Interview with Mike Dominy

Mike Dominy looks after the retail aspects of Oracle's horizontal assets, such as Siebel, EBS, and Peoplesoft. I recently asked Mike his opinion on a few topics:

1. What are some disruptive technologies for retail?

Web 2.0 and mobility are the two that come to mind immediately.

After the dust settled following the dot com bust, three things happened. One, web and ecommerce technologies evolved and improved. Two, social networks sprung up. Three, retailers started integrating their direct (online and call center) and indirect (store) channels. The implications of these 3 developments have led many retailers to realize that they need to evolve their business strategies and move from a product and location centric mindset to a customer focused organization.

As retailers realize that they must engage, sell and service customers - and do that in a brand consistent way across stores, web, call centers, social networks and mobile platforms it becomes clear that they need a solid customer management platform that includes customer history, customer preferences, customer specific offers, customer specific rewards, customer specific orders, customer specific pricing and customer service they realize that they need a CRM system and that it needs to be integrated with store operations and merchandising.

Mobile is disruptive for multiple reasons. In certain parts of the world it is disruptive in retail because m-commerce alters the traditional buying experience in retail. As smart phones get smarter, will customers even need to go through a check-out line? I find something I like in the store, I scan it using my smart phone and then click "confirm" to purchase it. No more waiting is lines - what could be better?

The other implications around mobile phones involve cross channel retailing and personalization. On the cross channel side, mobile phones make it easy for shoppers in the store to search and order from the web store to see if the retailer offers the same item in a different size, color, etc. It also enables shoppers to look-up prices online and browse catalogs at your competitors stores (physical and web) to see if they can get a better deal from the store down the street - or the one the one that only exists in cyberspace! The other thing mobile does is enables retailers to provide personalized offers. These personalized offers flow from a CRM / Loyalty to customers that participate in the retailer's loyalty program.

2. How is social media being used by retailers?

Social media is being leverage in multiple ways by retailers. The Retail CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) I have been speaking and working with are using social media as a marketing / campaign channel. I am seeing retailers offer promotions through Twitter and Facebook. I am also seeing retailers using social media as another way to engage and service customers more effectively. Some retailers are actually asking - through social channels - customers what products to carry.

The other thing I see retailers doing -- or wanting to do - is leverage technology to make better sense of what is being discussed (good or bad) in social networks and then having some way to respond using social media or direct interaction (calling or e-mailing customers - especially members of a loyalty program).

3. Describe a recent shopping experience you've had, and how it could have been improved.

Instead of talking about my experience, I want to share the experience my wife had this week shopping. She had Veteran's Day off as a holiday - I was jealous - so she spent the day shopping at a nearby mall.

She told me that she was surprised and disappointed with several of the merchants she visited. Across the board she said there were not enough associates in the store. Specifically at one store, that was running a big Veteran's Day Sale, she had to wait for 10 minutes before an associate was available to show her a handbag she wanted to look at (the handbag was locked in a glass display case). She asked me why the merchant had so few associates on the floor on the day they were running a sale. Good question - right!

Another experience she had on the same shopping day was with another merchant in the high end department store space (and yes they are one of our customers). At this particular retailer the lady's suites were displayed by designer. This was very frustrating to my wife. She doesn't shop by designer she shops by size. Unfortunately, I don't have an easy answer for this problem without combining competing designers in the same rack / rounder. Forcing a high value shopper to walk all over the store to find items in her size is not customer centric (and this particular retailer fancies themselves as being customer centric).


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