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 www.ulta.com 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


Tuesday Apr 21, 2015

Aerosoles Taps Responsive Design, Omni-Channel Fulfillment to Boost E-Commerce Performance with DMI

From Amazon to Zappos, shoe retailers vie for consumer orders and Aerosoles is gaining ground by keeping loyal fans happy and winning new ones with a modern e-commerce experience and a tightly-integrated fulfillment strategy. In a press release with partner DMI, Aerosoles executives share insight to creating a “future-proof omnichannel” platform that has grown e-commerce sales using Oracle Commerce, Responsive Web Design and cross-channel fulfillment.

Aerosoles completely overhauled its ecommerce operations in 2014, took steps to improve the customer experience and tapped its stores and warehouses to get orders in the hands of shoppers efficiently.  Retail news magazine Retailing Today covers Aerosoles’ e-commerce initiative here, noting that the retailer promptly delivered a record performance on Cyber Monday. 

Enhancements focused on both the front-end shopper experience and the cross-channel fullfillment operations behind the scenes. First, higher-resolution color and images, state-of-the-art search and cleaner checkout were employed as part of Aerosoles’ new Oracle Commerce platform. Whether consumers sign on with a mobile device or with a personal computer, the Aerosoles ecommerce website responds immediately with a format that performs well and is easy to navigate. This Responsive Web Design feature, Oracle Commerce enhanced dynamic search and guided navigation, and site mapping and SEO capabilities are designed to deliver more overall site volume and sales.

Aerosoles supports the customer experience with some astute back-end strategy. E-commerce transactions are fully integrated with stores and warehouse locations for fulfillment to the customer quickly, effectively and with an eye toward balancing inventory availability. Call center integration with DMI OrderSync OMS ensures customer service and sales associates can readily help with orders, add-ons, returns, cancellations, backorders and customer service.

According to DMI, Aerosoles’ mission was to “provide an atmosphere that optimizes its customers’ shopping experience not only online but through all sales channels.” An omnichannel commerce and retail data integration strategy delivers a seamless experience for Aerosoles customers across online, mobile, call center or in-store shopping.

For a closer look at Aerosoles in action, shop the new website and enjoy the spring and summer collection! 

Thursday Jan 29, 2015

Lenox Launches eCommerce Transformation with Oracle

As we talk with new and long-standing customers of the Oracle Retail community, we truly learn their perspectives on IT priorities and the role of technology in their business strategy. E-commerce projects are on warp speed as retailers gear up and prepare to use technology platforms for omni-channel promotions and fulfillment. 

Venerable luxury tabletop brand Lenox, which sells not only its namesake lines (Lenox, Dansk, and Gorham) but also designers kate spade new york, kathy ireland HOME, Marchesa and more, is among those tapping the latest commerce technology to keep pace with customer expectations. In a recent phone conversation, Lenox CIO Erik Andersen talked about the major e-commerce transformation underway at the company, and he emphasized a focus on revitalizing the brand, improving promotion strategy and enhancing the customer experience.

 “As we evaluated where we are today and where we are going next as a company, we recognized the need for a world class e-commerce site that would enhance the entire customer experience and accommodate mobile, tablet and desktop to capture demand and execute the sale,” said Erik Andersen, CIO of Lenox. “By replacing a transactional, order management approach with a proactive and comprehensive marketing and promotion strategy, we are able to work smarter, get ahead of the curve and offer better promotions to our customers. We are also showcasing our enhanced brand image,” said Andersen.

Lenox produces its premium fine china patterns at the only fine bone china factory in the U.S., where it leverages its own marketing and design, sourcing and fulfillment, and is a top wholesaler to Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Belk, Dillard’s, and other major department stores, as well as Amazon and QVC. Lenox also sells direct through e-commerce, catalog, telemarketing and a chain of retail stores primarily located on the east coast.

This new e-commerce investment helps Lenox improve its business processes and gain efficiencies. The availability of insightful data makes it possible for marketers to develop personas, conduct market segmentation, and deliver meaningful promotions to better manage the business. The company also uses Oracle JD Edwards financials and a Manhattan Associates solution in its warehouse.

“Within a very short time, everyone on the team knew the site was looking exactly the way it should. We have strict goals for revenue lift. What I’m looking for is enhanced data and analytics. Oracle Commerce will help us gain a better understanding of our customer, better inventory turns and margin management,” said Andersen. “Working with Oracle partner Speed Commerce assured us that we would be up and running quickly with no issues.”

“As part of the RFP process we looked at R&D investment, and Oracle is second to none. We wanted to be able to stay the course and Oracle is making the right investments which gives us a lot of confidence that the platform will keep pace with changes and enhancements,” he added. “We already use Oracle Endeca in our current e-commerce environment and we will stay with that while going to the full Oracle Commerce platform. We will enhance search engine optimization and provide a more organic search experience as our online commerce business continues to grow,” said Andersen.

Congratulations to the entire team at Lenox for the transformation now underway! Welcome to the Oracle Retail community. 

Shop. Explore. Experience. Oracle Commerce @ http://www.lenox.com

Wednesday Nov 26, 2014

TOMS Leverages Oracle Commerce to Expand OneforOne in Multiple Directions

Last month, TOMS presented at the Oracle OpenWorld 2014 conference. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, retailers like TOMS remind us we have many blessings to be thankful for. We also have the opportunity to help the less fortunate as we shop this holiday season. 

TOMS, the socially conscious retailer that donates footwear, eye care, and fresh water based on customer purchases of shoes, sunglasses, or coffee has been on a multi-directional expansion path over the past 18 months. Since its adoption of the Oracle Commerce platform in 2013, the retailer has launched e-commerce sites in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, and then migrated its U.K., U.S., and Canada sites to the new platform in 2014. The impressive total: six sites, four languages, and three different currencies.


Nor is TOMS simply staying put: Global Vice President Hilda Fontana, in remarks at the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, said Australia, Latin America, and other European countries will be rolled out using the same e-commerce platform by as early as 2015.


The retailer prizes not only the strong customer experience that the Oracle Commerce platform allows them to offer but also the flexibility to experiment with unconventional business models. In addition to its own “One for One” initiative, which provides eye care for children in developing countries and fresh water for each bag of coffee purchased, TOMS has also sought to empower other socially conscious companies and entrepreneurs. That was the impulse behind the creation of Marketplace, which was introduced late last year to provide a platform on the Toms’ website for more than 200 products offered by 30 different companies. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie has called Marketplace the best way to introduce other inspiring products to Toms’ engaged community.


In her remarks, Fontana discussed how re-platforming to Oracle Commerce for TOMS’ global, multi-site architecture gave the company room to grow. TOMS gained the ability to enter a product once and leverage Oracle’s translation and multi-site features to merchandise the product for all markets, as well as robust catalog management capabilities across multiple sites and countries. In addition, because TOMS has been able to integrate its order management systems, product updates are seamless and customers have a real-time view of available inventory as they shop.


To view Fontana’s Oracle Open World presentation, click here: TOMS: Case Study

To experience Oracle Commerce @ Work shop here: www.toms.com and explore the new points program.  


Tuesday Nov 11, 2014

Office Depot Makes the Complex Simple with E-Commerce Search

Office Depot, Inc. reigns #1 in E-Commerce Search Engine Usability for office supply retailers and #8 overall among the top 50 e-commerce retailers (Baymard Institute). By steadily innovating to improve search and provide more personalized recommendations, Office Depot has made it easier for customers to take advantage of its full breadth of products and services online and via mobile devices.

Serving a complex and loyal customer base that includes a wide variety of large corporations, small and medium-sized businesses as well as individual consumers, Office Depot offers the perfect mix of nearby locations and online convenience. The retailer operates more than 2,000 Office Depot and OfficeMax stores in the U.S. and Europe, and its combined web sites rank it among the top 5 e-commerce retailers in the 2014 Internet Retailer 500

At the heart of Office Depot’s Customer Experience (CX) strategy is a complex merchandising operation that ensures that each business and consumer enjoys a world-class customer experience, no matter when, where and how choose to shop. The company places over 100,000 products and services at it’s customers’ fingertips, with selections ranging from technology, core office supplies, print and document services, business services, facilities products, furniture, and school essentials.

Office Depot is focused on making a wide assortment of products and services easy for its customers to access, and convenient to shop. To render the complex simple and deliver faster, more personalized search and recommendations, Office Depot recently upgraded its e-commerce search and recommendation engine with Oracle Commerce Experience Manager.

Speaking earlier this year from Oracle OpenWorld, Office Depot senior e-commerce analyst Scott Headberg said the retailer upgraded its systems to meet its  stringent business requirements, including the need to accommodate unique merchandising rules to ensure that the right product assortments and promotions reach every shopper at OfficeDepot.com.

In addition, with the e-commerce update Office Depot and OfficeMax customers can continue to enjoy a personalizedshopping experience with secure access to their purchase history and product preferences.  Ultimately, the Oracle system serves as a single e-commerce platform supporting Office Depot’s consumer, business-to-business and international divisions.

Customers enjoy the benefits of a commerce site that seems to know just what they want.  With the recent changes, Office Depot makes it easier for customers to take advantage of its full breadth of products and services online, via mobile and using the tablets and kiosks that extend each store’s offering.

The Oracle Commerce user interface is straight-forward and easy to integrate, making it possible for merchants to directly shape and control the user experience.

“These tools, put in the right hands, allow for more successful promotions that are designed for specific regions and categories,” said Headberg.  “We are empowering our merchandising teams to achieve their goals, while taking some of the burden off of the development team.”

Office Depot collaborated with Oracle and RealDecoy, an Oracle Gold Partner specializing in end-to-end Oracle Commerce solutions for retailers and manufacturers, to help manage this highly sophisticated implementation and ensure that the retailer met all of its business objectives.  The result is an easy, intuitive experience for customers to shop via mobile device, tablet or desktop computer.

The upgraded e-commerce environment has helped to establish a new reality in which business users are simply more self-reliant, says Headberg. It helped to end an era in which development staff were required to help create landing pages, code promotions, and update content.   Today, business users leverage the Oracle application to fine-tune the customer experience, personalize search results and recommendations, and adjust promotions in real-time.

In other news: Office Depot is among the first to accept Apple Pay. (Wall Street Journal

Shop. Explore. Demo. Oracle Commerce @ Work: www.officedepot.com 

Tuesday Oct 28, 2014

Oracle OpenWorld 2014: The Pace of Change for Retailers

At the center of change in retail are the 9 Billion devices now connected to the Internet – a number predicted to go to 50 Billion in fairly short order.  Beacons and other location devices are a disruptive force for the retail industry, and they completely change how retail experiences are built. The proliferation of mobile devices, among shoppers and store associates, opens up new ways to tell customers where inventory is, where can they get it, at what price, and it invites a whole new set of competitors.

Welcoming retail executives, partners and industry experts to the Retail Experience @ Oracle OpenWorld 2014 in San Francisco, Oracle Retail Senior Vice President and General Manager Mike Webster said that the rapid pace of change being driven by mobile and other influences will not slow anytime soon. It’s one of many reasons retailers are suddenly looking to accommodate a higher velocity of data in a variety of different formats.

“Big data is not big news in retail but we are having to solve problems around the velocity and the variety of data,” said Webster. “How do we bring in social interactions and marketing interactions together, to give you a more unified view of the entire customer engagement. We are a mobile world, with 6 billion mobile subscribers.”

In retail today, there are tons of investments across social, mobile, analytics and cloud. Seven out of ten companies don't know their current stock position. Retailers must return to the basics. The biggest item on retail balance sheet is inventory. Transparency is the key to shift inventory closer to customers to impact the bottom line and satisfy the consumer.

To help retailers succeed, Oracle “spends more on R&D than any other solution provider in the industry, and the most basic element of what we are creating is to make sure you reach customers where you need to, that you are able to hit the basics and innovate. Our focus is building the best solutions for retailers,” said Webster. During his keynote, Mike Webster took the opportunity to share the highlights built into our upcoming release coupled with the unique capabilities that MICROS adds to the footprint.

Our success is measured in terms of customer results. Oracle Retail saw great success with vanilla implementations and this trend reflects all of the work done to fine-tune retail functionality across the Oracle Retail suite of applications. With the introduction of version 14 and the work with world-class partners, we have allowed customers to focus on the business opportunity with less complexity, customization and integration from the implementation process with best practices built into the solutions.

Customers including Hot Topic, Kohl’s, Gordmans, and Zenni Optical are just a few of the retailers benefiting from recent implementations of Oracle’s robust, mature retail solutions. Customers should continue to expect us to take out complexity and take out cost, Webster added.

The Retail Experience @ OpenWorld 2014 presentations are available in the Oracle Retail virtual community. Log in to the RACK to review the presentations from the retail track.  

-  Commerce Anywhere: Retail Innovation
-  ULTA Beauty: Improving the Customer Experience with Oracle Commerce
-  Inventory Management for Commerce Anywhere with Dubai Duty Free
-  Running Oracle Retail Applications on Oracle Systems with Kohls
-  TOMS: Oracle Commerce Case Study
-  Retail Analytics: Creating Value from Insight
-  How Two Brazilian Retailers Linked Shopping Across Channels with Oracle Commerce (Part 1)
-  How Two Brazilian Retailers Linked Shopping Across Channels with Oracle Commerce (Part 2)
-  Retail Trends: An Oracle Perspective

Monday Oct 27, 2014

PureFormulas’ Personalization Journey – Notes from Shop.Org 2014 Summit

Earlier this month, the Oracle Retail team divided its time between Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco and the Shop.org Summit in Seattle.  Over the next few weeks, we will bring you retailer insights gleaned from both events.

This year’s Shop.org Summit was, in many regards, a study in leveraging digital platforms to personalize each customer experience. Among those offering ‘lessons learned’ was Daniel Moure, chief marketing officer for consumer vitamins and wellness retailer PureFormulas, who discussed his company’s recent progress as part of the panel discussion “Time to Get Personal on the Customer Journey.”

Central to making each customer experience better, said Moure, is the company’s recent migration to a new e-commerce platform from Oracle Commerce. The Oracle platform provides PureFormulas’ marketing team with industry-leading tools to personalize the customer experience through a series of levels, from the awareness of getting a customer on to its site to adding returning customers to its loyalty program, and each step is based on insights gleaned from customer data.

As part of the panel dialogue, Moure admitted that corralling all that data had at times been tough, but ultimately worth it.

“We had data all over the place,” said Moure. “Aggregating the data, looking at it, slicing it and dicing it, that takes a lot of resources and energy. Once you have even a little bit of data and you know who your customers are, then the goal is to make the experience easy, help customers choose what they want and make the whole process smooth and streamlined.”

PureFormulas is still at the beginning of its journey into the personalization process and the project and tools continue to evolve. “We started small, made the assessments and assumptions that we’re almost certain are correct and from there, started drilling down deeper,” said Moure. “We’re already starting to see some results from the very basic personalization tests that we’re doing.”

In the end, the measurement of success for PureFormulas is how many shoppers convert to buyers.  By looking at the data through a new lens, the company can link conversions to attributions of the personalization funnel they have developed. From a conversion in the middle of a first time site visit, to acquiring that customer as a loyalty program member, Moure stressed the importance of making sure that the choices presented to the customer are efficient and effective. 

“The final measure is making that conversion and generating revenue along the way,” said Moure.  “We’re tracking adoption of the tools and products we’re putting out there and hopefully all of them are useful. With the right platform and tools, you can make that experience extremely flexible for customers.”

Read more about PureFormulas’ personalization journey in Internet Retailer’s ‘Going for Growth’ article. For more Shop.org insights, check out Shop.org Summit Articles from the National Retail Federation.

Shop. Explore. Demo. Oracle Commerce @ Work:  www.pureformulas.com 


Thursday Oct 02, 2014

Big Lots Chooses Oracle Commerce

More and more retailers are leveraging the full range of commerce technologies, including robust, scalable platforms, user-friendly business tools and solutions to enable a true omnichannel shopping experience. Big Lots is taking all of these options to the next level with an ecommerce program to serve its growing business. 

Big Lots operates 1,495 stores in 48 states and, if you have one near you understand why people love to shop these stores. Big Lots is a unique, non-traditional, discount retailer with product assortments in the merchandise categories of food, consumables, furniture & home décor, seasonal, soft home, hard home, and electronics & accessories. The company’s vision is to provide an outstanding shopping experience for customers both in the stores, and, coming soon, on-line.

By selecting a hosted version of Oracle Commerce, Big Lots is providing its business users with cost-effective, cutting-edge tools to shape a personalized customer experience through multi-channel promotions, targeted offers, and image-rich product profiles. 

Oracle Commerce also gives the Big Lots team the flexibility to adapt to changing business strategies or market needs such as expanding offerings, integrating new tools or bringing its commerce infrastructure in-house from the hosted solution.  

Congratulations to the entire team at Big Lots and welcome to the Oracle community!

Monday Aug 18, 2014

NRF Online Merchandising Workshop: Where Online Retailers Are Focusing for Holiday and Beyond

Last month we attended the NRF Online Merchandising Workshop in LA, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with our customers, meet new retailers, and hear some great presentations from VF Corporation, Zazzle, Julep Beauty, Backcountry, eBags and more.

The one-on-one conversations with Merchants and the keynote presentations carry the same themes across companies of all sizes and across verticals. With only 125 days left (and counting) until Black Friday, these conversations provided some great insight in to what’s top of mind for retailers during the most stressful time of their year, and a sneak peek in to what they will deliver this holiday season. 

Some of the most popular topics were:

When to start promoting for holiday: seems like a funny conversation to have in July, but a number of retailers said they already had their holiday shopping gift guides live on their site, and it was attracting a significant portion of their onsite traffic. When it comes to timing, most retailers were questioning when to begin their holiday promotions -- carefully balancing when to release pricing and specials, and knowing that customers are holding out for last-minute deals and price drops. Many retailers noted the frustrations around transparent pricing by Amazon and a few other mega-retailers last year, publishing their “lowest prices of the season” as early as October – ensuring shoppers that those prices were the best they could get all season long. Many retailers felt their hands were forced to drop prices. Others kept their set pricing with negative customer reaction, causing some to miss their holiday goals. The pressure is on, and most retailers identified November 1 as their target start date for the holiday promotions blitz. Some are even waiting for the big guys to release their “lowest prices of the season” guides and will then follow suit.

     Attribution is tough – and a huge focus: understanding the path to conversion is a tough nut to crack, especially in the new omnichannel world where consumers use multiple touchpoints to make a single purchase, and internal management wants to know hard data. This has lead many retailers to invest in attribution; carefully tracking their online marketing efforts to determine what gets “credit” for the sale, instead of giving credit to the “last click.” Retailers noted that it is very difficult to determine the numbers when online and offline worlds collide – like when a shopper uses digital channels for research and then makes a purchase in a store. As one of the presenters from The North Face mentioned in her keynote, a key to enabling better customer service and satisfaction when it comes to converged online and offline sales is training the in-store staff, and creating a culture where it eventually “doesn’t matter what group gets the credit” if they all add to the sale. No doubt, the area of attribution will be a big area of retail investment in the coming years.

     How to plan for the converged world: planning to ensure inventory gets where it needs to be was another concern. In conversations with retailers, we advised them to analyze customer patterns: where shoppers purchase items, where the items were sourced from and even where items are returned. This analysis is very valuable in determining inventory plans. From there, retailers can more accurately plan and allocate inventory to support both the online and offline customer behavior. As we head into the holiday season, the need for accurate enterprise-wide inventory visibility, and providing that information to associates, is even more critical to the brand-wide customer experience.

      Improving the search / navigation / usability of the site(s): Aside from some of the big ideas and standard holiday pricing pressure, most conversations we had centered around continuing to improve the basics of the site. Reinvesting in search and navigation came up time and time again (FitForCommerce blogged about what a big topic it was at the event as well). Obviously getting shoppers on their path quickly and allowing them to find what they need fast is critical, but it was definitely interesting to hear just how much effort is still going in to honing the search and navigation experience. Adding new elements to search and navigation like typeahed, inventive navigation refinements, and new navigation categories like gift guides, specialized boutiques and flash sales were top of mind, in addition to searchandising and making search-driven product recommendations. (Oracle can help!)

      Reducing cart abandonment: always a hot topic that is top of mind for every online retailer. Getting shoppers to the cart is often less then half the battle; getting them to click “buy” and complete the transaction is much more difficult. While retailers carefully study the checkout process and where shoppers tend to bounce, they know that how they design their checkout page is critical. We’re all online shoppers in our personal lives and we know how frustrating it can be when total prices are not transparent (i.e. shipping, processing, taxes is not included until the very last possible screen before clicking that buy button). Online retailers are struggling with where in the checkout process to surface the total price to be charged to reduce cart abandonment, while not showing the total figure too early in the process that it keeps shoppers from getting to checkout altogether. Recent research shows that providing total pricing prior to the checkout process dramatically reduces cart abandonment – as it serves as a filter to those shopping within a specific price band. Much of the cart abandonment discussion leads us to…

      The free shipping / free returns question: it’s no secret that because of Amazon and programs like Prime, consumers expect free shipping, much to the chagrin of the smaller retailer. The reality is that if you’re not a mega-retailer, shipping is an expensive part of doing business that doesn’t allow most retailers to keep their prices low and offer free shipping. This has many retailers venturing out on the “free returns” path, especially in apparel. A number of retailers we spoke with are testing a flat rate shipping fee with free returns to see if they can crack the price threshold where shoppers are willing to pay for shipping with an added service. But, free shipping remains king.

     Social ads and retargeting: they are working, but do they turn off consumers? That’s the big question. Every retailer we spoke with during a roundtable on the topic said that social ads and retargeting (where that pair of boots you’re been eyeing on a site magically follows you around the Internet) work and are meeting campaign goals. The larger question many retailers are asking is if this type of tactic is turning off a large number of shoppers, even if these campaigns are meeting their early goals. Retailers also mentioned that Facebook ads are working very well for them, especially when it comes to new customer acquisition, serving as a complimentary a channel to SEO when it comes to engaging new customers.

While there are always new things to experiment with in retail, standard challenges are top of mind as retailers scramble to get ready for holiday. It will undoubtedly be another record-breaking online shopping season, but as retailers get more and more advanced with each Black Friday, expect some exciting things. This excitement needs to be backed by sound solutions and optimized operations. Then again, consumers are expecting more than ever, so I don’t doubt that retailers are already thinking about the possibilities of holiday 2015… and beyond.

Customers who read this article, also found value in the following stories:

Personalization for Retail: http://blogs.oracle.com/retail/entry/personalization_for_retail
Shop Direct User Experience Focus Drives Sales:https://blogs.oracle.com/retail/entry/shop_direct_user_experience_focus
Making Waves: Australian Online Retailer SurfStitch: https://blogs.oracle.com/oracleretail/entry/surf_stitch
What’s new in Oracle Commerce v11.1 for Retail
What the Content+Commerce Equation is Missing

Tuesday Jul 29, 2014

What the Content+Commerce Equation is Missing: the Customer and Their Context

The following is a guest article from Brenna Johnson, Principal Product Manager, Oracle Commerce:

There’s been a lot of talk about content and commerce and the role of each in the customer experience. But we think there’s a lot to the story that isn’t being addressed. So, we’ve joined the conversation – and brought a unique perspective. This perspective is what drove our major product release last week, and a new whitepaper on content and commerce environments.

It’s no secret that content and commerce have collided. Enabling brand exploration and selling product should now be thought of as the same process. But the unification of content and commerce goes beyond having a single website URL or videos on the product detail page. Shoppers want to see rich content in context of their product searches – and in turn, they want to be inspired to explore brands in new ways. Bottom line: how consumers engage is not predictable. Researching, buying, advocating or seeking help is no longer tied to specific steps in the funnel, or to touchpoints. It’s all just interactions, filtered by their need at that moment.

But delivering this type of experience is hard. Inside of organizations, legacy ways of thinking about Marketers telling authentic brand stories (inspiring) and Merchants as being the eyes of the business (selling) has forced everyone to ask: who and what should drive our collective experience?

It’s not just org charts that create confusion over what path to take at this crossroads, it’s the technology each team has separately invested in over the last decade. Marketers have historically used WCM/WEM (Web Content or Web Experience Management) systems to inspire, and Merchants typically leverage the eCommerce platform to sell. Over the years, each technology camp has evolved to include capabilities that now overlap in certain areas, creating more confusion over which technology to use where, especially when it comes to powering the “glass” of the customer experience. Some firms lead with WCM/WEM, others with commerce, others with a hybrid side-by-side approach.

But the question people aren’t asking is the most important one. It shouldn’t be about what group or what technology should drive the experience, the focus should be: how can we leverage the customer and their context to deliver relevant experiences. We believe this is what the CX movement is all about, and its what drives our product, and our customers’ results.

A predetermined page shouldn’t define what’s delivered, the consumer’s context should. This is the core of the Oracle Commerce product, and the basis of our stance that content and commerce is only part of the equation.

When the goal is to generate revenue online, Oracle Commerce should take the lead in delivering experiences that inspire and sell. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Content and commerce are only a part of the equation

Content is an important part of the customer journey, but so is data and material coming from dozens of other systems. More important than content or commerce is the notion of the two other Cs: the customer and their context. If these are not known, content (alongside many other things) cannot be relevant.

To deliver inspired selling experiences to meet an infinite number of unpredictable customer needs, the digital experience needs to have everything available, ready to dynamically filter and adapt in an instant. Content like copy, PDFs, video, and rich imagery that WCM/WEM systems handle well needs to be readily available, but so does data and content coming the product catalog(s), CRM system, customer profile, user reviews, search and navigation, ERP system, social content, personalization engine, local inventory availability, in-store data, PIM system, merchandising, order management, recommendations, pricing, service, the shopping cart, analytics and more.

Not only should your digital experience technology be able to leverage the unpredictable cocktail of data and content the consumer requires in in real-time, it also needs to dynamically present this unique experience in context of the moment and across time. WCM/WEM systems are designed to allow Marketers to deliver engaging, personal brand experiences; not to integrate with dozens of systems and scale large volumes of data to drive online sales. Oracle Commerce is already the “glue” that aggregates data and content coming from any system and presents it in a relevant experience.

Again, the page shouldn’t define what’s delivered, the customer’s context should. Their context at that moment (even if they’re anonymous), across time, online and offline, in light of their social tendencies, explicit and implicit behaviors – is all leveraged together to deliver the most relevant, engaging experience at any point in their journey.

The only thing we do know about the future is that the amount of data and content that will need to be leveraged will only grow. Oracle Commerce was purpose-built to solve these problems.

2. The ability to scale is key to success

The scale required to deliver relevant content versus the scale and power required to deliver contextually relevant selling experiences (where content is a component) differs by orders of magnitude.

When Marketing’s role was to build a unique brand destination, curating pages to showcase aspirational brand stories, scale was not as big of an issue. In the new era of inspired selling, creating static pages for every potential customer path simply cannot be done.

Beyond scaling the online desktop experience, there’s scaling in to new digital touchpoints, new sites, new business models, and new geographies. How could this be done in a WCM/WEM system without starting over from scratch, or expensive and timely integrations with the commerce system? Investing in a commerce solution with an open, multisite framework cuts down substantially on having to start over as your company grows and evolves. Oracle Commerce enables customers to launch new brands and extend in to new geographies in a handful of weeks, leveraging the existing infrastructure and assets.

Enabling total dynamic delivery of everything needed in the customer experience, and sharing data from across the enterprise (online and offline) is critical in this time of unpredictable shoppers and demands. This is why a unified experience delivery tool like Oracle Commerce Experience Manager should take the lead in experience delivery for inspired selling experiences

3. Marketers and Merchants must work hand-in-hand

Keeping totally separate technologies for elements of customer experience delivery is redundant, expensive, and results in broken customer experiences. Today, depending on the organization and their online goals, a huge percentage of online selling is likely already done via the eCommerce platform tools.

If you’re using separate WCM/WEM and eCommerce systems, you may be able to manage today’s demands in the short term, but what about scaling for the unpredictable needs of the future? WCM/WEM systems simply were not designed integrate with dozens of systems to drive online sales.

We’ve done the hard stuff first. Adding content creation and management capabilities in to the commerce infrastructure is a far more viable approach than the other way around. Having content and commerce capabilities in a single platform that easily integrates to any system to leverage content or data is the way to go.

Let’s use an example. It’s time to create a holiday campaign. A Merchandiser and Content Marketer work together, leveraging a single toolset to ensure inspired selling experiences are delivered. Together, they update the catalog and any pricing or promotions, create a landing page, add elements like video, community content, and imagery, update the page attribution, and personalization of the entire experience (including search, content targeting, promotions, product assortment, merchandising and more). All of these activities are done as one update: one approval workflow and one publishing process, viewed in the authoring environment as well as a single preview environment. With Oracle Commerce 11.1, we are closer than ever to delivering this to our customers today.

We don’t believe that if you do one or the other activities, it means that you should have either WCM/WEM or eCommerce deliver the customer experience. If Marketers or Merchants currently own your site experience, if you have any requirement for personalization, do any revenue online, have a need for any type of discovery (product or brand) and want to deliver across any touchpoint, Oracle Commerce is uniquely suited to solve these challenges.

Be sure to check out the new content-commerce whitepaper for more details on the benefit of a commerce-lead customer experience – and please, share your perspective on this topic. 

Customers who liked this story also liked:

IDC MarketScape Names Oracle Commerce as a Leader

Shop Direct User Experience Focus Drives Sales

Bringing Content, Commerce and Digital Experiences Together: Oracle Commerce V11.1 Release Announcement


Monday Jul 28, 2014

Work ‘N Gear Talks Commerce Strategy with Oracle

The Oracle Retail community continues to grow. Often, our customers like Work 'N Gear are using Oracle to capture new market opportunities. 

E-commerce is driving revenue growth for niche retailers and offering customers unprecedented access to favored brands and previously hard-to-find items. No longer confined by geography and store count, these retailers provide unique assortments, brands and knowledge to selective consumers with specific needs.

This is the opportunity facing specialty retailers like Work ‘N Gear, an innovative Boston-based company focused on providing the workwear its customers need from the brands they trust.  Work ‘N Gear has 40 stores throughout the Northeast and Midwest, making it the largest U.S. retailer specializing in work apparel, footwear and healthcare apparel.

Behind the legacy is a deep understanding of its brand partners, customers and the safety, comfort and quality required for use in demanding service, security and industrial work environments.  Work ‘N Gear’s expert buyers hand-pick styles and carry only brands with the reputation for quality and performance like Carhartt, Timberland PRO, Dickies, 5.11 Tactical Series, Wolverine, Rocky Boots, Bates Shoes and Boots, Helly Hansen, and more.  The company also serves the healthcare market through its private label brand called Scrubology, online, in Work’N Gear stores and within Scrubology, store- in- store concept locations nation wide.

When it was time to upgrade its e-commerce platform, Work ‘N Gear wanted a solution that would have lasting impact.  CEO Anthony DiPaolo talked to Oracle about his company, their vision and why they chose Oracle to support their e-commerce growth.

Here are some compelling thoughts from Anthony: 

“We have a loyal customer base that wants easier access to the selection and service they trust. We also have a larger customer base that needs the same items but may not have a store nearby, and every individual expects a fluid experience. 

We needed a commerce partner that would enable an omni-channel approach. When you pair the Oracle Commerce platform with a hosted environment, the competition falls away.  Oracle Commerce puts us on equal ground with larger retailers and allows us to differentiate on selection and service."

“We looked at the marketplace and we knew that Oracle Commerce would give us a competitive advantage. We provide customers with visibility to inventory online and in stores, to order online or from the store, pick up or take home delivery, use their gift card online and essentially redeem any offer online or in stores.

On the back end, e-commerce touches every corner of our business – finance, merchandising, and stores. With Oracle, we are implementing a new system that accommodates all of our needs.”

Welcome to the Oracle Retail community Work ‘N Gear!  Thank you for choosing Oracle! 


Friday Jul 11, 2014

IDC MarketScape Names Oracle Commerce as a Leader

The following is a guest article from Srini Rangaswamy, Solutions Market Director for Stores & Commerce at Oracle Retail:

Oracle Commerce is named  as a leader in the recent Retail eCommerce Vendor Assessment by IDC MarketScape. Thanks to our recent investments in Oracle Commerce V11 and Commerce Anywhere strategy designed to help retailers deliver engaging and relevant experiences online, on-the-go, in-store, and over the phone.

Per the IDC MarketScape, “Oracle demonstrated a clear near- and long-term omnichannel strategy for the evolution of its ecommerce capability to become a singular commerce platform for retailers with both store and online operations.” Click here to download an excerpt  of the report.

IDC MarketScape vendor analysis model is designed to provide an overview of the competitive fitness of ICT suppliers in a given market. The research methodology utilizes a rigorous scoring methodology based on both qualitative and quantitative criteria that results in a single graphical illustration of each vendor’s position within a given market. The Capabilities score measures vendor product, go-to-market and business execution in the short-term. The Strategy score measures alignment of vendor strategies with customer requirements in a 3-5-year timeframe. Vendor market share is represented by the size of the circles. Vendor year-over-year growth rate relative to the given market is indicated by a plus, neutral or minus next to the vendor name.

There are several new capabilities in the recent Oracle Commerce release that enables the omnichannel vision while making it easier for retailers to deliver relevant commerce experiences across all customer touchpoints. Key capabilities include:

  • Support for complex consumer journeys including Buy online and pickup in store, Order online and pay in store, Real-time inventory lookup for items in store, Shop online and continue/complete purchase in store.
  • Assisted Selling Application, a tablet reference application that enables Store associates to offer a high-touch interactive and consultative experience for the shoppers and streamline cross-channel order fulfillment. See this document for more details on Assisted Selling Application.
  • Unification of Commerce, Content, and Experience via simplified toolset access and allowing merchants to easily leverage customer information between Commerce and Experience layers.
  • Consistent cross-channel promotions between brick-and-mortar and digital stores via integration between Retail Merchandising System and Commerce platform.

The report referred to Oracle Commerce as a “popular ecommerce platform of choice by both large regional and international retailers”. Refer to link for what some of those retailers had to share about growing their business with Oracle Commerce.

Monday Jul 07, 2014

Shop Direct User Experience Focus Drives Sales

Oracle Retail colleagues report from the Internet Retailer Conference and Exposition last month in Chicago.

Shop Direct is a relative newcomer among elite e-commerce leaders, recently joining Amazon, Staples, Tesco and Apple on the Internet Retailer Europe 500 Top Ten industry ranking.

More than 84 percent of sales come via e-commerce and the majority of online traffic is mobile, says the company.

Yet just five years ago Shop Direct was predominantly a catalog business.

It’s a dramatic transformation best captured earlier this year by Retail Week’s Laura Heywood from Oracle Retail Exchange in New York, where Shop Direct head of e-commerce Paul Hornby outlined the journey.

Supporting the company’s digital strategy is an Oracle Commerce platform first installed in 2006 and upgraded in 2013. Internet Retailer’s Mark Brohan detailed the company’s tech journey as they moved from “spaghetti junction” to a sophisticated platform that increased conversion rates, is readily updated and optimizes for mobile.

Given the back story, it’s no surprise the room was packed when Shop Direct e-Commerce director Jonathan Wall appeared on the Executive Strategies track at the 2014 Internet Retailer Conference and Exposition (IRCE) in Chicago. Wall described a transformation that began with new leadership, preserved the company’s core customer focus and introduced a culture of innovation.

Central to its success, said Wall, is a major shift to a “fast fail” environment that looks to triple the frequency at which merchandising, promotion, design features and functionality are tested and tweaked to meet changing customer expectations. The testing happens in a new user experience lab at the head office located in Speke, Liverpool.

“Data is key to what we do as a business,” said Wall. “The data is coming in quickly and driving a rapid pace of change. We look at eye tracking, live session replays and run quantitative testing to achieve continuous change.”

It’s a big switch from a culture in which long, expensive print cycles dictated a risk-averse culture. When merchandising was tethered to print cycles, an ineffective promotion or price change could hurt revenue for an entire season until the next edition printed and made it into the hands of customers.

Not long ago, one such test resulted in a change that drives as many as 3.3 million incremental sales in a year. Most important, said Wall, is that the aggressive test environment drives continual change across its commerce business. This appetite for innovation enables Shop Direct to be in continuous touch with shopper preferences, keeping the site fresh and ever improving sales.

It’s a dynamic that keeps the company well connected with customers. In 2010, a 3% slice of Shop Direct’s online traffic was mobile but the company saw what was coming. Now more than 60% of its customers online sessions are via mobile devices, a testament to Shop Direct’s focus on encouraging mobile and enabling an Omni-channel approach.

“The turning point was we were able to show brand directors that these customers were converting at about half the rate of those shopping from a desktop. We knew it was the right thing to do,” said Wall.

It’s clear that Shop Direct is not pausing to gaze at success. The company continues to move forward and among its endeavors is the art of personalizing each customer’s shopping experience. It’s a work in progress, according to Wall.

“We believe personalization is having a real time engine that uses real live customer data. We have lots of behavioral data, financial data, buying data. We know what product to merchandise to them. We aren’t betting the farm on (personalization) but we are certainly betting the garden shed.”

Read more: “NRF: Shop Direct’s transformation from catalogue business to digital retailer” (via Retail Week, January 2014)

“Shop Direct makes up for lost time online” (via Internet Retailer, June 2013)

Oracle Commerce: Shop. Explore. Demo. @ Shop Direct.com

 Oracle Commerce @ Shop Direct: Shop. Explore. Demo.

Wednesday Jul 02, 2014

Staples Delivers Convenience

To understand exactly what’s top of mind when it comes to digital retailing, go no further the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) held last month in Chicago.  Our team was there to host customer events and attend sessions by industry leaders, including Oracle customers Shop Direct, Sephora, Office Depot, NetShoes, Sur La Table and Dress Barn.

Throughout the week, retailers shared just how extensively mobile influences sales.  Among them, Sephora expects that by 2017 consumers will use a mobile device in half of all purchases, decal retailer Fathead said the same and Shop Direct predicts 100 percent of its sales will involve mobile within a year.

As consumers use mobile devices to shop anytime and anywhere they want, a few retailers are already greeting them with the right experience, the right selection of products and nearby service and support. 

Case in point is Staples, second only to Amazon in North American online sales. Staples is well into a major transformation in which the retailer has expanded to more than a million SKUs and made it convenient for customers to buy online and have items delivered or waiting for pickup in a nearby store.  84 percent of customers are businesses, and Staples provides them easy access to tech repairs, 3D printing, Apple products and, soon, a Steelcase store within a store. 

Speaking at IRCE, Staples EVP of Global E-Commerce, Faisal Masud, described design, performance and search improvements that helped to increase sales conversions by 10 percent and moved revenue per online visitor up 9 percent.

Staples personalizes the e-commerce session with your local store info to facilitate cross-channel buys. The company saw an “exponential improvement in sales” after revamping mobile to display just the products customers care about, and earlier this summer a new tablet app immediately increased conversions.

Underpinning the commerce anywhere strategy are inventory systems that recognize both store and online orders, including any order placed via a mobile app. “Without a seamless unified inventory model, the Omni-channel experience would not be possible,” said Masud.

For a closer look at Staples’ transformation, read more by Internet Retailer managing editor Zak Stambor.

Watch here for IRCE insights from Shop Direct head of e-commerce Paul Hornby, who details the company’s journey as it went from catalog retailer to top ten on the Internet Retailer Europe 500.

Read more about how Oracle helps retailers deliver Commerce Anywhere, as well as media coverage of Oracle’s recent work with retailers worldwide.

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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