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Giving Thanks for Retail IT

BY Dan Berthiaume

Many retailers are no doubt entering Thanksgiving week with trepidation at the prospect of keeping all systems go during what has become a six-day frenzy of “Black Friday” activity that now runs from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the Monday after. But retailers actually have quite a bit to be thankful for in the world of IT. Let’s raise an imaginary glass of homemade cider and give thanks for a few helpful technology developments:

Cloud Technology
The emergence of the cloud as a mainstream technology platform has revolutionized how retailers implement and manage IT. Cloud-based architectures allow retailers to quickly install and deploy even the most complex systems with a minimum of physical infrastructure to roll out or maintain. In addition, cloud-based systems can be extended across the enterprise and around the globe with relative ease. Other benefits include giving retailers much more leeway to implement a system on a trial basis, since if a cloud solution doesn’t produce desired results it can be easily turned off.

Intuitive Interfaces
As technology increasingly spreads beyond the domain of the IT department and into the daily workstream of employees across the organization, vendors are creating intuitive interfaces that allow non-experts to effectively use advanced systems. Dashboards, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), content management systems, and other user-friendly tools provide a set of controls that allow even the least geeky employees to obtain the benefits of leading-edge applications. Especially in retail, with its slim margins and need for lean organizations, intuitive interfaces can go a long way to increasing the ROI of system investments.

Mobile Devices
In some respects mobile devices can be seen as a double-edged sword for retail, as they invite showrooming, the instant sharing of customer displeasure via social media and other activities most retailers would prefer to avoid. However, on the whole, mobile devices offer retailers a range of benefits that more than compensate for the occasional lost sale or disgruntled tweet.

Most importantly, mobile devices allow otherwise unobtainable levels of customer intimacy. No other technology lets you know exactly where your customer is and respond to their location and behavior in real time with contextually appropriate, personalized messages, offers and discounts. In addition, mobile devices let store employees bring extremely high levels of efficiency and effectiveness to their customer-facing activities (which should help further alleviate mobile showrooming and venting).

Digital Wallets
Anyone who has ever fumbled for a credit card or sorted through a wad of bills of various denominations at a checkout terminal knows that paying for a purchase can often be the most frustrating and onerous part. Digital wallet applications let customers pay for purchases almost instantaneously and eliminate the need to remember a certain credit card or visit the ATM before entering a store.

Some digital wallet solutions also allow consumers to store e-coupons, targeted offers and other virtual promotions that make physical purchases more enticing. Add in the fact that digital wallets help eliminate long waits at the checkout queue and make the job of the POS associate easier, and you have one more reason to give thanks. Now pass the stuffing!


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OPERATIONS

Wal-Mart names new CEO; company vet Doug McMillon to succeed Mike Duke

BY Marianne Wilson

Bentonville, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores said Mike Duke will retire as president and CEO, effective Feb. 1, 2014, and will be replaced by veteran company executive Doug McMillon. McMillon, 47, president and CEO of Walmart International, was also named to Wal-Mart’s board, effective immediately.

“This leadership change comes at a time of strength and growth at Walmart,” said Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart’s board of directors. “The company has the right strategy to serve the changing customer around the world, and Doug has been actively involved in this process. The company has a strong management team to execute that strategy. Doug is uniquely positioned to lead our growing global company and to serve the changing customer, while remaining true to our culture and values.”

In his current position, McMillon oversees Wal-Mart’s operations outside the United States, which includes 6,300 stores. From 2006 to 2009, he was president and chief executive of Sam’s Club.

Duke has been president and CEO of Wal-Mart since February 2009. He will continue serving as chairman of the executive committee of the board and, in the tradition of his predecessors, stay on as an advisor to McMillon for one year. The company plans to make an announcement on McMillon’s successor as CEO of Walmart International by the end of the fiscal year.

By the end of the fiscal year — Jan. 31 — the company plans to announce McMillon’s successor as CEO of Walmart International.

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McMillon to succeed Duke as Walmart CEO

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart International president and CEO Doug McMillon was given the nod over Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon to succeed Mike Duke as president of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the company announced Monday morning.

McMillon, 47, will join the board effective immediately, and succeed Duke, 63, on February 1, when Walmart’s new fiscal year begins. McMillon’s successor will be named before the end of the fiscal year, according to the company.

“This leadership change comes at a time of strength and growth at Walmart,” said Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart’s board of directors. “The company has the right strategy to serve the changing customer around the world, and Doug has been actively involved in this process. The company has a strong management team to execute that strategy.”

Duke will continue serving as chairman of the executive committee of the board and, in the tradition of his predecessors, stay on as an adviser to McMillon for one year, according to the company.

“Doug is uniquely positioned to lead our growing global company and to serve the changing customer, while remaining true to our culture and values,” Walton said. “He has broad experience — with successful senior leadership roles in all of Walmart’s business segments — and a deep understanding of the economic, social and technological trends shaping our world. A merchant at heart, Doug has both a long history with our company and a keen sense of where our customers globally are heading next. He has also shown strong leadership on environmental sustainability and a commitment to using Walmart’s size and scale to make a difference in the lives of people, wherever they might be.”

McMillon said the opportunity to lead Walmart is a great privilege because of the company’s history of delivering value even as customers’ needs change.

“Our management team is talented and experienced, and our strategy gives me confidence that our future is bright. By keeping our promise to customers, we will drive shareholder value, create opportunity for our associates and grow our business,” McMillon said.

McMillon is following in Duke’s footsteps for the second time. He replaced Duke as president and CEO of Walmart International when Duke was elevated from that role to serve as CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

“Mike put in place the building blocks for the next generation Walmart and today the company is stronger, more global and more unified across all our stores, mobile and online,” said Walton. “He also reinvigorated the productivity loop and delivered strong financial performance. During his tenure the company made critical investments in talent and technology to expand Walmart to even more customers globally and stepped up its progress on social and environmental issues. Mike also has a strong commitment to diversity, and has been especially engaged in advancing women throughout organization. He set a tone at the top to never be satisfied, to always accelerate and do better, while remaining true to the culture that has been core to the company’s success.”

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