Tuesday Jan 17, 2012

Personalization: A Key Tenet of User Engagement

Today's guest post is from Alakh Verma, Director or Platform Technology Solutions at Oracle.


In today’s constantly changing and competitive business environment, consumers are seeking more personalized care and services for any engagement enter into prior to committing to any transaction. Relationships begin with humble greetings and a smile, progresses to a natural conversation and eventually evolves to understanding the needs and behavior in the process.

User engagement involves a mixture of quantitative and qualitative analysis. Quantitative analysis offers useful patterns and is generally more scalable and easier to conduct. User engagement also involves contextual study and ethnography. These provide information about the people, what their routines are in daily life and what their needs are for which they have visited the electronic website, physical store or workplace.

A few weeks back, I walked into a Wells Fargo branch in San Jose, to conduct a normal banking chores of depositing  a check. I was overwhelmed by warm greetings from the store manager, Robert Borcherding, and he offered to fill out the pay-in-slip while I was waiting in the queue for the teller. Realizing it might take longer, he came by again to offer assistance and accept my check for the deposit by personal banker. He kept talking and displaying his humility to offer the best care he could while I stayed in the branch.

Last week, when I walked in his branch again for some other banking transaction, I was pleasantly surprised to receive his personal greetings where he greeted me by name with smiles and again offered to assist with humility. I could see his urgency to satisfy me the fullest. This time, I was in his branch to meet his banking manager, Rosa S. Aguirre, regarding a refinance. When he saw that she was still busy with another customer, he offered to help speed up the process by making all the necessary photo copies of my documents that she might need. While he was doing this act of an extended personalized service, he was winning my trust and my heart in the process. By then, Rosa was free and ready to meet with me with all my documents in hand. I would categorize this act as a clear display of personalization that would go a long way in building trust and gaining, growing and retaining business for his store and for Wells Fargo in general. On the other hand, I have receive numerous aggressive and disturbing call center calls from a competitor bank for their services and I refuse to take those calls. I am sure many of you have encountered similar situations in your lives and we can all appreciate the significance of personalization and personalized care in business settings.

Customer services have been widely used and misused and now businesses need to re-evaluate the paradigm shift of customers’ needs and expectations. With recent technology and tools, we can easily build and deploy virtual web stores to deliver consumers near real-time, personalized user experiences.

Personalization implies that the content and experience are changed for each user based on implicit data, such as items previously purchased or pages recently viewed. On an intranet or B2E enterprise Web portal, personalization is often based on user attributes such as department, functional area or role.

There are three categories of personalization: a) profile / group based ; b) behavior based; and c) collaboration based. Web personalization models include rules-based filtering, based on "if this, then that" rules processing, and collaborative filtering, which serves relevant material to customers by combining their own personal preferences with the preferences of like-minded others. Collaborative filtering works well for books, music, video, etc.

There are three broad methods of personalization: a) implicit; b) explicit; and c) hybrid. With implicit personalization, the personalization is performed by the web page based on the different categories mentioned above. With explicit personalization, the web page is changed by the user using the features provided by the system. Hybrid personalization combines both two approaches to leverage the best of both worlds.

Personalization is also being considered for use in less overtly commercial applications to improve the user experience online. Facebook introduced Instant Personalization recently.  This new technology is different from Social Plug-ins, which many B2B and B2C sites are already using.  Social plug-ins include things like Facebook live streams and “Like Buttons” and are intended to drive user engagement and make a website more ‘social’.  With Instant Personalization, Facebook shares data with a handful of non-Facebook websites. 

Have you taken a look at your web site recently and thought about if you’re delivering a personalized experience to your users? Oracle WebCenter personalizes the online buying experience with a comprehensive, highly scalable user engagement platform and applications. Built on a foundation of proven capabilities, including personalization, business user control, cross-channel support, and a flexible platform, WebCenter boosts cross-channel business growth by helping customers quickly find desired products, learn about new offerings, comparison shop, register for gifts, preorder products, redeem coupons, and easily complete their purchases. For more information, visit oracle.com/webcenter.

Wednesday Dec 28, 2011

Engage with WebCenter Holiday Celebrations

Snowman!As we approach the end of 2011 fully entrenched in the holiday spirit, this week’s topic is appropriately focused on Community Engagement. Like many of us, we hope that our readers spent their holidays surrounded by the warm glow of friends and family and are recharging their systems to blast into 2012. From the perspective of the WebCenter team here, the upcoming year surely looks like it will be even more engaging than the past year and we welcome you to join us in this journey.

To kick us off in the holiday engagement spirit, we thought we’d share a some of our favorite images and a couple of recipes from this past week.

From the great Northeast – this time of year wouldn’t be complete without my family’s annual Hanukkah celebration with more Latkes than anyone should eat in one sitting. We filled 17 bellies full of these wonderful potato pancakes and then left town the next morning for Christmas with the in-laws only to come back to a house 3 days later that still smelled like Latkes.

Snow Family Festival of Lights

SNOW FAMILY HANUKKAH POTATO LATKES
(thanks to my sister – Nancy Snow)

GRATE TOGETHER: (food processor chopping blade works well)
4 Potatoes
1 Onion

MIX WITH:
1 Egg
1 Tablespoon of Flour
¾ teaspoon of Salt
1/8 teaspoon of Pepper
1/8 teaspoon of Baking Powder

LET SIT FOR A FEW MINUTES

Drop by Teaspoons full into ½ inch HOT oil
Fry until golden brown – (flip to brown each side)
Drain on paper towels before serving
Serve with apple sauce, sour cream or Greek plain yogurt

EAT UNTIL GONE!!!

~ ~

During the years when Hanukkah and Christmas are close in the calendar, as an intermarried family, we go from the grease of Latkes to the traditional pleasure of spending the Christmas holidays with my in-laws in my home town of Marblehead, MA – a small historic seacoast community on a peninsula North of Boston which is always adorned in the full spirit of the holidays.

Christmas eve Lobster dinner starts the festivities followed by more food and celebration for the entire family.

Roof Elves keep watch

These used to be food of the peasants!



Everybody gets their presentsNumber One Dog! Pumpkin Pie!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From the great state of Wisconsin, another WebCenter team member, Kellsey shared her mother’s famous Jalapeno meatball recipe and some pix. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

Kellsey's Christmas Tree 2011

Kellsey’s Mom’s Famous Jalapeno Meatballs

2 lb ground beef or turkey
1 c. quick oatmeal

6 oz milk
1 egg
1/3 c. chopped onion
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt + pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can of diced jalapenos or 1 jar of sliced jalapenos

Mix all together and shape into meatballs. Place in 9 x 13 pan (do not need to brown first). In a separate bowl, mix together soup and jalapenos (do not drain). Pour over meatballs and bake at 350 for one hour. You can also do these in the Crock-pot, but you need to either freeze them first or bake them in the oven so they don’t lose their shape. When putting in the Crock-pot, place frozen or browned meatballs in Crock pot, mix soup with jalapenos and pour over top of meatballs. Bake for 3-5 hours (depending on if they were frozen or browned).

Kellsey’s Honey Badger ornament Kellsey’s 5 year old Boxer, Bodde


Friday Nov 11, 2011

Guest Post: Christian Finn: Is Facebook About to Become a Victim of its Own Success?


 Since we have a number of new members of the WebCenter Evangelist team - I thought it would be appropriate to close the week with the newest hire and leader of the global WebCenter Evangelists, Christian Finn, who has just joined the Red team after many years with the small technology company up in Redmond, WA. He gave an intro to himself in an earlier post this morning but his post below is a great example of how customer engagement takes on a life of its own in our global online connected and social digital ecosystem.


Is Facebook About to Become a Victim of its Own Success?

What if I told you that your brand could advertise so successfully, you wouldn’t have to pay for the ads? A recent campaign by Ford Motor Company for the Ford Focus featuring Doug the spokespuppet (I am not making this up) did just that—and it raises some interesting issues for marketers and social media alike in the brave new world of customer engagement that is the Social Web.

Allow me to elaborate. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week—“Big Brands Like Facebook, But They Don’t Like to Pay” tells the story of Ford’s recently concluded online campaign for the 2012 Ford Focus. (Ford, by the way, under the leadership of people such as Scott Monty, has been a pioneer of effective social campaigns.) The centerpiece of the campaign was the aforementioned Doug, who appeared as a character on Facebook in videos and via chat. (If you are not familiar with Doug, you can see him in action here, and read the WSJ story here.) You may be thinking puppet ads are a sign of Internet Bubble 2.0 and want to stop now, but bear with me.

The Journal reported that Ford spent about $95M on its overall Ford Focus campaign, with TV accounting for over $60M of that spend. The Internet buy for the campaign was just over $10M, which included ad buys to drive traffic to Facebook for people to meet and ‘Like’ Doug and some amount on Facebook ads, too, to promote Doug and by extension, the Ford Focus. So far, a fairly straightforward consumer marketing story in the Internet Era.

Yet here’s the curious thing: once Doug reached 10,000 fans on Facebook, Ford stopped paying for Facebook ads. Doug had gone viral with people sharing his videos with one another; once critical mass was reached there was no need to buy more ads on Facebook. Doug went on to be Liked by over 43,000 people, and 61% of his fans said they would be more likely to consider buying a Focus. According to the article, Ford says Focus sales are up this year—and increasing sales is every marketer’s goal.

And so in effect, Ford found its Facebook campaign so successful that it could stop paying for it, instead letting its target consumers communicate its messages for fun—and for free. Not only did they get a 3X increase in fans beyond their paid campaign, they had thousands of customers sharing their messages in video form for months. Since free advertising is the Holy Grail of marketing both old and new-- and it appears social networks have an advantage in generating that buzz—it seems reasonable to ask: what would happen to brands’ advertising strategies—and the media they use to engage customers, if this success were repeated at scale?

It seems logical to conclude that, at least initially, more ad dollars would be spent with social networks like Facebook as brands attempt to replicate Ford’s success. Certainly Facebook ad revenues are on the rise—eMarketer expects Facebook’s ad revenues to quintuple by 2012 compared with 2009 levels, to nearly 2.9B. That’s bad news for TV and the already battered print media and good news for Facebook. But perhaps not so over the longer run. With TV buys, you have to keep paying to generate impressions. If Doug the spokespuppet is any guide, however, that may not be true for social media campaigns. After an initial outlay, if a social campaign takes off, the audience will generate more impressions on its own. Thus a social medium like Facebook could be the victim of its own success when it comes to ad revenue. It may be there is an inherent limiting factor in the ad spend they can capture, as exemplified by Ford’s experience with Dough and the Focus. And brands may spend much less overall on advertising, with as good or better results, than they ever have in the past.

How will these trends evolve? Can brands create social campaigns that repeat Ford’s formula for the Focus with effective results? Can social networks find ways to capture more spend and overcome their potential tendency to make further spend unnecessary? And will consumers become tired and insulated from social campaigns, much as they have to traditional advertising channels? These are the questions CMOs and Facebook execs alike will be asking themselves in the brave new world of customer engagement.

As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome.


Wednesday Nov 09, 2011

Guest Post: Peter Reiser: The Power of Social Recommendations

 We're joined today with a guest post from a member of our international team of WebCenter Evangelists, Peter Reiser. Peter has a long history starting with Sun Microystems (Switzerland) in 1989 and has recently joined a team of WebCenter Evangelists around the globe that we hope to be hearing from on a regular basis. Peter's blog can be found here: https://blogs.oracle.com/peterreiser/


The Power of Social Recommendations

There are many ways you can improve the Return on Investment (RoI) of your web properties

Traditionally, you acquire new customers by buying Google keywords or by advertising your web offerings on social sites like Facebook

When these new users find their way to your site, you can engage them using clever targeting/personalization technologies to tailor your content to the target audience. 

(I  recently took a training on  WebCenter Sites (formerly FatWire) and was pretty impressed about their  intelligent real time targeting engine.)

This will likely improve your Conversation Rate (CVR)  and Revenue

Ok - these  are key elements  of a typical  Ecommerce strategy and pretty well known best practices. 

But how can we leverage  REAL social engagements ?

Implicit Social Recommendations 

When did we start trusting strangers?

(Source: Tomuniversal)


Implicit Social Recommendations are based on feedback from strangers provided through various social  channel and sites. 

 As example, a site has a product review section and the reviews, ratings and feedback  of "strangers" is influencing the buying behavior.

Implicit Social

(Source: Tomuniversal)

 The level of influence is directly  related to how much the user  trust the feedback/recommendations from strangers. 

Explicit Social Recommendations 

 Explicit Social Recommendations are from the strong tie connections of  a user's social network - friends/people you know and trust.

 As example, a user is looking for a nice Golf Hotel and a friend recommends a hotel via a social network. Its pretty likely that the user is checking out the hotel.

Golf


(Source: Tomuniversal)

 If the friend has already stayed there and recommends the hotel because he liked it, there is a very high probability that the user is booking the hotel.

Social Engagement Strategy  

Wow - if you can leverage the Power of Social Recommendations,  your Conversation Rate (CVR)  and Revenue will likely grow fast!

So - what should be the key elements of your successful Social Engagement strategy? 

  1. Build Trust trough Transparency
  2. Be part of the Conversation by actively building vibrant communities 
  3. Engage the "trusted" strangers  in the public social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. (and maybe you should consider social sites like  Quora as well)
  4. Think carefully how to  build  your "Explicit Social Recommendations" strategy. Do you really want to invest to drive YOUR audience trough public social networks  or do you want to have YOUR audience on your own social network  which is seamless integrated with your web properties and business applications  .. and you have access to the entire Social Graph of your network!    (Hello Oracle Social Network :) )

Monday Nov 07, 2011

Customer Engagement - Born Digital - Blessing or Curse?

For those of you that spend a fair amount of your days trying to keep up with the latest thought leadership via daily blog postings and interesting articles published by the various pundits of our technology ecosystems, it will come as no surprise that the topics of “Customer Engagement” and “Customer Experience” are extremely popular topics lately. In the past 30 days, there have been 6,157 tweets about “Customer Engagement” alone. While these topics are not new by any means, using these filters to look at our online experiences and engagements allows the cross-pollination from what has been learned in brick and mortar retail establishments to our not so new online world incorporating web, mobile and social channels.

Following these trends, we’re going to add to the discussion by focusing this week on Customer Engagement. Customer engagement really can’t be viewed based on only one channel of communication anymore in our fast-paced, multi-channel world. As active consumers of product and information, we all seek multiple inputs to make our daily decisions. What used to be based on asking our neighbors for recommendations or assistance has now been enhanced by technology to, perhaps at times, giving us too much information and inducing an analysis-paralysis condition or in the Goldilocks tradition, just the right amount to help us get it right.Which Way to Customer Engagement?

I do believe in synchronicity and there was a fascinating study just published by the Oracle Retail Group entitled; “The Future of Retail: Through the Eyes of Digital Natives” (September 2011). The Press Release can be found here. The latest research, commissioned by Oracle, on the future of retail in 2025, according to the digital native generation born after 1980, reveals that the shopping experience of the future needs to be connected, fit-for-purpose, and always available. Results revealed that digital natives love to shop but they are discerning, wanting differentiated products, pricing, and services based on their preferences, to interact with retailers when and how it suits them, and for this experience to be seamless and connected whatever channel they choose.

The study notes that technology is the key to expediting the shopping experience, whether in-store to facilitate a sale, or using online channels to research and compare price, promotions, and choice, suggesting that retailers must optimize their operations in support of customer priorities and operate in a connected 24/7 environment. Oracle commissioned the survey in July 2011 to examine the views of digital natives to current shopping needs and their expectations of these needs in 2025 as they come of age, interviewing 1,514 young consumers between 19-23 years from the UK, Germany and France.

“This research presents a number of interesting findings for retailers outlining considerable opportunities,” said Mike Webster, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Oracle Retail. “To drive long-term growth, retailers need to provide superior experiences that consumers are demanding. The research supports the importance of creating a solutions platform that provides a connected multi-channel shopping experience.”

Conclusions of the study state that the Born Digital members of their study have the following requirements for their engagements and experiences:

  • Differentiated and personalized customer interactions
  • Differentiated products, pricing and services based on their preferences
  • Differentiated interactions based on how and when they want to interact
  • A seamless, connected experience where the retailer is aligned across all business operations and decisions

So let us set the stage for our discussion this week by painting a picture of what our digital ecosystem landscape looks like today based on some recent research. Growth and scale of these channels are an important consideration of the approach taken to address the engagement and experience challenges.

Web:

U.S. online sales are expected to rise by over $100 billion from 2010 to 2015.1 70 percent of all Internet users made at least one online purchase.2

Mobile:

48 percent of all U.S. consumers use their mobile devices to research and browse products and services.3 Two-third of consumers use mobile phones for purchasing.4

Tablet:

More than 7 percent in U.S. will own a tablet by the end of 20125 and is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 51 percent through 2015.6 Forrester expects consumers will adopt tablet commerce rapidly.6

Social Media:

More than half of frequent web shoppers turn to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter at least some of the time to gather ideas for shopping.7 28 percent of Facebook users have purchased something online via a Facebook link.8

Store:

43% of all US retail sales are influenced by the web.9 Consumers often start browsing and researching on their computers and mobile devices, and ultimately make purchases in the store or through a contact center representative.10

Call Center:

Over 90% of US consumers and over 77% of European consumers ranked click to call and click to chat as useful to extremely useful.  Click to call and click to chat were ranked second and third, respectively, out of five, behind only the option of a free phone call into the contact center.11

Sources:

1: eMarketer 2011 US Retail Ecommerce Forecast
2: comScore Q2 2011 U.S. Retail E-commerce Sales Estimate, August 8, 2011
3:  Oracle ATG Cross-Channel Commerce: A Consumer Research Study, 2009
4:  L.E.K. Consulting Consumer Study, 2011
5:  eMarketer
6: Forrester's US Consumer Tablet Forecast, January 2011
7: the e-tailing group, inc.  Study, 2011
8: Shop.org 2011 Social Commerce study
9: Forrester Research, Inc.
10: Oracle ATG Cross-Channel Commerce: A Consumer Research Study, 2009
11:  Oracle ATG Commerce Live Help: Global Consumer Views & Trends Study, March 2010

Wednesday Nov 02, 2011

It's About the User Experience!

We talk a lot about delivering a superior user experience because the effectiveness of your employees is directly impacted by usability of the user interfaces they engage with. And your company's ability to attract, retain and convert prospects into paying customers is directly impacted at their experience with your brand - in store, on the web, on mobile devices, and through feedback and chatter across the social media channels. But, we're not the only ones that see the importance of providing customers, partners and employees an engaging experience. 

If you were at Oracle OpenWorld last month, you saw mentions of various technologies that influence users all over the show. But in case you missed it, here are some highlights worth checking out.

  • During the Middleware General Session, Accenture presented their Technology Vision 2011 which highlighted that "User experience is what matters" and Hasan Rizvi interviewed the Land O'Lakes CIO about their implementation of Oracle WebCenter. Watch the presentation here:

  • Larry Ellison announced the Oracle Public Cloud and demonstrated the Oracle Social Network, which is part of Oracle WebCenter. What how this secure private network with a broad range of social tools helps streamline conversations by capturing information from people, enterprise applications and business processes to facilitate collaboration between individual users and teams of people.

Curious what else you missed at Oracle OpenWorld this year? Watch the best of Oracle OpenWorld 2011 on the Oracle Media Network. 

Monday Oct 10, 2011

Oracle OpenWorld and WebCenter Momentum

Reflecting on Oracle OpenWorld last week, we are even more excited about the direction and momentum of Oracle WebCenter. It was a great chance to share more with customers about how Oracle WebCenter positioning and new functionality which has folks even more enthusiastic.

We also got the opportunity to see some of our customers at the CAB and hear about their successes and future plans with our products. At lunch I got to speak with the College of American Pathology, Eaton, Rolls Royce, Chick-Fil-A, J.M. Smucker Company, and Jacobs Engineering. CAP has done a great accounts payable integration, and is starting to expand their implementation to cover employee onboarding. Chick-Fil-A, with their partner Team Informatics, has been working to incorporate a highly complex security and authentication scheme across all sites and related content. This is to ensure both employees and related departments, as well as franchisees, are able to access and update content while limiting access and rights to restricted information. It’s a very creative security solution that is entirely role-based, simplifying the security model and eliminating the need to define and manage accounts.

Thank you to the customers who joined us in presentations and provided video testimonials. McAfee provided some great insights in our panel on implementing a social business. And Chick-Fil-A and University of Texas A&M provided very different perspectives on implementing content management. Medtronic, Chicago Public Schools, McAfee, Agilent, and BDO were all able to record some great videos – we’ll see those rolling out on the Oracle website in the next few weeks. You can see an on-the-fly video we did with Agilent here.

Everyone was very engaged with Oracle WebCenter and the User Engagement Platform. We also had a great announcement of The Oracle Social Network by Larry Ellison. Larry enjoys the product so much he did the demonstration himself, showing all the ways people can connect and collaborate using this new and innovative solution.


Four Oracle WebCenter customers won Innovation Awards

Agilent is delivering significant volume of new customers that can be leveraged for proactive customer engagement, by providing a clear and compelling value proposition that customers will exchange information for. With Oracle WebCenter, more functionality can be added to the site using portlet design, providing a shorter development lifecycle of 3-4 months vs. the traditional 8-10 month lifecycle. Their site has been performing well while receiving more than 2 million hits in the first 24 hours.

Medtronic, with their partner Fishbowl Solutions, is delivering product information to their field sales team via web and mobile devices. Their predominant platform for sharing this information with their customers in office visits has become the iPad. Not only is their content more up-to-date, but it is more compelling, incorporating video as well as high resolution graphics. Medtronic has become the largest corporate implementation of the iPad, with over 10,000 units in use.


The Medtronic iPad application, created by Fishbowl Solutions, provides content from Oracle WebCenter.

Openbaar Ministerie is the Public Prosecution Office for The Netherlands. With their partner Deloitte Consulting and WebCenter partner Onior they have streamlined the process in order to bring cases digitally to the Judiciary Courts. Oracle WebCenter is the core solution for the storage providing a 360˚overview of all case related files, and resulting in a better end-user experience, better performance, more stability and enhanced storage capabilities. Openbaar Ministerie has replaced all content related legacy systems and migrated all functionality successfully to the Oracle WebCenter. This year there will be a migration of the current infrastructure to Atos Origin, including using a dedicated Exadata machine for the storage of metadata of the filed Case content.

Schneider National Schneider National won Honorable Mention for this WebCenter project, which is part of a much larger program that transforms Schneider’s business processes and end to end technology platform, providing consistency and simplicity of architecture, reduction in long term costs, and improved usability of the solutions for both internal and external users. Schenider provides two separate WebCenter Portal solutions, one for Drivers and another shared by both Customers and Service providers. The drivers portal provides content updates and driver feedback through forms and polls. Business leaders are able to make changes and updates to the content on a daily basis without IT involvement.

We will provide more in-depth customer profiles on the Innovation Awards winners in the next few weeks. Overall, from the announcement to the customer conversations to the sessions, we enjoyed the incredible momentum we are feeling around Oracle WebCenter.

Monday Jul 11, 2011

What's Next in User Engagement?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET

Please join Oracle executives in an exclusive webcast as they share what's next in user engagement. You'll hear our key executives discuss how Oracle is committed to delivering the user engagement platform to connect people and information and how Oracle will continue to deliver on and expand the most complete, open, integrated, and best-of-breed solutions to transform your organization into a social business.

Register online for What's Next in User Engagement?

Presented by:

Hasan Rizvi
Hasan Rizvi
Senior Vice President,
Oracle Fusion Middleware
and Java
Kumar Vora
Kumar Vora
Senior Vice President of Development,
Oracle
Andy MacMillan
Andy MacMillan
Vice President
of Product Management,
Oracle

About

Oracle WebCenter is the center of engagement for business—powering exceptional experiences for customers, partners, and employees. It connects people, process, and information with the most complete portfolio of portal, Web experience management, content, imaging and collaboration technologies.

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