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SAP Sapphire 2014: Keep it Simple, Smart

BY Dan Berthiaume

While the mantra of “keep it simple, stupid” has long been a staple in the world of business, the message of the recent SAP Sapphire 2014 conference in Orlando could be summed up as “keep it simple, smart.” Speakers throughout the three-day event stressed how leading-edge technology allows enterprises to operate with a previously unavailable simplicity and flexibility, providing new and exciting capabilities. Here are a few examples.

Getting Socially Active

While anyone who was a shy teenager probably remembers being encouraged to get more socially active, in terms of retail CRM, social activation has a different meaning.

“Social activation is a move from measuring sentiment to changing perceptions,” Bill Briggs, director at Deloitte Consulting, said during a presentation. “It’s not social listening, it’s creating consumer advocacy in their own words.”

Briggs said retailers need to move beyond abstract, empty social media statistics such as how many followers they have and what percentage of social commentary has positive sentiment. Instead, retailers should focus on creating a positive consumer perception through social media.

Thus, rather than focusing strictly on measuring sentiment, retailers should take the direct approach of identifying social influencers and the social communities that represent the bulk of their business. By using old-fashioned community outreach methods such as events, contests, request for feedback, and special offers, retailers can build trust in these important social segments and create social evangelists who perform peer-to-peer marketing.

Ditching the ‘Big Iron’

The development of in-memory processing, which stores data directly into computer memory rather than on hard disks, and of virtual servers, is creating an environment where traditional, infrastructure-heavy data warehousing solutions are less necessary.

“Big iron costs a lot to maintain,” Stew Wenerstrom, senior VP/CIO of Big Lots, said of legacy data warehousing systems during a retail industry forum. “It’s one of the biggest items on my budget.”

While the “big iron” is not going away in the immediate future, moving forward, retailers will likely continue gravitating to the architecturally simpler and more cost-effective virtual in-memory processing model of storing, analyzing and acting upon data. This model also offers the potential of much greater insight and flexibility from data, leading to the third takeaway from Sapphire…

Gutting the Cube

In addition to moving beyond the need for complex infrastructure, in-memory processing also holds the promise of moving beyond the need for data aggregations and cubes. Traditional data warehousing solutions aggregate data into cubes that are then analyzed to uncover patterns and insights.

However, the massive computational power of in-memory processing can let retailers analyze specific pieces of data about individual consumers. Data aggregation still occurs with in-memory processing, but as an extension of initial granular analysis, rather than as the first step toward obtaining deeper consumer insight.

During a keynote presentation, Clayton M. Christensen, professor, Harvard Business School, explained how this new granular analytical capability will let retailers align their organizations around customer service. According to Christensen, customers are usually motivated to make a purchase in order to get a specific job done, rather than by their demographic characteristics.

“We’re breaking down cubes and removing aggregates so you can reorganize on the fly,” said Christensen. “You can respond to jobs that customers need to get done and arrange your organization around processes that give the customers what they need.”


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Family Dollar adopts poison pill after Icahn raises stakes

BY CSA STAFF

Activist investor Carl Icahn on Friday reported a 9.4% stake in Family Dollar, making him the company’s largest shareholder and prompting concerns of a hostile takeover.

Family Dollar has responded by adopting a one-year shareholder rights plan with a 10% trigger that would prevent any investor from gaining a controlling interest of the company without board approval.

According to the company, the rights plan is not designed to prevent Family Dollar from being acquired, but rather to give the board adequate time to consider any and all alternatives that may be forthcoming as a result of Icahn’s disclosure. The rights plan may be amended, redeemed or terminated by the board at any time prior to being triggered, the company said.

All but one of the company’s directors — Edward Garden — voted in favor of adopting the rights plan.

Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated is acting as financial adviser to Family Dollar and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is acting as legal counsel.

Meanwhile Icahn has responded to Reuters regarding the company’s move, reportedly saying that the Family Dollar poison pill is a “quintessential example” of attorneys “simply earning fees,” adding that the move “puts a damper” on attempts to having a “friendly dialogue” with company executives.

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A global day of giving at American Eagle

BY CSA STAFF

Roughly 1,300 American Eagle Outfitters employees are participating this year in the retailer’s second annual AEO Better World Community Day.

The operator of more than 1,000 stores throughout the U.S. and several international markets developed the community involvement initiative last year as a means to unite employees for a common cause to make a difference at the local level. The company designated Tuesday, June 10 as Better World Day.

“As we embark upon our second annual AEO Better World Day, we are excited to unite so many of our associates across the country and abroad for a truly global day of giving,” said Helga Ying, vp of external engagement and social responsibility at American Eagle Outfitters. “We are committed to continuing our efforts to enrich the communities in which we work, perform and live.”

To date, through the AEO Foundation the company has contributed to charitable causes most relevant to AEO and its customers such as the environment, youth empowerment, education and young women’s health. For example, employees at the company’s offices and stores in Pittsburgh, New York City, and San Francisco, Canada, Mexico, China and Hong Kong will participate in 37 different community projects. Some of the projects include:

Pittsburgh – As part of the Beverly’s Birthdays project, volunteers will assemble and pack birthday cheer bins for homeless children. Beverly’s Birthdays delivers birthday presents to children across 15 shelters in the Pittsburgh region.

New York – During the Beautify East River Park event, 150 volunteers with join forces with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and help get the East River Park ready for the summer season by mulching, weeding and planting in several areas around the park.

San Francisco – Employees will travel to the Slide Ranch in Marin, to volunteer at the non-profit farm and participate in various activities such as cooking, gardening, caring for animals, building fences and more. The mission of Slide Ranch is to connect the Bay Area with farm-based environmental education that focuses on the principles of sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship.

Canada – Associates will partner with the Covenant House Toronto, Canada’s largest homeless agency, to help paint, clean and organize its home, while gardening and planting the rooftop.

Mexico – Associates will work with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature to facilitate training and workshops that will enhance the organization’s ability to better educate the public on protecting the Royal Mexican Eagle.

China – Employees will visit and have lunch with 90 students at the Shanghai School for Deaf-Mute to help understand their living and studies. Each student will receive a t-shirt and pair of AEO jeans.

Hong Kong – Volunteers will create an outdoor mosaic wall at the Sam Shui Natives Association Lau Pun Cheung School. The Sam Shui Natives Association Lau Pun Cheung School is a special school that serves autistic and mildly mental disabled children and teenagers.

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