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. 

Friday Sep 18, 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. 

Thursday Jun 04, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bigger question is....

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

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

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

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

Wednesday May 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Available: Augment the Store Experience with Cloud Services

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday May 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday May 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday May 01, 2015

Five Quotes from Amazon's Shareholder Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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