Thursday Apr 10, 2014

Stage Stores Rounds-up

Steven Hunter, SVP and CIO at Stage Stores, said something at Oracle's recent Industry Connect conference that caught my attention.  He was retelling a story about how Stage Stores customers, communicating through social media, said they wanted to make donations to charities at the point-of-sale.  So Steve implemented round-up functionality that allowed donations to several nationwide charities.  The program was good, but not great so they went back to social media to receive additional guidance.  This time they swapped the nationwide charities for local charities and donations rose by 600%!

There are a few lessons to take away from this story.  First, listening to customers is important and never easy.  Social media can be a big help, but sometimes it still takes experimentation to find the right solution.  Second, customers want to be charitable, but they want to be involved in the choice of charities and prefer local organizations that directly impact their communities.

Donating to worthy causes feels good, so why not associate that feeling with shopping?  The donation jar by the register has been around forever, but it presents issues for security, counting/reconciling, and lack of audit trail.  So retailer's have a couple requirements for taking donations at the register:

  • Must never increase checkout time.  Long lines are bad news for retailers.
  • Must be integrated into the payment process, without requiring prompts from employees that are awkward for both parties.
  • Must be electronic, so theft is minimized and there's no overhead for counting.
  • Prefer to give customers a choice of charities, so they get a say in where their money goes.
  • Prefer configurable charities, that are local and can be changed to align with events.
  • Prefer to provide receipts for donations, so customers can collect them and take deductions at tax time.

Based on these reasonable requirements, ARTS developed an integration standard that aims to reduce the cost of integrating the POS to "charity processors," the third-parties that process donations for retailers. Greg Buzek, who is very active with his own charity, quickly calculated that 1.4 million POS registers were represented by the companies involved in creating the standard,  Just imagine if each one of those collected $10 a day for a year.  That would be $5 billion, significantly more than what's collected today, for those in need.

Using the standard, Oracle Retail has integrated its POS with Mini-Donations as a proof-of-concept to show what's possible.  As more retailers follow Stage Stores' lead, vendors will incorporate the interface into their POS and e-commerce offerings, making it easier for retailers to adopt the practice.  Then retailers can strengthen the bonds with their customers and community, and reap the benefits that follow.

Tuesday Jan 29, 2013

Change for Charity

In the rare cases where I'm using cash for a purchase, I'll often toss my change into the charity jar.  But for the majority of my purchases, which are via credit or debit, there's no option to "round up for charity." As far as I know, only Toshiba (formerly IBM) ACE builds that capability into their POS.  There's a huge opportunity to allow customers to make donations at the POS, but few retailers want to invest in customizing their POS to handle this.  Integration efforts like this are often costly, and must be re-done whenever the payment processor is changed.

Companies like Mini-Donations, Pennies (UK), or Change Roundup manage the donations, but again, they have to integrate with each different POS or e-commerce product, an expensive proposition.  That's why ARTS is starting a new workteam to build an integration standard.  Our hope is that by defining an XML standard for integrating to POS and e-commerce systems, we will better enable "round up" functionality in the retail industry.  Imagine the good that can come from millions of people donating pennies everyday.  This can provide a steady income for charities that feed the poor, research cancer, and rescue children.

Our kickoff meeting for this workteam takes place February 4th at the San Francisco ARTS meeting where we will write the charter and define the scope.  Then we'll do the work to build the standard with a goal of publishing in the fall (or maybe even sooner).  Anyone that wants to participate can check the ARTS website for membership information.

Tuesday Jan 10, 2012

Retail Orphan Initiative

A few years back we had the CIO of SuperValu, Paul Singer, speak at Oracle Open World in the retail track.  While I was expecting the usual stories about retail IT, Paul surprised everyone by showing a very inspiring video about the benefits and importance of adoption.  Not only was Paul an adoptive parent, but he used his influential positions at SuperValu and Target to be an advocate for kids.

I recall two people in the audience, Greg Buzek and Jeff Roster, both analysts for the retail industry, being moved by Paul's passion.  It wasn't long before they helped form the Retail Orphan Initiative along with Marc Millstein and Rose Spicer.  The organization, called RetailROI for short, raises funds from the retail community for the benefit of orphans all around the world.  This is the third year for the SuperSaturday session at the NRF Big Show, a very informative event that doubles as a fundraiser.

Oracle's Rose Spicer, who is also on RetailROI's board of advisors, has collaborated with Build-A-Bear to raise awareness and funds for RetailROI at NRF.  On Monday morning she and many customers will meet at the local Build-A-Bear to create 150 stuffed animals that will be donated to New York orphans in partnership with the KIDS organization. 

Additionally, anyone that donates $20 to RetailROI in the Oracle booth will receive one of the bears pictured above.  With just 2,000 donations, RetailROI will get $40,000 which will support 1,000 kids in Malawi.  As you can see, there are several opportunities to support this worthy cause next week during the Big Show.


Tuesday Dec 13, 2011

Happy Holiday From a Friend

As you may have learned from TV commercials, retailers like Walmart, Toys-R-Us, and Kmart are offering layaway programs this holiday season.  The programs are welcomed by families living paycheck to paycheck that might not have the cash on hand to take advantage of great deals.  They can lock in a good price and pay the amount off over weeks without having to worry about stores selling out of hot items and disappointing the kids.

While this has been great news for many, something even better is happening across America.  In Grand Rapids, Michigan a woman entered a Kmart and asked to see a list of layaway accounts so she should could pay a few off.  At first the associate thought the lady wanted to take the items, but that was not the case.  She chose three accounts that each included kid's toys and paid them down to a $10 balance.

"They said that someone had paid $180 on my layaway and there was only $10 left," one of the beneficiaries says of being told about the mystery woman's gift. "I thought it was a joke...I thank her. It's the best gift that I ever received, and it's the gift of believing in people... And believing that there's good out there, 'cause you don't always see that."

On the receipt the Secret Santa wrote, "Happy Holiday from a friend."

Once a local TV station reported the deed, more such acts of kindness have been occurring across the country. Its tempting for Kmart to take advantage of the situation to boost its bottom line, but it claims it will not.  “The beauty of this is that it's organic and coming from the customers and not from us,” said Salima Yala, the retailer's division vice president for layaway. “It's being driven by outside the company. It's just people to people.”

Fantastic!


Secret Santa picks up 3 layaway bills: woodtv.com

About


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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