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Oracle study: New retail democracy demands commerce anywhere

BY Marianne Wilson

Boston — The single biggest challenge for retailers is to understand, empower and represent the digitally empowered consumer across all touch points, according to new research from Oracle.

The New Retail Democracy study finds that the increasingly democratic relationship between digitally-empowered shoppers and retailers is forcing retailers to re-evaluate technology investments and strategic initiatives to capture loyalty, drive spend and remain competitive. Consumers are demanding better access to information, product and process, along with more individualized interactions with retailers as they take ownership of their retail experiences.

“As consumers continue to dictate how, when and where they make purchases, Oracle believes that providing commerce anywhere is imperative for retail success.” said Mike Webster, senior VP and general manager, Oracle Retail. “Retailers need to invest in aligning and integrating retail processes with the needs of individual consumers to compete and grow effectively in the New Retail Democracy.”

The study also finds that access to information in stores, online and on mobile devices, is vital to enabling consumers to make purchases at anytime and anywhere, requiring retailers to align business processes and touch points to connect the customer journey regardless of purchase path. Empowering retail employees with access anywhere is equally important in reducing the disconnect with empowered consumers.

The store remains vital to the provision of commerce anywhere, with a majority of respondents rating the physical interaction with products and people as being important to enhancing their shopping experiences, according to Oracle. However, retailers must commit to investing in these operations to transform them by offering value-add services and activities that support local communities.

Other study findings include:

• Ninety-three percent of respondents want to understand availability of products, and 58% rate it as more important than price, indicating that “Availability Always” is a priority.

• There is a strong link between availability, loyalty and spend, with 46% of respondents admitting to being more loyal and 30% likely to spend more with a retailer that provides information about products’ availability.

• Furthermore, 92% report that they will not wait for a product to come into stock, with 88% indicating they will source a product elsewhere in this situation, placing pressure on retailers to integrate demand forecasting, planning, merchandising, supply chain, marketing and commerce capabilities across all touch points.

• Seventy-three percent of respondents highlighted the importance of “Individual Retail,” meaning every interaction with a retailer should be relevant to the individual consumer based on their interests, requirements and purchase history.

• Eighty-two percent of consumers consider the adoption of new technologies important to their retail experiences and are using multiple touch points, including mobile phones, click and collect, social networking sites and online magazines to complete their shopping journeys.

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Oracle Industry Connect speakers focus on enabling growth

BY Dan Berthiaume

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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.

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Papa John’s touts online ordering in TV ad

BY Marianne Wilson

Louisville, Ky. — Papa John’s is launching a television commercial starring iconic sportscaster Jim Nantz, and Papa John’s founder, chairman and CEO, John Schnatter, touting the company’s online ordering platform. The commercial also reminds consumers that Papa John’s was the first national pizza company with online ordering at all of its U.S. delivery restaurants in 2001.

“This commercial does a great job reminding consumers that Papa John’s has been, and continues to be at the forefront of technological advances that meet the rapidly evolving demands of tech savvy consumers,” said Bob Kraut, Papa John’s chief marketing officer. “As a visionary, our founder recognized very early on that customer ordering habits were likely going to change with the rapid growth of the internet. As a result, we were not only the first with online ordering, but a slew of other technological advances that continue to help drive the category.”

Some of those other technological firsts include the first national pizza company to offer SMS text ordering in 2007; the first to launch a nationwide digital rewards program in 2010, Papa Rewards, which remains the only program of its kind in the category; and earlier this year the first national pizza company to offer mobile-optimized gift cards. All of these technological advances have helped the company generate more than 45% of its orders through its digital channels, a higher percentage than any other national pizza company.

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