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OfficeMax accelerates e-commerce innovation

BY Dan Berthiaume

Technology continues to evolve at a rapid-fire pace, empowering consumers and businesses with more options and expectations for shopping seamlessly wherever, whenever and however they want. And retailers need to keep up.

In order to succeed in this crucial time, the Naperville, Ill.-based, 900-plus-store office products chain OfficeMax, Inc. recognized that it needed to expedite decision-making to bring website improvements to market more quickly.

“We wanted to create a highly collaborative culture that enables rapid innovations aligned with changing shopping habits and strong online competition,” said Jim Barr, executive VP and chief digital officer, OfficeMax. “Also, we wanted to create an environment to help us recruit and retain the best and brightest in ecommerce and digital.”

Bringing the Team Together
To reach these goals, OfficeMax has created the OfficeMax Digital Innovation Collaboration Center, an interactive environment designed to foster ideation and real-time collaboration and creativity among members of the OfficeMax digital team.

“The center’s technology provides us with real-time data and visibility to just about every step in the customer’s shopping experience, which we can then use to continuously improve their experience with us,” explained Barr. “For example, we can monitor response times aggregated across our sites, but we can also drill down to key individual components of the customers’ shopping experience, including search and browsing, shopping cart and checkout, all to help make improvements at each step. Most of the solutions used at the Operations Center were developed in-house and are customized to our business KPIs.”

Real-Time Results
“In the first few weeks since we launched the center, I have already seen a boost in real-time collaboration among the team and a greater collective awareness of our business,” Barr said. “We’re also seeing greater awareness of how our websites are performing through the new Operations Center. This real-time visibility has allowed us to proactively identify and address performance needs in half the time than we previously could; which helps us to create an improved customer experience across our sites.”

Technology OfficeMax uses to run the center includes Oracle Endeca search technologies that provide customers with faster, more accurate and productive search results. The retailer is also investigating analytics solutions. Moving forward, Barr sees more innovation in the future.

“Our team is currently developing new e-commerce features, including search engine upgrades, significant online SKU expansion, mobile advancements and more, which will be released during the holiday season and early 2014,” he stated.


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NRF: Despite drop in auto, September sales up in most retail sectors

BY CSA STAFF

Retail sales fell in September for the first time in six months, but the decline was credited to a drop-off in auto purchases. Most U.S. retail sectors actually experienced broad sales gains during the month, according to the National Retail Federation, which reported that, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, retail sales grew a seasonally 0.6% compared to the previous month and 3.8% unadjusted compared to the prior year.

Results of specific sectors include:

  • Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers stores’ sales increased 0.1% seasonally adjusted and 8.0% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales decreased 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month yet increased 0.7% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores’ sales increased 0.7% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 1.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 0.2% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 4.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month yet decreased 0.2% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 4.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Non-store retailers’ sales increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 12.0% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 0.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Falling gas prices combined with rising housing and stock prices continue to support consumer spending, and the broader economy,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “While far from robust, consumers are shopping, but they are spending both discriminately and moderately. Volatility still persists in various retail sectors but spending has somewhat stabilized heading into the all-important holiday shopping season.”

September retail sales, released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that total retail and food services sales, which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants, decreased 0.1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month yet increased 3.2% adjusted year-over-year.

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Overstock.com’s enlists Mike Ditka and Jim McMahon for latest ad

BY CSA STAFF

Overstock.com has released the first commercial in its new series starring NFL coach and Hall-of-Famer Mike Ditka and quarterback Jim McMahon.

"Overstock.com was pleased to bring together the two powerhouses of Mike Ditka and Jim McMahon once again," said Overstock.com co-president, Stormy Simon. "Coach Ditka portrays the same passion and excitement we feel about our business."

The 30-second spot has Ditka, McMahon and the Overstock.com price checkers addressing a room of reporters at a press conference. Ditka takes questions from the reporters and explains that Overstock.com checks its products for the lowest prices so the customer doesn’t have to.

"Overstock.com is a big player in online shopping and a world-class operation. I’m only going to associate my name with that level of company," Ditka said. "It was a pleasure to work with the company and to be reunited with Jim McMahon."

The commercial was shot by Paul Dektor of the Cartel. It was shot on location in Chicago and edited in Los Angeles. It is currently airing on national television stations such as HGTV, ABC Family, USA Network, FX Channel and Spike.

The next commercial in the series will be a holiday spot also featuring the Ditka/McMahon pairing along with the Overstock.com price checkers. Additional commercials along this theme are planned for 2014.

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