Speakers at Oracle Industry Connect, being held March 25-March 26, in Boston, discussed how retailers can use advanced technology to enable growth and understand inventory levels across all channels (and share that knowledge with their customers).
Paul McFadden, CIO of specialty chain C. Wonder, discussed how a “vanilla” hosted implementation of Oracle’s ERP platform enabled the specialty retailer to achieve rapid corporate growth.
“We implemented a fully managed, hosted environment,” said McFadden. “We didn’t want to invest in an entire infrastructure.”
Avoiding customization, which McFadden said typically delivers only 1% of the total value of an implementation, whenever possible, C. Wonder rolled out Oracle enterprise solutions including financials, e-commerce and merchandising between October 2012 and March 2014. (The retailer will go live with Oracle POS in its first store on March 31.) During the same time frame, C. Wonder grew from 10 to 30 stores, including its first international store in Dubai, thanks in part to its ability to quickly scale technology with vastly reduced time, effort and expense.
“We changed the IT department from an enabler of technology to an enabler of business,” said McFadden. “We got out of the traditional role of IT as an enabler of infrastructure.”
In another session, Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus, discussed how Neiman Marcus is leveraging Oracle Retail solutions to deliver a seamless customer experience that lets shoppers of the luxury giant purchase the items they want, whenever and however they want. One step Neiman Marcus has made is replacing the “black books” of written notes on customers associates used to carry with iPhones.
“Associates can also use the iPhones to communicate with customers through text, email or call,” said Katz. “We’re developing a strategy for associates to use mobile phones to communicate with customers.”
With Oracle performing “some tweaking” to Neiman Marcus’ merchandising system, Katz said the retailer can show customers exactly the merchandise they want online and then be sure they can go pick up the same items in the store. Neiman Marcus also extends its product assortment to include furniture and bedding online that it cannot stock in stores.
And later in the afternoon, Julia Zhen, senior VP of online prescription eyewear retailer Zenni Optical, said she and her husband started Zenni in their garage in 2002 after realizing that the huge markup between costs of manufacture and retail price of prescription eyeglasses left substantial room to offer consumers a better deal.
Using technology including the Oracle ATG Web Commerce platform and a homegrown application that lets customers upload a photo of their face and have precisely fitted glasses displayed, Zenni now sells millions of glasses in 80 countries, Zhen added.
Zenni orders glasses to customer specifications in a vertically integrated factory in China and generally delivers them in two weeks. Controlling manufacture of inventory allows Zenni to pass substantial savings to customers and also ensure that the tens of thousands of variables that go into a unique pair of prescription glasses are properly managed.