ECOMMERCE

Cloud computing to drive Billabong’s omnichannel experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A board sports apparel retailer is taking steps to blend its physical and digital retail channels.

Billabong is leveraging the Aptos Singular Commerce platform to support omnichannel retailing across its global enterprise. The cloud-based solution will merge the retailers’ physical and digital retail channels, and create a single view of customers, inventory and orders, among other operations.

In addition to managing point-of-sale, the solution also supports customer relationship management (CRM), order management, merchandising and auditing functions. By integrating these functions, Billabong is positioned to deliver truly seamless customer experiences regardless where, when or how its customers shop, the company said.

Transitioning to a cloud-based platform also helps Billabong to consolidate its retail technology stack, and accelerate the implementation of new solutions — goals that required a seasoned partner.

“Aptos’ global presence, leading cloud-based technology, and professional services and implementation team were important considerations in our selection process,” said Michael Yerkes, senior VP, global operations of Billabong International Limited.

Billabong operates 372 retail stores, as well as operates e-commerce sites for each of its key brands, Billabong, RVCA, Element, Von Zipper, Honolua Surf Company, Kustom, Palmers Surf and Xcel.

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C-SUITE

Starbucks taps former Sam’s Club CEO as No.2 executive

BY Marianne Wilson

Starbucks Corp. has named a former Walmart executive as its next COO.

The coffee giant appointed Rosalind Brewer as group president and COO, effective Oct. 2. She is the first woman, and first African American, to hold such a high post at Starbucks.

Brewer, who joined the Starbucks board in January, served as CEO of Sam's Club, a division of Walmart, from 2012 until she stepped down in January 2017. Prior to that, she spent six years in executive roles at Walmart. Before joining Walmart, she spent 22 years at Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Brewer is highly regarded throughout the retail industry. When she left Sam's Club, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told employees in a memo that "she wants a new challenge."

Brewer will report to Starbucks' president and CEO Kevin Johnson and serve as a member of Starbucks senior leadership team. In her new role, Brewer will lead the company’s operating businesses across the Americas (Canada, U.S. and Latin America), as well as the global functions of supply chain, product innovation, and store development organizations.

“Starbucks is a culture-first company focused on performance and Roz is a world class operator and executive who embodies the values of Starbucks," said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and CEO. "She has been a trusted strategic counselor to me ever since she joined our board of directors, and I deeply value her insight, business acumen, and leadership expertise."

Brewer will continue to serve on the Starbucks board of directors.

“As a passionate customer of the brand and recently-elected board member, I have a deep love and admiration for the Starbucks brand and its people," Brewer said. "I am so honored to have the pleasure of working with the Starbucks leadership team to realize our highest of aspirations for the company and I look forward to working closely with the astute and talented leaders across the enterprise.”

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BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE/ANALYTICS

Discount giant steps up cloud and AI initiatives

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is making a bold move as it continues to seek out ways to distance itself from Amazon.

The discount giant is investing in Nvidia chips. These high-level graphical processing units (GPUs) will be the foundation of a robust cloud network where Walmart data scientists can build out AI systems, reported Geek Wire.

A project championed by Walmart’s OneOps team, which builds and maintains the company’s internal application development system, the neural network will position Walmart to leverage AI going forward. Nvidia GPUs are designed to process large amounts of data quickly. Be-sides supporting cloud services, their processing power support AI appli-cations like natural language processing, image recognition, and overall machine learning, according to Business Insider.

Amazon is already dabbling in this arena, and plans to apply AI further across its newest acquisition, Whole Foods. The natural foods grocer is already swimming in increasing volumes of shopper behavior data. This information will be applied to Amazon’s own cloud-based platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which already leverages AI-related services, the Geek Wire report said.

Walmart has been impacted by Amazon’s cloud services first-hand. Historically, Walmart technology partners ran their applications on AWS. That was until the discount giant began warning some tech companies in June that if they want its business, they can’t run applications on Amazon’s cloud platform.

The robust GPUs are only one piece of Walmart’s cloud-based strategy. The discount giant is reportedly also building out its cloud-based data centers and licensing its services to other companies. While the data centers will be one-tenth the size of Amazon’s, Walmart expects the move to give it another way to compete against its online nemesis, Business Insider said.

Target is also making moves to distance itself from Amazon’s cloud-based services. In August, Target announced that it was scaling back its use of AWS.

The discounter plans to “aggressively” move e-commerce activities, mobile development and operations away from AWS through the end of the year and into 2018 — a plan it alluded to back in October. Microsoft Azure is one company hoping to grab Target’s cloud-based operations.

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