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 and take time to browse the new winter selections. 

Friday Oct 30, 2015

Reporting from Oracle OpenWorld: Real-Time Inventory the Key to Commerce Anywhere

For the benefit of our global community, here is an editorial view on the presentations from Oracle OpenWorld 2015. We have had a fantastic week in San Francisco.

Whatever selling strategies retailers choose, they have to have access to what’s in stock.

Oracle OpenWorld’s retail sessions launched Monday, Oct 26, with a General Session discussing Commerce Anywhere strategies, including a case study examining how international wireless carrier and retailer Vodafone streamlined its enterprise solutions to cut integration costs and improve inventory control.

“The term omnichannel is overused and ill-defined but it captures what happens from a holistic brand perspective,” said Jill Puleri, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle’s retail global business. “All it means is how a customer can interact with your brand.”

Each brand must define omnichannel or ‘Commerce Anywhere” on its own terms, she said, by personalizing the customer experience, offering convenient options for delivery, and accepting new types of payments. But most of all, Commerce Anywhere depends on real-time visibility of inventory. “The battleground is going to be around inventory,” Puleri said.

Review the Oracle Retail Keynote from Oracle OpenWorld from the Oracle Retail RACK: Oracle Retail State of Union & General Session

Across Channels, Across the World

Commerce Anywhere isn’t only about shopping, agreed Mukesh Nakra, associate vice president of the tech consulting company and Oracle partner Infosys Limited—it’s about mastering company data and the supply chain. And businesses are eager to adopt real-time inventory systems to expand worldwide. “Everyone wants to grow global,” he said.

For example, Infosys recently helped a university bookstore chain with 1,100 outlets manage the sale, rental and exchange of textbooks, using Oracle solutions to furnish the chain with a common view of inventory and tools to forecast demand.

But integrating the solutions necessary to handle inventory and meet customers where they want to be is an ongoing challenge, Nakra said. Even a point-of-sale system can be difficult to overhaul, he said—and so, too, is winning acceptance from stakeholders accustomed to legacy systems.

Here is the link to the Infosys presentation: Infosys: The Future of Retail

Vodafone: Building a New Legacy

U.K.-based wireless company Vodafone knows these challenges all too well. With 12,852 owned and franchised shops in Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia, the company was spending as much as 70 percent of its IT budget on software integration three years ago. “Moving the needle” just a bit with an “agile” software deployment could save millions, said Paul Booth, the company’s global technology head of Terminal Logistics.

The company launched a plan to streamline its system functions, and deployed it quickly in South Africa. But in the second year, deployment to other territories stalled, and stores were clamoring for new product. “It was like a bear pit—there was the product itself, and all these dogs just yapping at it all of the time,” Booth said. “Nobody could get anything done.”

With Infosys, he launched a “9-6-1” plan to speed Oracle solution deployment in Vodafone markets worldwide in just nine months. Since introducing the plan, Vodafone has been able to streamline the delivery of inventory and improve demand forecasting for stores in South Africa, Greece, Spain and the U.K., where it delivers an average of 37,000 handsets per day.

The solution ultimately helped Vodafone slash inventories by 15 percent worldwide, and the company expects a 1 percent increase in sales this year thanks its enhanced promotion and pricing capabilities—and that’s a lot for a company with £42.2 billion ($64.7 billion) in revenues for fiscal 2015. Selling stakeholders was the biggest hurdle in the process, Booth said: “It boiled down to trust.”

Emphasizing Oracle’s built-in best practices can also help retail IT leaders to embrace a new deployment and move their companies forward, Puleri added. “This is how retailers are doing it,’” she said. “Here’s how it works now, and here’s how you can do it a different way.”

Download the full presentation for Vodafone: Vodafone: The Future of Retail “TAPaS”

Wednesday Oct 28, 2015

Reporting from Oracle OpenWorld: The Road Ahead

For the benefit of our global community, here is an editorial view on the presentations from Oracle OpenWorld 2015. We have had a fantastic week in San Francisco. Wish you were here. 

Oracle will continue to bring retailers new and more flexible capabilities expanding the integration of its more than 50 software products designed for retail, according to Jeffrey Warren, Oracle’s vice president of Solutions Management.

Warren outlined what’s ahead for the company’s retail software solutions in an “Oracle Retail Roadmap and Vision” session at Oracle Open World in San Francisco on Monday. “We’ve done some very exciting things in the last year,” he said. “We have several integrations and new products that are coming out as a result of hard work within our R&D organization.”

Customers no longer question the need for a “Commerce Anywhere” solution that helps satisfy customer demands across channels, Warren said; instead, they need assistance in implementing a solution. “As we talk to our partners, the most common question is, ‘We understand what we need to do, but can you help us create a roadmap for how we are going to do it?’ These are the products we believe are going to help get you there.”

Common Goals

Retailers’ goals are fairly straightforward: They want to better identify who their customers are, better engage with those customers, help them convert and reward their loyalty in an increasingly complicated, omnichannel environment. “We believe we have the capabilities to help you achieve these four goals successfully,” he said.

Commerce Anywhere retailers must be ready to fulfill demand regardless of the source, and Oracle’s end-to-end solution is the only one of its kind on the market. “We are the only company that allows you to manage and create everything from operational-level financial planning down to the in-store experience,” Warren said.

New analytics features from Oracle will help retailers manage features such cluster forecasting, mobile merchandising management, exception reporting, and improved XBRi loss prevention in an easy-to-upgrade package. Users can switch functions on and off simply by making a phone call. 

The system will help retailers plan across channels. “Commerce Anywhere is not just the ability to buy online and return in-store,” he said. “Oracle gives you the ability to plan, forecast and manage across all of your channels.”

And new analytics features will offer insights to help retailers streamline every aspect of their businesses. “The goal is to use science and analytics to make you successful,” Warren said. “It’s an arms race that not everyone can keep up with. We can help you get better insights into the data you already have, and make it easier for you to leverage and mine that data.”

Easy to Implement

At the same time the Oracle Retail platform is going to deliver a better, more intuitive user experience. Retailers will be able to access simplified dashboards that unlock operational data that helps them merchandise better at a lower cost, Warren said. The interface is already so simple that many retail associates can learn to operate the system in 15 minutes, and companies are skipping formal training programs.

A new mobile interface, expanded exception reporting, XBRi loss prevention, and other aspects of Oracle’s retail package are also getting upgrades and integrations. “Having 50 products in your portfolio is a challenge,” Warren said. “People expect all 50 of those products to work together. With every release, we will invest in integrating both process and product.”

Oracle will continue to invest in retail software development at a “disruptive” rate, Warren said, to offer clients enhanced flexibility and ultimately, marketplace success. “This is a platform that allows us to innovate,” Warren said. “We have over 100 active patents in retail, and this is something we are investing in for your benefit.”

Oracle will help retailers access the right solutions, he added, with attentive customer care. “When you need us, you can pick up the phone and we’re going to be there,” he said. “Our goal is to allow you flexibility of deployment. Our goal is to help you find the right fit for your organization.” 

The full presentation is posted in the Oracle Retail Rack: Oracle Retail Roadmap and Vision

Friday Oct 23, 2015

The Magic of a Vibrant Customer Community

We are in the final days of the preparation for Oracle OpenWorld. The conference continues to grow year over year drawing about 60,000 people to the SF area to share experience across applications, technology, database and industries. The Oracle brand is impressive at #16 on the Interbrand ranking this year and we shine brightest next week.

The community is even more impressive. Oracle employs some of the brightest minds in technology to deliver innovation to the market at scale. Our ecosystem is vibrant and motivated to deliver customer results. The Oracle Retail community is comprised of 12,500 business partners. We have spent over 3,100 days in the last 12 months enabling our ecosystem on our latest releases.

On Sunday October 25th will welcome nearly 900 retailers to San Francisco for three consecutive days of insightful conversations, best practice sharing and presentations from our customers. For our retail community, it’s always about creating an experience. My job is to create the forum to foster these relationships and sharing. My proudest moments are seeing brands working together to figure out solutions to the latest challenges in the retail industry. We have a vibrant community of customers and partners that I am privileged to participate in. When you do the right thing for your customer community, magic can happen. At the Oracle OpenWorld 2008, my late friend and former CIO of SUPERVALU Paul Singer gave an inspiring keynote that led to the creation of the RetailROI community.

This year Oracle will be featuring stories from Nordstrom, Guitar Center, Gap Inc, TOMS shoes, Vitamix, Vodafone, Verizon, Furniture Row, and Ascena in the retail track at the Marriott Marquis. Click on the Focus on Retail document to see the details. We will have @OracleCommerce customers like Elaine Turner, Hollander, Rock Creek and Vitamix offering demonstrations in the Exposition Hall.

We will compliment the customer stories with a great line up of solution experts to talk about the latest developments in our footprint as we move toward the unveiling of Oracle Retail Version 15.

We have multiple partners who have contributed to the OpenWorld 2015 program with customer stories including Sparkred, Cirrus10, SapientNitro, Infosys, and Deloitte. Infosys is the retail track sponsor. Deloitte is sponsoring our Retail Executive Summit. IBM, Logic, Rackspace and OLR are sponsoring the networking activities. 

If you will be in San Francisco connect with us on Twitter for live updates on sessions, available demonstrations or if you just have a question and we will make sure your experience is outstanding. As a sign of appreciation, Oracle is throwing a concert on Wednesday night for the community at Treasure Island featuring Elton John and Beck. 

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.

Wednesday Sep 23, 2015

Oracle Retail @ Digital Summit

Needless to say it has been an exciting year for Oracle. We have enriched our community with fantastic retail brands and increased our retail expertise through acquisitions and organic growth.  Oracle is celebrating the 1st year anniversary of the MICROS acquisition on October 1st and the 10th year of the Oracle Retail brand within Oracle.

On September 17th Oracle Retail SVP and GM, Jill Puleri and VP Strategy and Solutions Management, Jeff Warren provided a detailed progress report on our integration of retail solutions and our roadmap. If you happened to miss the event, send us an email to request a link to the archive.

Next up we will kick off the annual event on Monday, October 5th with a cocktail reception on the exhibition floor. We will be showcasing our customers’ brands and success across our booth and throughout the attendee lounge. This year attendees can expect to see multiple demonstrations at booth #901. You will find our booth to the left of the center entrance of the exhibit hall. 

Available solutions:

  • Generate more revenue with every customer engagement by differentiating your brand and orchestrating innovative buying experiences with Oracle Commerce on premise or in the cloud.

For your convenience we also have a sponsorship of the NRF attendee lounge where you can grab a table for a chat or a charge for your smartphone.  We have enlisted the right staff to help you answer questions and explore the potential of a converged, commerce anywhere world.

In addition to our event on opening night, we are hosting a networking reception at the stunning headquarters of Urban Outfitters. Retailers can register for the reception here.  This event is sponsored by Cirrus10 and Rackspace. You can also email me to request a spot at this exclusive event or book a demonstration on-site.

There are over 146 retailers attending Many of these are customers and friends of Oracle Retail. NRF expects about 4,500 attendees across the industry from retailers to influencers, media and the vendors who support them. If you have not registered, please note that retailers are eligible for a Free Expo Hall Pass.

Holler if you have questions, my team and I are here to help.  We look forward to seeing you in Philly. 

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

Monday Jul 20, 2015

Unlocking the Secrets of Big Data with Science

Buzzwords abound in the tech world, and mobile, social, big data, and cloud are the four horsemen.  Of those I think big data is least understood, but possibly the most powerful as exemplified by my favorite quote:

“Data is the new oil; analytics the new refinery.” -- unknown

The retail industry has always been dealing with large volumes of data; it's just that now the velocity and variety have dramatically increased. So the problem for retailers is two fold: first, how do they convert all that data into meaningful information? And second, how do they make the information relevant and actionable to employees?

Oracle Retail's answer comes in two families of cloud services: Oracle Retail Advanced Science and Oracle Retail Insights.  Continuing our momentum in delivering cloud services, these products simplify implementations allowing retailers to realize value faster and with less IT effort.

Oracle Retail Advanced Science Engine

We have a long history of employing data scientists that cull through donated data to find useful insights that can be productized in algorithms.  Over the years we've led the industry in areas like demand forecasting, markdown optimization, and localized assortments.  To make it easier to bring new algorithms to market, we've built our Advanced Science Engine, a platform tuned for analyzing data at scale and exporting the results.  Over the past six months, we've adjusted the architecture to provide this in a cloud deployment.  The specific science being offered is packaged into three separate cloud services:

Advanced Clustering

This solution provides insight into how store clustering best benefits the business.  It helps to answer questions such as:

  • What categories or merchandise classifications benefit most from clustering?
  • At what level of product or location hierarchy should clusters be created?
  • What product/location attributes should be leveraged?

The solution automatically selects the best clustering method depending on the clustering approach selected, and allows for what-if scenarios that help explore the data.  Is scores clustering approaches for comparison, and recommend the optimal number of clusters.  This fosters consumer-centric assortments that ultimately increase sales.

Customer Decision Trees & Demand Transference

CDTs map the decision process made by shoppers to purchase items.  They help a retailer understand if they have the right variety of sizes, flavors, colors, etc. in their assortment.

Suppliers often provide consumer decision trees that help retailers understand the impact to assortment decisions based on "generic" consumers.  But when a consumer is identified, they become a customer.  Our solution focuses on customer decision trees, which reflect the actual customers in your stores.  The solution even allows a side-by-side comparison of imported consumer decision trees alongside the calculated customer decision trees.

Using this science helps to reduce duplication in assortments, and prevent dropping unique items to which customers are attached.  Demand transference helps forecast if customers will switch to alternatives so that the number of variety of items offered can be optimized.  This solution often works closely with Category Management.

Assortment & Space Optimization

This solution helps to identify the optimal targeted assortment withing the space constraints.  It understands shelves, pegboards, and freezers and incorporates various business rules and visual merchandising standards.  The what-if analysis is very helpful in exploring options while seeking to maximize profits for any given space within the store or store cluster.

Integrated Planning

These cloud services can be used with existing planning products, or with Oracle Retail planning solutions such as Category Management Planning & Optimization, Macro Space Optimization, Retail Demand Forecasting, and Advanced Inventory Planning.

Thursday Jun 04, 2015

IRCE 2015: Retailers Ramp Up for Holidays with Cloud Solutions and Fine Tuning

This week we spent time in Chicago showcasing the latest in our Oracle Commerce solution, our new Oracle Retail Cloud Services for omnichannel and the Oracle Retail Xstore solution at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exposition. Thanks for spending time with us. We had such a great turnout both days of the exhibition. We also hosted several retailers and had great conversations at our networking dinner with Rackspace and McFadyen.  With our ear to the ground, here is what we heard from the community. 

The holidays are a retailer’s best chance to maximize sales, profits, and positive customer impressions.  Orchestrating a successful season requires a steady rollout of new features and functionality as consumers’ descend on e-commerce sites, turn to mobile devices and shop nearby stores.

While each retailer’s holiday readiness agenda differs depending on factors such as its size, product assortment and customer base, a good rule of thumb is to focus first on the digital experience. According to the National Retail Federation’s report on holiday 2014, 56% of consumers surveyed prior to the season said they planned to shop online, up from 51.5% in 2013 – the highest figure in the survey’s 13-year history. The average person planned to do a significant 44.4% of their shopping online, the most since the question was first posed in 2006. These consumer intentions were borne out by the season’s sales results. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, non-store sales grew 6.8% for holiday 2014 to $101.9 billion, accounting for 16.5% of the total holiday sales figure of $616.1 billion. We believe that 2015 will also bring good fortune. 

Sophisticated tools sharpen customers’ digital search and purchase experiences, and new features bring the best of online shopping into the physical store. E-commerce is not just a significant shopping channel but a primary customer interaction vehicle. Internally, e-commerce platforms increasingly serve as a key interaction point for major systems such as inventory management, merchandising operations, loyalty and rewards programs, customer service and call center applications, promotions and recommendation engines, and the point of sale. 

Question: Can retailers prepare for the holidays with technology solutions that add value quickly to differentiate the experience in-store and online?

Answer: Yes. The advent of retail-specific cloud-based solutions that are implemented in the space of weeks rather than months, such as Oracle Cloud Services for e-commerce and retail, make this not only possible but practical. Cloud services enable retailers to prepare for any number of peak sales opportunities throughout the year. For apparel and office supply retailers, back-to-school is its own holiday season; for home and gardening retailers, spring is their prime growth season. With the accelerated deployment schedules and more frequent upgrades made possible via cloud-based solutions, retailers can test out a new solution during one peak season, then refine and customize it for the next one.

Question: What can I do to prepare for the holiday season now? 

Option 1: Search Tuning. Search tuning is a dynamic process as your business needs and data are in a constant state of change. Search tuning should be conducted on a regular basis. The Oracle Endeca application provides optimal results for specific keyword search to maximize conversion rates increasing revenue. The recommended tuning exercise is a two week workshop with Oracle Commerce Consulting tailored to your specific  mplementation and business. 

Option 2: Performance Tuning. The testing and tuning is an iterative process. The key is to discover the balance between all the different levers to optimize the performance and scale of your site through a series of engagements. A load and performance test will identify opportunities to brace and optimize in a peak trading period. Understand your site performance and functionality today. Evaluate your business planning requirements to understand the site capacity. 

The bigger question is....

Are you ready for an upgrade? Are you taking advantage of the latest and greatest functionality within the Oracle roadmap?  

In an effort to achieve new competitive advantage while lowering total cost of operation, you may consider upgrading your online commerce applications to make use of features and improvements available.  Managing a software upgrade is a complex process. Obtaining buy-in from your stakeholders, understanding the timescales, and estimating the risks involved in upgrading your commerce installation is challenging at the best of times. Making this decision in a climate of budget cuts requires a compelling and thorough business case which takes into account benefits, risks and commercial impacts. 

Focusing holiday readiness and peak trading efforts on the digital experience helps customers move seamlessly from device to device as well as between physical and digital locations. When their experience isn’t seamless – for example, when a shopper can’t use online rewards in a store, or the call center operator isn’t able to call up transaction histories – the customer experience markedly suffers. Customers don’t care about the back-end challenges retailers face with cross-channel coordination; they just know that they want their interactions to be consistently relevant, personalized, and contextual to their location and the device they are using.

Cyber Monday November 30th is 179 days away. What can you do today to get ready? Let us know if we can help you prepare for the holidays. Email us at  Our experts are standing by. 

Friday May 01, 2015

Five Quotes from Amazon's Shareholder Letter

If you're serious about understanding the retail industry, you have to closely study Amazon.  I've come to have great respect for the company and its leader, and I continue to be amazed at their accomplishments.  That said, here are my five favorite quotes from Jeff Bezo's most recent annual letter to shareholders:

Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton and started his career in the financial industry, so he's always been interested in business models.  This first quote references Tinder, a dating site where "a swipe can change your life."

A dreamy business offering has at least four characteristics. Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time – with the potential to endure for decades. When you find one of these, don’t just swipe right, get married.

Jeff is very proud that Amazon is not just a single business, but many related businesses with synergy.  In his letter he called out three main businesses: Marketplace, Prime, and Amazon Web Services.  This next quote refers to Amazon's ability to efficiently fulfill orders quickly.

Our worldwide network of fulfillment centers has expanded from 13 in 2005, when we launched Prime, to 109 this year. We are now on our eighth generation of fulfillment center design, employing proprietary software to manage receipt, stowing, picking, and shipment.

While Prime started out focused on free shipping, many additional benefits have been added including instant video. This year, Transparent, an original series won a Golden Globe award.

I’m pretty sure we’re the first company to have figured out how to make winning a Golden Globe pay off in increased sales of power tools and baby wipes!

Combining the benefits of Prime and Marketplace has been a successful endeavor that accelerates growth in both programs, or in Bezos-speak "powering the flywheel."

Every time a seller joins Fulfillment By Amazon, Prime members get more Prime eligible selection. The value of membership goes up. This is powerful for our flywheel. FBA completes the circle: Marketplace pumps energy into Prime, and Prime pumps energy into Marketplace.

No doubt you know Amazon's $5B cloud business is growing fast.  What started as a platform mostly used by start-ups is now maturing to attract many established enterprises.  This quote refers to AWS:

What customers really want in this arena is “better and faster,” and if “better and faster” can come with a side dish of cost savings, terrific. But the cost savings is the gravy, not the steak.

Whether you love Amazon or hate them, you have to respect what they've accomplished.  And there are lessons we can all benefit from in our ongoing quest to serve shoppers.

Thursday Apr 30, 2015

A New Kind of Discount Retailer

It used to be that I always assumed Amazon had the lowest price.  Now I have to double-check before placing an order.  Lately Amazon has been focused more on customer experience than price, offering lots of goodies for Prime customers and really fast shipping.  Might that allow a new competitor to enter the market?

In the early days, sometimes had to buy diapers at Costco to ship to its subscription customers, sacrificing margin for share while the rest of infrastructure caught up.  The company was based on supply chain efficiencies and a lower cost to acquire and retain customers.  It worked so well that Amazon first fought them, then bought them.

So after spending two years with Amazon, Marc Lore is on his own again building a new kind of retailer. is a cross between Costco and eBay with a huge focus on squeezing out every nickel of savings.  Consumers pay a $50/year membership fee, which is the only income for  Then offers products from various retailers at deep discounts.  Those discounts come from passing on sales commissions, using the most economical shipping, combining orders, and avoiding credit cards.

To be successful, must have the world's most efficient supply chain.  Perhaps more efficient than Amazon and Walmart.  The lynchpin will be an intelligent order management system that can efficiently source, combine, and ship products at the lowest cost.  Then there will also need to be lots of creative deals with merchants to lower prices in exchange for waiving the right to return merchandise, sharing customer data, or establishing subscriptions.

Of course this business plan requires massive scale, so the trick will be staying in business long enough to establish a large and loyal customer base. has already raised $220M before the website is even live, every penny of which is required for infrastructure and marketing.  But I just don't think Amazon and Walmart will stand by idly.  I think a major online price war is on the horizon, and consumers will be the big beneficiaries.

Monday Apr 27, 2015

Insights from OIC: Nordstrom’s New Canada Stores Become Testing Grounds for Enterprise IT Initiative

Last month our customer shared some fantastic experiences at Oracle Industry Connect 2015. Here is a glimpse of what you missed from the sessions....

Among its other accomplishments, Nordstrom has been a retailing technology pioneer, beating its competitors to market with customer-focused offerings including save-the-sale and endless aisle capabilities, buy online/pick up in-store, and coordinating returns between multiple stores and channels.

From 2001 until 2013, the Oracle Retail Merchandising System (RMS) served as a technology backbone for Nordstrom’s increasingly complex operations, but this required more and more customization as time progressed. When the retailer realized it was reaching the limits of customization, it initiated the Nordstrom Next Generation (NGEN) initiative, a six-plus-year program to support the company’s growth by replacing its current enterprise foundation solutions with new Oracle Retail systems offering advanced capabilities and scalability.

Nordstrom’s recent expansion into Canada is doubling as the first phase/pilot for NGEN, according to Nordstrom Director of Supply Chain and Fulfillment Brenda Glasgow, who spoke in late March at Oracle Industry Connect in Washington DC. The retailer has already opened two of a planned 10 full-line stores in Canada, with the next opening planned for fall 2015, and also plans to open its off-price Nordstrom Rack stores beginning in 2017.

The Canada expansion “gives us a chance to test, learn, and adjust with our business partners and technologists,” said Glasgow. “It’s allowing us to socialize the ‘vanilla’ implementations of Oracle solutions, and giving us practice managing the scope of these implementations.”

Nordstrom is still relying heavily on Oracle solutions, particularly in merchandising with Oracle Retail Merchandise Operations Management (MOM). This system is supporting international requirements around currencies and import/export issues, and Nordstrom is also taking advantage of new trade management and invoice matching modules that supplant older legacy applications for these functions.

Glasgow and Deby Hansen, Director of Program Management and Architecture for Nordstrom, identified key learnings from the Canada opportunity that include leveraging best practices identified in the Oracle Retail Reference Library, and using a process-led design approach that makes extensive use of personas and job roles. “By painting a full picture of a job’s process flow, it’s been easier to work through what’s been different from one system to the next,” said Glasgow. “We need to balance respecting our people’s business requirements with our motivation to stay ‘vanilla’ with these implementations.”

Nordstrom will apply these learnings as NGEN progresses, supporting long-term corporate goals that include sustaining the company’s growth, supporting its Nordstrom Rack stores becoming more of a separate entity, and “keeping us on an upgrade path that leverages our research and development investments,” said Hansen.

Congratulations to Nordstrom for their hard work and success. Nordstrom continues to impress the industry with their approach to the enterprise transformation. Read the press release or check out the presentation in the RACK to dive a little deeper. 

Wednesday Apr 15, 2015

Wicked Fast Delivery

Amazon announced one hour delivery for Austin so I had to give it a try.  My daughter needs a larger camera bag, so I decided that would be a great item to order.  You have to order via the PrimeNow mobile app and its a reduced set of available items, but I had no problem finding what I wanted.  I waited until 8am to start my order, which took six minutes because I used my office address and had to verify my credit card.  Here are some screen shots of the order:

Two hour delivery is free, and one hour is $7.99.  It also recommends a tip of $5.00.  Between the delivery charge and tip, I guess they cover the cost.  It might even be cheaper than two-day shipping according Paula Rosenblum, a retail analyst with RSR.  I chose the one hour delivery and received a text message at 8:11am stating, "Your Amazon Prime Now order will arrive soon."  Then at 8:21am I received a second text message stating, "You Amazon Prime Now order has been delivered."  Yep, it was delivered in 15 minutes.

Now you can see in the map above that the DC is very close to my office, but its still impressive how fast I got my order.  I can definitely say I'll use the service again.

Retailers have the opportunity to offer similar services by partnering with delivery companies.  They key is managing in-store inventory and the picking process.  I expect to see this service from local stores in the next year.

Monday Apr 13, 2015

Glance User Experience

The Apple Watch seems to be getting mixed reviews in the press, but plenty of people ordered one on launch day.  I visited an Apple store on Friday to see them for myself, but I'm not yet swayed to make the investment.  However, prior to launch I purchased a Pebble smartwatch in order to assess the utility of the category.

I've found that the smartwatch doesn't have much in common with the traditional watch beyond its location on the wrist.  Its better characterized as an electronic information hub that goes far beyond displaying just the time.  But its no substitute for a smartphone, and in fact its really just an extension of one.

The same impetus behind the migration of the watch from one's pocket to the wrist is powering the smartwatch -- the Glance UX.  People want to get information in a glance, and at this the smartwatch excels.  No need to pull out your smartphone to see the time, date, weather, texts, tweets, etc., just glance at your wrist and be informed.  The guys at AppsLab even named their first smartwatch app "Glance."

So from a retail industry perspective, I don't see wrist-based commerce being the norm.  Rather, the smartwatch will surface location-based marketing messages, coupons, and help with paymentsTarget, for example, provides a shopping list via the smartwatch.  But that's just the consumer side -- there are plenty of applications for employees.  In fact, our Retail Applied Research (RAR) team created a prototype app for a hotel manager to quickly receive information about the business.  Corey Nash, head of RAR, says it allows the manager to conveniently get "sips of data."

In simple terms, use the watch to receive notifications, the phone to research products, and the tablet/PC to consummate the purchase.  Each device has a unique role in the commerce ecosystem and together they provide and efficient shopping experience.

Tuesday Mar 31, 2015

The Next Steps for Subscription Commerce

I recall a few years back when flash sales were all the rage, probably peaking when Nordstrom acquired HauteLook. The model readily captures the excitement of discovery, and draws on the competitive nature of deal-hunters.  This cue-routine-reward formula has only one flaw -- as competition enters the market, differentiation dwindles.  Obviously flash sales are very different from traditional online retailing, but there isn't much difference between flash sale sites.  A typical customer is a member of several sites without much loyalty to any particular one.  Then the pressure to watch several sites and pounce on deals becomes exhausting.

Subscription commerce, from sites like Birchbox and Stitch Fix, maintain the excitement of discovery plus add the regularity of a subscription with a rewards program that garners loyalty.  You get a box of curated stuff every month and points awarded for purchases.  Over time the company develops a profile of you so that the box can be better curated for your tastes and style.  The model seems to be working well enough for Nordstrom to buy Trunk Club.

Now here are three next steps that retailers should consider:

1. Smarter Subscriptions

Just as the basics are replenished in a store, the same needs to happen in homes. This starts with the dry basics like toilet paper, cereal, and makeup.  Retailers should know a customer's preferences and consumption level, and help replenish products just-in-time. This takes historical data and forecasting, or possibly the use of in-home sensors (i.e. Internet of Things).  Nobody enjoys shopping for toothpaste, so just figure out when I need more and have it delivered before I run out.

2. Better Personalization

Customers are members of many segments, and its the intersection of those segments that makes them unique.  To cull out segment membership requires a mix of soliciting preferences (e.g. what heel height do you prefer?), collecting available psychographic data (what heel heights did you like on Facebook or pin on Pinterest?), and analyzing historical sales (what heel heights have you purchased?).  Even so, a healthy amount of A/B testing is required to stay on top of emerging trends as tastes tend to be dynamic.  Use the data to make the product selections more tailored and relevant.

3. Inclusive Store Experience

To date, subscription commerce has been a solely digital activity, but many customers still require more physical interaction.  For style-sensitive products like fashion, why not provide monthly, personalized suggestions with an opportunity to schedule a try-on appointment in the store?  Or perhaps an in-store tasting for the jelly-of-the-month club?  Driving customers to the store should increase basket size, and also provide customers with the flexibility to tweak their personalized product recommendation.

I'm watching the market to see if these ideas gain traction.  Use the comments to express your own opinions as well.


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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