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 


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

Thursday Sep 15, 2011

Upcoming Conferences

I bet many of you are just back from the Shop.org Summit today.  I saw some pretty good sessions on the agenda, so I'm sorry I didn't go.  In two weeks ARTS is having its third annual user conference in Orlando.  Topics include mobile, social, cloud, and the use of standards in the retail industry.  I really enjoy this conference because it doesn't involve selling, and its light on marketing fluff.  The attendees come from IT and are only interested in solving real problems.  I'll be presenting on the use of social media in retail, previewing some of the content from our upcoming ARTS Social Blueprint.

The week after is Oracle OpenWorld, starting on October 2nd.  I'll be kicking that conference off with a run at the Bridge-to-Bridge 12K in the morning, then catching the start of the conference later in the afternoon.  Larry Ellison is always entertaining, so I don't want to miss his general sessions.  There will be several new products announced during the week, many of which have applicability to retail.

This year the entertainment is Sting and Tom Petty.  Neither does much for me, so this is the first year I'll be skipping the customer appreciation event. Regardless, if you get an invitation you should definitely attend.  The spectacle of so many people, free food and drinks, and the carnival games is a great experience.  I promise you'll have tons of fun.

As has been the case in past years, the retail sessions will be held in The Palace Hotel a few blocks from the Moscone.  I actually like this arrangement as its much more intimate so people are able to relax and talk.  Ever try finding a place to sit and talk in the Moscone?

There are lots of good retail sessions, so I'll just name a few here:

Monday

11:00-12:00

23821 - General Session: Retail
Mike Webster, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Oracle

Palace Hotel Concert

Monday

12:30-13:30

 38841 - Powering Business Transformation at Morrisons to Build the
Supermarket of Tomorrow
Mike Davies, Senior Vice-President, Wipro Technologies
Gary Barr, CIO, Wm Morrisons Supermarkets

Palace Hotel Concert

Monday

15:30-16:30

23445 – The Next Generation of Cross-Channel Customer Experience
Solutions
Andrea Morgan-Vandome, Vice President, Retail Strategy and Solution
Marketing, Oracle

Palace Hotel Concert

Monday

17:00-18:00

23816 – Exploring New Technology in Retail
David Dorf, Senior Director of Technology Strategy, Oracle
Leif Larsen, Vice President, Oracle

Palace Hotel Concert

Tuesday

13:15-14:15

23806 – Retail Analytics and Critical KPIs
John Bible, Senior Director of Insight Analytics, Oracle
Mark Lawrence, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle

Palace Hotel Pacific Heights

Wednesday

16:45-17:45

23818 – Oracle Order Management: How Starbucks' Solution Surpassed Expectations
Karen Metro, Vice President of Business Systems Development, Starbucks
Tanya Trejo, Director of Business Systems Development, Starbucks

Palace Hotel Concert

Thursday

12:00-13:00

07442— Improving Market Insight at Outback Steakhouse
Jim Marzoppi , Vice President of Applications, OSI Restaurant Partners
Sal Seno , Senior Manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Carla Daniels , Senior Manager, Oracle

Moscone South Room 310

Shameless plug: I haven't started building my OOW presentation yet, but I'm pretty sure its going to revolve around the research we've been doing with mobile and social (surprise!).  The guys from ATG are going to join me and demonstrate some of their omni-channel concepts.  I just hope we can get good networking so the iPad and iPhone stuff works.  Lord knows the AT&T network will be useless.

Hope to see you at one or both of these events.

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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