Monday Dec 17, 2012

Big Data Appliance

Today Oracle announced the next release of it's Big Data Appliance, an engineered system composed of hardware and software targeting the efficient processing of big data.  The solution leverages 288 Intel cores running Cloudera's distribution of Apache Hadoop in 1.1 TB of main memory.  This monster helps companies acquire, organize, and analyze large volumes of structured and un-structured data. Additionally a new versions of the Oracle Big Data Connectors and Oracle NoSQL Database were released.

Why is this important to retailers?  As the infographic below conveys, mobile and social have added even more data to the already huge collections of POS transactions and e-commerce weblogs.  Retailers know that mining that data will help them make better decisions that lead to increased sales, better customer service, and ultimately a successful retail business.

The Retailer’s Guide to Big Data


Thursday Dec 13, 2012

2013 Predictions for Retail

Its that time of year to roll out the predictions for next year.  I can't say I've really nailed it in the past, but feel free to look back at my 2012, 2011, and 2010 predictions.  I'm not expecting anything earth-shattering this year; just continued maturation of several technologies that are finally taking hold.

1. Next day delivery -- Amazon finally decided it wasn't worth fighting state taxes and instead decided to place distribution centers everywhere so they can potentially offer next-day deliveries.  Not to be outdone, Walmart is looking to leverage its huge physical presence to offer the same.  Clubs like ShopRunner are pushing delivery barriers as well, so the norm is shifting to free shipping in a few days or relatively cheap shipping overnight.  Retailers need be thinking about how to ship from physical stores.

2. Bring your own device -- Earlier this year Intuit bought AisleBuyer, a mobile self-checkout start-up, at least somewhat validating the BYOD approach.  Grocery stores, especially in Europe, have been supporting in-aisle self-scanning for a while and I'm betting it will find a home in certain verticals in the US too.  There's also the BYOD concept for employees.  Some retailers are considering issuing mobile devices at hiring along side the shirt and name-tag.  Employees become responsible for the hardware until they leave.

3. TV shopping -- Will Apple finally release a TV product in 2013?  Who knows?  But the industry isn't standing still. Companies like QVC and HSN are already successfully combining the TV and online experiences for shopping.  Comcast is partnering with Tivo to allow viewers to interact with ads with Paypal handing payment.  This will be a slow maturation, but expect TVs to get smarter and eventually become a new selling channel (pun intended) for retailers.

4. Privacy backlash -- It only takes one big incident to stir the public, and I'm betting we have one in 2013.  Facebook, Google, or Apple will test the boundaries of what the public is willing to accept.  It could involve a retailer using geo-location technology, or possibly video analytics.  And as is always the case, the offender will apologize, temporarily remove the technology, and wait 2-3 years for it to be generally accepted.  Privacy is a moving target.

5. More NFC -- I've come to the conclusion that adoption of any banking technology is going to be slow.  It was slow for credit cards, ATMs, and online billpay so why should it be any different for NFC?  Maybe, just maybe the iPhone 5S will have an NFC chip, but we're not going to see mainstream uptake for years.  Next year we'll continue to see incremental improvements from Isis, Google, and Paypal and a plethora of new startups, but don't toss your magstripe cards just yet.

6. In-store location -- The technologies for tracking people inside stores is really improving.  Retailers can track people using video cameras, infrared, and by the WiFi radios in mobile phones.  We're getting closer to the point where accuracy could be a shelf-facing, which will help retailers understand how people shop, where they spend time, and what displays attract them.  Expect CPG companies to get involved and partner with retailers, since the data benefits both parties.  Consumers will benefit by being directed right to the products they seek.  (In 2013 ARTS is forming a workteam to develop new standards in this area.)

7. M&A -- Looking back at 2012 there were some really big deals involving IBM, Oracle, JDA, and NCR and I expect that trend will likely continue as vendors add assets to bolster their portfolios.  Many retailers are due for an IT transformation to support anywhere, anytime shoppers, and one-stop-vendors can minimize complexity and costs.

Predictions from other sources:

Tuesday Dec 11, 2012

From Transactions To Engagement

I've mentioned in the past that Oracle has invested quite a bit in acquiring social companies to build out its Social Relationship Management suite.  The concept is to shift away from transactions and towards engagement.  Social media represents a great opportunity to engage with customers, learn what they want, and personalize the shopping experience for them.

I look at SRM as the bridge between traditional CRM and CX.  If you're looking for ideas, check out Five Social Retailing Suggestions and Social Analytics and the Customer.  There are lots of ways to leverage social media to enhance the customer experience and thus drive more sales.

My friends over at 8th Bridge have just released their Social IQ report in which they rate retailers on their social capabilities.  They also produced a nice infographic so you can consume the data quickly, but I'd still encourage you to download the full report.

Retailers interested in upping their SRM abilities should definitely stop by the Oracle booth at NRF in January.

Thursday Dec 06, 2012

Cross-Channel Survey Report

The folks at Retail Touchpoints surveyed 84 retailers on the topic of cross-channel and have published the results in Completing the Cross-Channel Challenge.  Below is an overview video that summarizes the findings and cites retailer examples.

One thing is clear: customers demand Commerce Anywhere, the ability to shop when, where, and the way they want.  So retailers are doing what it takes to revamp their business to meet their customers' demands.


News and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on customers, innovation, trends and emerging technologies.

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