Oracle Industry Connect: The fulfillment behind ‘Commerce Anywhere’

A central theme of the Oracle Industry Connect conference, held in Boston March 25-26, was “Commerce Anywhere,” or the new customer experience paradigm that requires enabling the consumer to purchase products how they want, when they want and to do so in a connected, nearly seamless fashion. IT also entails delivering targeted assortments, making inventory transparent and accessible to customers and employees in real-time, and integrating the systems supporting retail operations.

Commerce Anywhere is a great theoretical explanation of how successful retailers conduct 21st century commerce, but how do they actually make it happen behind the scenes? Speakers at Oracle Industry Connect on the second day of the event, March 26, explored this vital industry question.

During a morning keynote panel session conducted by Mike Webster, senior VP and general manager of Oracle’s Retail Global Business Unit, Stage Stores CIO Steven Hunter said in his organization, everyone takes ownership of customer experience. Data and metrics are key to Stage’s successful delivery of a segmented and targeted experience.

“Sixty percent of our 900 stores are in small towns of 50,000 people or less,” said Hunter. “They are a destination. The store manager needs to know customers’ names, their families, their likes and dislikes. Information helps. Then we have metro market customers who want to get in and out quickly. We use mobile devices for checkout and credit applications. We manage two different customer metrics.”

Hunter said metrics are the “needle” that has moved the company toward universal ownership of customer experience. Customers are segmented into high, medium and low value, allowing Stage Stores to determine the level of targeted customer experience to allocate to each segment.

In addition, Vinnie Mirchandani, founder of technology innovation blog Deal Architect, said retailers should begin customer experience fulfillment strategies by including design experts. He gave an example of how Home Depot integrated mobile technology into its store design to improve previously poor customer service.

“You’d walk into a store and couldn’t find anyone,” said Mirchandani. “With the Home Depot mobile app, you scan something, input the parameters and get the aisle where it’s located. It offsets the limitations of Home Depot’s customer service.”

Proper fulfillment of Commerce Anywhere also requires the right systems infrastructure. In a later session, Don Hendricks, CIO of Hot Topic, and Hussein Youssfi, VP applications of Hot Topic, picked up on the theme of basic “vanilla” implementations that had been recurring throughout the conference.

“You don’t always need to modify your platform to the specific things your brand does,” said Hendricks. “The way you handle systems does not have to be special.”

Hendricks said Hot Topic and its sister Torrid swimwear brand, despite having different customer bases and products, share a common integrated Oracle application platform that was installed in as vanilla a fashion as possible in 10 months, with three months preparation beforehand. With modification, Hendricks estimated the implementation would have taken two to four years.

Youssfi outlined some specific benefits of vanilla IT rollouts. “You have one version of the truth; a single system of record,” he said. “There is easy data access for users.”

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