the development of rapid and prescriptive implementation models speed time to value for retailers. These methodologies combine the deep retail and technical expertise of Oracle Retail Consulting and the Oracle Retail partner community, with the Oracle Retail Reference Library of best practices, business process models, architectural diagrams, and more—all based on successful retail implementations.

“Now, growing retailers can have a solid foundation to support commerce anywhere in as quickly as six to nine months instead of a year or more,” says Livgard.

A Platform Built for Growth

To deliver on the promise of commerce anywhere, growing retailers require the same visibility across their entire merchandising network as their larger competitors currently enjoy.

“By implementing Oracle Retail Merchandise Operations Management in a managed cloud environment, a new range of retailers can support commerce anywhere to compete and grow in the new retail reality,” says Livgard.

Growing retailers gain a state-of-art merchandising foundation to support growth and evolving business plans. Just as important, as both the retail environment and Oracle technology evolve, growing retailers benefit from a clear and easy upgrade path.

“Upgrades are implemented by Oracle, and Oracle Retail Consulting designs implementations that ensure that customers have all the features and functionality they need, while ensuring that upgrades are as fast and simple as possible,” says Livgard.

To learn more, download the new e-book, Five Tips to Reducing Implementation Costs and Total Cost of Ownership, which incorporates insights from the Oracle Retail community.

Wednesday Sep 23, 2015

Oracle Retail @ Digital Summit

Needless to say it has been an exciting year for Oracle. We have enriched our community with fantastic retail brands and increased our retail expertise through acquisitions and organic growth.  Oracle is celebrating the 1st year anniversary of the MICROS acquisition on October 1st and the 10th year of the Oracle Retail brand within Oracle.

On September 17th Oracle Retail SVP and GM, Jill Puleri and VP Strategy and Solutions Management, Jeff Warren provided a detailed progress report on our integration of retail solutions and our roadmap. If you happened to miss the event, send us an email to request a link to the archive.

Next up we will kick off the annual event on Monday, October 5th with a cocktail reception on the exhibition floor. We will be showcasing our customers’ brands and success across our booth and throughout the attendee lounge. This year attendees can expect to see multiple demonstrations at booth #901. You will find our booth to the left of the center entrance of the exhibit hall. 

Available solutions:

  • Generate more revenue with every customer engagement by differentiating your brand and orchestrating innovative buying experiences with Oracle Commerce on premise or in the cloud.

For your convenience we also have a sponsorship of the NRF attendee lounge where you can grab a table for a chat or a charge for your smartphone.  We have enlisted the right staff to help you answer questions and explore the potential of a converged, commerce anywhere world.

In addition to our event on opening night, we are hosting a networking reception at the stunning headquarters of Urban Outfitters. Retailers can register for the reception here.  This event is sponsored by Cirrus10 and Rackspace. You can also email me to request a spot at this exclusive event or book a demonstration on-site.

There are over 146 retailers attending Many of these are customers and friends of Oracle Retail. NRF expects about 4,500 attendees across the industry from retailers to influencers, media and the vendors who support them. If you have not registered, please note that retailers are eligible for a Free Expo Hall Pass.

Holler if you have questions, my team and I are here to help.  We look forward to seeing you in Philly. 

Thursday Sep 17, 2015

Advanced Science SaaS Offerings to Drive Profit and Differentiation with Category Management

Customers are king in today’s evolving retail industry, demanding tailored shopping experiences and instant gratification. Retailers have responded by creating highly localized assortments across varying store formats and locations, making efficient and profitable execution extremely challenging. In response, Oracle Cloud solutions do more than just capture vast amounts of data—they integrate data, combine it with foundational best-practices scenarios, and deliver realistic, actionable recommendations in an easy-to-consume format.

“As consumers become increasingly empowered, retailers are much more likely to lose sales when customers cannot find items on their shopping list,” says Oracle Retail Solutions Director for Planning and Optimization Marc Koehler.

In July 2015, Oracle launched three new software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings that go beyond traditional optimization tools to help retailers quickly create and execute profitable, localized assortments based on advanced, actionable retail science.

“The new cloud offerings enable retailers to quickly adopt advances in retail science with lower risk and costs. Retailers can utilize transaction-level information throughout their planning process to gain actionable insights and recommendations, enabling them to drive out customer-centric and targeted store assortments,” says Koehler.

The new offerings include:

Fast, Modular Adoption

Oracle Cloud solutions remove much of the cost of adoption, from hardware to databases, which is vital in an industry with margins as narrow as those in retail. Just as important, retailers can get up and running—and achieve value—much more quickly, a key benefit given the rapidly changing, competitive landscape in retail.

The cloud-based solutions also allow retailers to expand their retail science capabilities in a much more modular manner, quickly adopting new solutions only as needed. At the same time, the cloud model speeds and simplifies upgrades.

“You can begin by adopting foundational capabilities, and then add new layers of retail science as needed,” says Oracle Retail Senior Director of Technology Solution Management David Dorf. “And you can take advantage of Oracle’s latest innovations much more quickly.”

With Oracle Retail solutions, retailers can utilize a combination of purpose-built retail science and automation to drive out customer-centric and targeted assortments. Retailers can define an action plan to optimize assortment and inventory investments by enabling a 360-degree view of the market, customers, competitors, and vendors—with fact-based starting points that maximize available time to plan product categories.

To learn more, download the e-book, Use Science to Drive Profit and Differentiation by clicking

Tuesday Sep 15, 2015

Payments Revolution

Long ago I worked for a smartcard company that sold most of its cards and terminals in Europe but was starting to penetrate the US market.  Our big launch was at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where Visa introduced its Visa Cash cards in partnership with several banks.  I was sure it was the start of a payments revolution, and chips would replace cash.

Almost 20 years later the US is finally implementing EMV, which I don’t think is considered innovative at this late date.  And although the smartcard has the ability to contain multiple applications like loyalty and coupons, the US rollout is a dead simple version with the singular goal of preventing counterfeit cards.  The banks win, the consumers tread water, and the retailers dump tons of money into terminal upgrades that have no real payback.

Has this really changed anything?  The card insertion isn’t radically different than the card swipe.  It’s the same convenience from the consumers’ perspective, and certainly the same fees from the bank and retailer perspectives.  So if we’re looking for something truly innovative, we’ll have to rely on mobile payments or perhaps an entirely new payment network.

Even with companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon in the mix, change has been slow to arrive.  If you place blame on the banks, you’re not entirely wrong.  Obviously they’ve encouraged innovation that doesn’t adversely impact their business model.  But they’ve also setup the perfect opportunity for retailers to adopt new technologies as they force the EMV upgrades.  There are opportunities to embrace NFC or other technologies beyond magstripe.

Apart from EMV there have been many attempts to leverage the mobile phone for payments, with solutions such as ApplePay, Google Wallet, and Paypal Mobile leading the charge.  But otherwise the landscape hasn’t changed much.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s been lots of innovation during that period, but nothing has really had a significant impact to everyday shopping.

So why aren’t things changing?  Consumers aren’t interested in incremental improvements in payment; they want solutions that are more transformative.  Don’t like dealing with change?  Write a check.  Want a faster checkout?  Use a credit card.  Don’t like taking on debt?  Use a debit card.  The big problems are already solved.  What problem does ApplePay, for example, really solve from the consumer’s perspective?

So here’s my list of requirements for the perfect payment vehicle.  I’m not asking for much, just five simple things:

  1. Fast with minimal steps.
  2. Secure, preferably using biometrics and strong end-to-end encryption.
  3. Comprehensive, including loyalty and digital offers.
  4. Lower cost, with reasonable fees paid by the retailer.
  5. Omni-channel, working both online and offline.

Most existing solutions probably address three of the five, and the differentiation is based on which three they support.  Apple Pay, for example, addresses #1 and #2 but doesn’t address the others yet.  In fact, I think it will eventually increase fees, which is in direct conflict with #4.  Paypal got started online so they hit #5, and they try to use ACH to address #4.

So I guess we’ll have to continue to wait for the perfect payment solution.  In the meantime there are plenty of opportunities to focus on other areas of the customer experience.

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

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: 

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. 


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