Saturday Jan 10, 2015

ALEX AND ANI Selects Oracle Retail to Extend Personalized Approach

Founded in 2003, American jewelry brand Alex and Ani has cultivated a loyal customer following based on careful craftsmanship, an eye toward personalization, and reliable, seamless engagement in stores and online.  Next, the retailer is upgrading its behind-the-scenes processes with Oracle Retail merchandising, planning, point of service, and warehouse management solutions. The world-class integrated suite not only catches up with ALEX AND ANI’s recent explosive growth, but also allows for plenty of “thinking big” in coming years.

“One of our taglines is that you own the story,” said George Franzino, consultant and program manager for ALEX AND ANI’s “Project Prophet” software implementation. “This is our story. We’re going to need this system really soon. It’s the power of positivity.”

In ten years, ALEX AND ANI has grown from a single store in Newport, RI, to a nationally recognized lifestyle brand. Offering bangles, necklaces, earrings, rings and charms—all designed to “adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit”—the omni-channel retailer has more than 40 brick-and-mortar main street stores, an e-commerce site, international sales, and a wholesale business. The company’s legacy systems, however, have been unable to handle the complexity of the multiple distribution channels. There were no planning solutions in place to provide visibility into the supply chain, and no streamlined processes that could really provide value.

The new Oracle solution, with its first “go live” in April, focuses on planning and multichannel capabilities, with special attention given to better integrating social media. Part of the brand image, Franzino said, is the customers’ sense of relationship with award-winning brand founder Carolyn Rafaelian, in addition to principles such as domestic manufacturing, sustainability, and a focus on charitable donations.

“It’s a very creative environment,” Franzino said. And that “willing to stretch” energy carried through when it came time to build the new system.

“This is really a wholesale replacement of the system we have,” Franzino said. “It really does touch everything. At the same time we’re implementing this system, we’re building the company.” The implementation involves new departments, an expansion of functional areas, and new hires; as such, it bodes well that so many in the industry workforce already are skilled at working with Oracle.

Franzino, who has worked largely with Oracle products since 2004, said Oracle was the right choice for ALEX AND ANI because of scalability and best practices. Likewise, the retailer required an enterprise system to support its business focus of sustaining excellent customer relationships and being able to provide what they want, how they want it.

“This is the execution layer of delivering on that brand promise to our customers,” he said. “This will greatly enhance that customer experience.”

For more insight to ALEX AND ANI’s cross-channel strategy, read an executive Q&A with VP of Digital Strategy Ryan Bonifacino here. (1to1 Media)

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

Wednesday May 25, 2011

Oracle Retail Merchandising Analytics Released

Today Oracle Retail announced availability of a new product called Oracle Retail Merchandising Analytics, the first of several BI applications planned for the retail industry. To further describe the product, I've asked Mark Lawrence, the brains behind ORMA, to explain the strategy and why this approach is different than what came before.


It's probably safe to say that those reading this blog are all too aware of retail's "data rich but information poor" reputation, and that today's competitive pressures are forcing the industry to compete on analytics. You can't improve on something if you don't measure it and monitor it, right?

After spending many years building a homegrown Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) at Circuit City (eh-hem, great BI was unfortunately not enough to save the company), I was hired by Oracle to lead the creation of a next-generation BI solution for retail. One that would leverage the full Oracle BI/DW technology stack, storage-to-scorecard, yet not necessarily require that full stack. One that would be optimized for Oracle's retail apps, but designed to integrate with non-Oracle data sources as well. One that would not only address retail enterprise needs, but those of the full corporate enterprise. One that was modularized so that it could serve as a retailer's EDW or that could augment an existing EDW with one or more specialized data marts, perhaps enabling a next-gen EDW via incremental data mart implementations. One that could surface BI, properly-filtered, to the right people, at the right time, using the right delivery method whether it be mobile, dashboards, or objects embedded in a planning or operational app. One that I would have wanted to employ at Circuit City, had it been available then (reminds me of my former dream of the "BI guy" saving the company and retiring early on stock options...).

So, Oracle Retail Analytics, with the first of five planned modules just launched last month, embodies all of those things. That first module, Oracle Retail Merchandising Analytics (ORMA,) is now Generally Available, is built on Oracle database 11gR2 and includes packaged integration using Oracle Data Integrator 11g with Oracle's merchandising product family, expansive Oracle BI 11g metadata and reporting, and a data model that is based on Oracle BI Applications 11g to enable cross-domain, retail + ERP/CRM analytics.

Each module is "plug-and-play" in that it includes packaged integration with the associated Oracle Retail applications, fully physicalized data model, and Oracle BI metadata and reporting. What I really like about the strategy is the ability to choose among 5+ retail BI modules and 25+ ERP/CRM BI modules to meet the unique needs of your particular retail enterprise, yet deploy that selection on a consistent and cohesive framework, and do so incrementally if desired.

Want to combine, say, Merchandising with Customer, Loyalty, Finance and HR to turn data from Retail, Siebel, EBS and Peoplesoft into information to drive business decisions? Want to, say, compare labor costs (HR) with sales per employee (merchandising)? Perhaps you have these Oracle apps and want to include supply chain BI coverage but don't own Oracle's supply chain apps? Oracle Retail Analytics is designed to also accept data from non-Oracle sources yet preserve the majority of packaged ETL transformations (ETL tends to consume 60-80% of the effort that goes into developing a BI/DW solution, and we want to pass as much of that value along as we can regardless of data source).

What also really excites me are the possibilities when running Oracle Retail Analytics on Exadata. While we've baked-in plenty of features to enable optimization of both loads and queries on Exadata, we've been careful to ensure great performance and scalability regardless of chosen platform (Exadata is optional). Since we've had the good fortune of being able to design from the ground-up using the very best and latest Oracle tech, at times we've felt like kids in a candy store. Designing "from the ground-up" has also enabled some features that otherwise would be difficult to design in a performant manner, like "as-is/as-was" reporting for the product and organization dimensions - allowing users to account for changes to these dimensions when assessing historical performance. So, as items are reclassified, or stores open, close, or move to new regions, reporting is done based on the dimensions as they were, and/or as they are.

Using Oracle BI 11g, Oracle Retail Analytics enables more than just viewing reports. It enables deep analysis including data mining (detailed, transaction-level data is retained) and in-context and embedded actions - so we have the ability to initiate an action right from a dashboard or report. These actions can include things like triggering a workflow to order more stock, or kicking off a promotion based on events or metric thresholds being crossed. Or, they can be simple things like notifying people of key information, guiding someone to do further analysis. We call this 'Closed Loop Analytics' - because it enables closing the loop between insight and action, and Oracle Retail Analytics is designed with this capability in mind.

If you're at Crosstalk in June, attend my session to learn more. --Mark

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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