Tuesday Nov 10, 2015

Elaine Turner Achieves the "D.R.E.A.M. Service Model" on Oracle Commerce Cloud

For the benefit of our global community, here is an editorial view on the Internet Retailer Webcast featuring Elaine Turner last week. 

On average, the purchase of luxury goods online is growing at a faster rate than other online sales, with North America, Europe and Asia—most notably China—leading the way. During this week’s Internet Retailer webinar series, Build Your Brand with e-commerce: Elaine Turner Extends Her Reach with New Dot Com,” Don Davis, editor-in-chief of Internet Retailer, noted that as the rate of luxury purchases online grows, so do the needs of these retailers.

That’s where Oracle’s new Commerce Cloud-based solution comes in. Launched in June, the platform recently partnered with Elaine Turner, a luxury brand based in Houston, to transform the retailer’s digital solutions. The women’s apparel and accessory company, founded by designer and CEO Elaine Turner, has a unique image—beautiful products that also have a purpose. Turner wants women to have a pampered shopping experience, but the entrepreneur also wants to give back. In order to spread her message, Elaine Turner needed to reach more women.

Before adopting Oracle’s technology, Elaine Turner’s online sales were stifled by technology that did not scale. The move to the Oracle platform provided the retailer with an scalable automated system that is user-friendly and customer centric. The new commerce platform is helping Elaine Turner expand the brand beyond its 10 brick-and-mortar stores to become a nation wide retailer.

The Oracle Commerce Cloud solution was developed at the request of Oracle clients looking for an end-to-end e-commerce solution. Retailers wanted “to keep costs low,” when it came to customer acquisition and wanted to “capture market share while responding rapidly to market and customer needs in an agile way,” said Katrina Gosek, director, commerce product strategy, Oracle. Some of the unique benefits of the new solution include the freedom for the retailer to design and layout the e-commerce site, for viewing on all digital devices, while still having the underlying platform maintained and upgraded by Oracle. Oracle provides the scale, security and foundation for innovation around the customer experience.

On the new platform, Elaine Turner has turned its focus to several areas in which to grow brand loyalists. The first is through video content. Using Oracle Commerce Cloud, the retailer is able to broadcast the reality web series “Elaine’s Big Ideas” within the site, so the viewer never has to leave the company’s web page.

In addition, Carrie Leader, director of e-commerce, Elaine Turner, said the new platform has made navigation of the site, especially when sorting products to view, more user friendly. And to capitalize on the brand’s growing social media following, the new site reflects in real-time what’s happening on the brand’s Instagram feed. And finally, the retailer has made several photos and style looks on the site shoppable by allowing a user to click on any piece of the outfit, and without leaving the page, pull up more information.

Ultimately, Elaine Turner is creating what Leader refers to as the “D.R.E.A.M. service model.” “We needed a platform that could help translate that experience a woman gets in a physical store to online, where a customer can’t touch and feel things and there is no associate to help them style.”

Already, Leader says the brand’s key performance indicators are showing great results and the company predicts strong e-commerce growth.

“With Oracle Commerce Cloud, we expect to increase conversion rates by two times,” said Leader, “and traffic between 20 and 30 percent.” Looking to the future, Elaine Turner predicts a sales increase between 50 and 100 percent with the help of the solution. Carrie Leader and her team of five non-technical resources were able to deploy the solution in less than four months with a strong partnership with Oracle. 

To replay the Webinar, register here and Internet Retailer will send details or request a demonstration of the solution. Better yet, shop www.elaineturner.com to see the responsive design of the website, the multi-media content to support inventory and the stunning merchandise from Elaine Turner that is now available nationwide. Hint: this is a perfect time to starting your holiday shopping. 

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 www.shoecarnival.com and take time to browse the new winter selections. 

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 Shop.org 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.

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 www.oracle.com/goto/sciencetodriveprofit

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.

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. 

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 oneretailvoice_ww@oracle.com 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

Wednesday Mar 25, 2015

How Leveraging the Cloud Can Unleash Retailers’ Business Agility

A Viewpoint from Jeff Warren, Vice President Solution Management, Oracle Retail 

Newly launched Oracle Retail Cloud Services combine reliability, security, cost savings and built-in interoperability

The ever-accelerating pace of change in retail puts pressure on everyone within the retail enterprise, but perhaps no one feels it more acutely than the CIO. Technology is rapidly reshaping key elements of the traditional shopping experience, from m-commerce and mobile payments to store-based fulfillment. IT departments are tasked with discovering, and bringing on line, these fast-emerging functionalities, while at the same time maintaining the existing architectures that support both basic corporate and retail-specific systems.

Given these competing demands – “keeping the lights on” while simultaneously serving as the engine for business agility – retail CIOs require cloud-based applications from a trusted technology partner with extensive industry expertise. Oracle is responding with a new offering of Oracle Retail Cloud Services applications for managing e-commerce; customer engagement; order management and order brokering; loss prevention; and brand compliance. (See product list below.)

Cloud-based applications, which in essence outsource many elements of IT management, maintenance, and upgrades, address retailers’ need for business agility. It’s increasingly common that when an IT organization can’t supply the new functionality that the business side seeks, a simple lack of time is cause. 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.

Keeping Costs in Check

The other benefits of cloud-based applications have been well documented, and are part of the reason so many businesses and individuals have been embracing cloud-based applications, data storage, and processing. They include:

● Lower initial hardware and software costs

● Lower ongoing costs, leading to a lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)

● Faster deployments and streamlined routes for patches and system upgrades

Other cloud features are particularly well suited to a retail environment. Scalability and easy access to additional processing power on an as-needed basis fit the needs of a highly seasonal business, one that must often deal with unexpected spikes (such as when a retailer seeks to promote a suddenly “hot” product) and dips.

Oracle’s subscription-based pricing for retail applications maximizes this benefit, bundling software, hardware, and upgrades into a predictable cost structure. In addition, by pricing IT services like a utility, retailers only pay for the processing power they require and actually use.

Mitigating Risk, Maximizing Security

Many retailers have hesitated with cloud deployments based on concerns about data security and overall reliability. This is understandable, given that retail data breaches are highly visible and can tarnish both individual companies and the entire industry. The ability to protect data and maintain the trust of their customers necessarily remains top-of-mind for retailers.

Oracle Retail Cloud Services benefit from the company’s worldclass culture of operational excellence. Oracle Data Centers are classified as Tier 4, the highest level of sophistication, providing 99.995% of uptime. This translates to less than 30 minutes of downtime during an entire calendar year – performance that very few (if any) retailers could match. Oracle Retail also has access to Oracle’s top-notch expertise in the cloud, security, and networking.

Security features inherent to Oracle technology solutions allow for transparent data encryption at the column level, allowing PII (Personally Identifiable Information) to be encrypted using keys that are held in a separate “wallet.” Backups are automatically encrypted, and keys can easily be changed on an as-needed basis. The Oracle Retail solutions leverage Oracle Identity Manager solutions to manage and enforce authentication and authorization for applications, and all elements are PCI-DSS certified.

Built-In Interoperability

Retailers will also benefit from the strategy behind Oracle Retail Cloud Services. These solutions are part of the retail industry group’s comprehensive Commerce Anywhere strategy, which encompasses technology ranging from financial applications to system hardware, so they are designed for maximum interoperability with both on-premise and cloud-based systems.

Oracle also offers flexibility in cloud deployment options. Because different retailers will be at different points in the cloud adoption curve, Managed Cloud services (also known as hosting) allow users to get more comfortable with the concept of outsourcing elements of their IT infrastructure. As the technology provides “wins” and the retailer’s culture adapts, the adoption path can ultimately lead to Oracle Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service offerings. Oracle offers choices that retailers can leverage based on where they are in terms of their own maturity level and business needs.

Most importantly, Oracle Retail Cloud Services give CIOs the tools to keep up with today’s dizzying speed of change. Retailers can no longer wait one to two years to implement the next big thing; IT departments need to deliver meaningful value to the business in time frames that are measured in months. By outsourcing key day-to-day operational duties to cloud providers, IT departments are freed up to offer higher levels of strategic innovation and business agility.

Tuesday Oct 16, 2012

What's Old is New Again

Last night I told my son he could stream music to his tablet "from the cloud" (in this case, the Amazon Cloud).  He paused, then said, "what is the cloud?"  I replied, "a bunch of servers connected to the internet."  Apparently he had visions of something much more magnificent.  Another similar term is "big data."  These marketing terms help to quickly convey topics but are oversimplifications that are open to many interpretations.  At their core, those terms are shiny packages holding recycled ideas.

I see many headlines declaring big data changes everything, but it doesn't.  Savvy retailers have been dealing with large volumes of data since the electronic cash register was invented.  But there have been a few changes to the landscape that make big data a topic of conversation:

1. Computing power has caught up to storage volumes. Its now possible to more thoroughly analyze the copious volumes of data retailers have been squirreling away.  CPUs are faster, sold state drives more plentiful, and new ways to store and search data are available.  My iPhone is more powerful than the computer used in the Apollo mission to the moon.

2. Unstructured data is everywhere.  The Web used to be where retailers published product information, but now users are generating the bulk of the content in the form of comments, videos, and "likes."  The variety of information available to retailers is huge, and it's meaning difficult to discern.

3. Everything is connected.  Looking at a report from my router, there are no less than 20 active devices on my home network.  We can track the location of mobile phones, tag products with RFID, and set our thermostats (I love my Nest) from a thousand miles away.  Not only is there more data, but its arriving at a higher velocity.

Careful readers will note the three Vs that help define so-called big data: volume, variety, and velocity. We now have more volume, more variety, and more velocity and different technologies to deal with them.  But at the heart, the objectives are still the same:

  • Informed decisions
  • Accurate forecasts
  • Improved optimizations

So don't let the term "big data" throw you off the scent.  Retailers still need to execute on the basics.  But do take a fresh look at the data that's available and the new technologies to process it.  The landscape will continue to change and agile organizations will always be reevaluating their approaches.  You just need to add some more weapons to the arsenal.

Tuesday Dec 20, 2011

Retail Strategy for 2012

Earlier this month I reviewed my 2011 predictions and made new ones for 2012.  Of course I wasn't the only one thinking about what's next for retail.  RIS News published their 2012 outlook, Retail Touchpoints has their 2012 insights, and Stores has their 2012 predictions so there's no shortage of opinions.  Reading these articles, its easy to pull out the major themes and they're exactly what you'd expect.  I could write about each theme, but I thought it would be more fun to remove all but the buzzwords.  See if you can still understand my summations...

  • Mobile-- anywhere/anytime commerce, always on consumers, omni-channel, Amazon's showroom, ubiquitous access to product info, QRCodes, online inside, NFC, loyalty, empowered employees, endless aisles, tablets
  • Social-- one-to-marketing, f-commerce, big data, customer analytics, psychographics, contextual offers
  • Cloud-- deployment, management, access data from anywhere, lower TCO, elastic, utility pricing, security, SLAs, SaaS, outage

This shortened version of writing sure saves time!  Here's the point.  Now is a good time to reflect on this year and think about your strategy for next year, which had better address all three mentioned areas.  I'm not saying you need to embrace all three, but you do need to have a point-of-view on how each can affect your business.  As you're reviewing your strategy, here's a little advice for the new year:

Don't get caught up in the buzzwords.  Look past the coolness factor and figure out how things directly impact the business.  A Twitter account might increase sales, but old-fashion supply-chain management might move the needle even more.  Put a little money toward innovation, and invest the rest toward improving the basics.

Skate to where the puck is going.  Your strategy must not only address your customers but also your future customers.  Run ideas past your teenage kids because they will soon be your customers.  This is especially important for matters relating to privacy, which continues to vary greatly by generations.

Measure twice, cut once.  Strategies must be based on data, not gut feelings.  Execute only after you've done the necessary analysis and have metrics in place to assess results. Challenge the statistics and use multiple sources.

Food for thought.  See you next year at NRF!

Wednesday Nov 23, 2011

Reviewing Retail Predictions for 2011

I've been busy thinking about what 2012 and beyond will look like for retail, and I have some interesting predictions to share.  But before I go there, let’s first review this year’s predictions before making new ones for 2012.

1. Alternate Payments
We've seen several alternate payment schemes emerge over the last two years, and 2011 may be the year one of them takes hold. Any competition that can drive down fees will be good for everyone. I'm betting that Apple will add NFC chips to their next version of the iPhone, then enable payments in stores using iTunes accounts on the backend. Paypal will continue to make inroads, and Isis will announce a pilot.

The iPhone 4S did not contain an NFC chip, so we’ll have to continuing waiting for the iPhone 5. PayPal announced its moving into in-store payments, and Google launched its wallet in selected cities.  Overall I think the payment scene is heating up and that trend will continue.

2. Engineered Systems
The industry is moving toward purpose-built appliances that are optimized across the entire stack. Oracle calls these "engineered systems" and the first two examples are Exadata and Exalogic, but there are other examples from other vendors. These are particularly important to the retail industry because of the volume of data that must be processed. There should be continued adoption in 2011.

Oracle reports that Exadata is its fasting growing product, and at the recent OpenWorld it announced the SuperCluster and Exalytics products, both continuing the engineered systems trend. SAP’s HANA continues to receive attention, and IBM also seems to be moving in this direction.

3. Social Analytics
There are lots of tools that provide insight into how a brand is perceived across popular internet sites, but as far as I know, these tools are not industry specific. The next step needs to mine the data and determine how it should influence retail operations. The data needs to help retailers determine how they create promotions, which products to stock, and how to keep consumers engaged. Social data alone does not provide the answers, but its one more data point that will help retailers make better decisions. Look for some vendor consolidation to help make this happen.

In March, Salesforce.com acquired leading social monitoring vendor Radian6 and followed up with acquisitions of Heroku and Model Metrics. The notion of Social CRM seems to be going more mainstream now.

4. 2-D Barcodes
Look for more QRCodes on shelf-tags, in newspaper circulars, and on billboards. It's a great portal from the physical world into the digital one that buys us time until augmented reality matures further. Nobody wants to type "www", backslash, and ".com" on their phones.

QRCodes are everywhere. ‘Nuff said.

5. In the words of Microsoft, "To the Cloud!"
My favorite "cloud application" is Evernote. If you take notes on your work laptop, you will inevitably need those notes on your home PC. And if you manage to solve that problem, you'll need to access them from your mobile phone. Evernote stores your notes in the cloud and provides easy ways to access them. Being able to access a service from anywhere and not having to worry about backups, upgrades, etc. is great. Retailers will start to rely on cloud services, both public and private, in the coming year.

There were no shortage of announcements in this area: Amazon’s cloud-based Kindle Fire, Apple’s iCloud, Oracle’s Public Cloud, etc. I saw an interesting presentation showing how BevMo moved their systems to the cloud.  Seems like retailers are starting to consider the cloud for specific uses.

6. F-CommerceTop of Form

Move over "E" and "M" so we can introduce "F-Commerce," which should go mainstream in 2011. Already several retailers have created small stores on Facebook, and it won't be long before Facebook becomes a full-fledged channel in the omni-channel world of retail. The battle between Facebook and Google will heat up over retail, where both stand to make lots of money.

JCPenney and ASOS both put their entire catalogs on Facebook, and lots of other retailers have connected Facebook to their e-commerce site. I still think selling from the newsfeed is the best approach, and several retailers are trying that approach as well. I just don’t see Google+ as a threat to Facebook, so I think that battle is over.  I called 2011 The Year of F-Commerce, and that was probably accurate.

Its good to look back at predictions, but we also have to think about what was missed.  I didn't see Amazon entering the tablet business with such a splash, although in hindsight it was obvious. Nor did I think HP would fall so far so fast.  Look for my 2012 predictions coming soon.

Thursday Oct 06, 2011

OpenWorld 2011, Retail Perspective Part 2

For those that can't afford the capital investment, Oracle is offering its Exadata and Exalogic machines as part of the Oracle Public Cloud, as was announced at OpenWorld  Retailers can easily provision both database and middleware environments in which they can deploy their applications and pay a monthly fee.  Additionally, Oracle is offering its Fusion applications on the cloud.

What's unique here is the fact that Oracle is using the same technologies normally used on-premise.  This means that existing on-premise applications can be moved back and forth between the cloud and data center as appropriate.  So your next question must be, can I run my Oracle Retail applications on Oracle's cloud?

If all the requirements of the product are met, then it makes no difference whether you deploy on-premise or on the cloud.  If you're using the supported version of the operating system, database, and middleware then where the hardware is located should make no difference.  While we've not yet had the opportunity to test our products on the Oracle Public Cloud, we have tried them on Amazon's cloud without issue.

But do retail applications like merchandising and POS really belong on the cloud?  I'm not quite there yet -- I cling to the belief that core applications should be on-premise, but many non-core applications work just fine in the cloud.  We will get there eventually -- its really a matter of organizations catching up with the technology.

Monday Feb 07, 2011

Traditional POS is Dead

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Wednesday Dec 15, 2010

2011 Predictions for Retail

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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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