The Sentimental Approach
If you really want to know what people think about you, you need to find out what they say behind your back. Historically this has been a tricky proposition, but the advent of social media provides an open forum where companies as well as individuals can check to see what is being said, and whether the commentary is good or bad.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., the 550-plus-store, Pittsburgh-based retailer of athletic equipment and apparel, leverages hosted technology from social intelligence provider newBrandAnalytics to monitor relevant consumer “chatter” on various social networks.
“Within social media, there is a lot of information, and different ways to get a better sense of customer sentiment,” said Ryan Eckel, VP brand marketing of Dick’s Sporting Goods. “It complements our internal survey perspective.”
newBrandAnalytics provides a hosted, customized social intelligence platform that uses natural language processing and machine- learning capabilities to obtain contextual and inferred meaning from social comments, which are often casual, colloquial and even sarcastic. The machine-learning capabilities allow the solution to become more proficient at detecting and analyzing relevant commentary as time goes on.
“We get the meaning with a high degree of confidence it’s accurate,” Eckel said.
Dick’s Sporting Goods was not actively seeking a social monitoring solution when newBrandAnalytics contacted the company in early 2013 to explain its technology, according to Eckel.
“There was no RFP, but it sounded interesting enough to take a meeting,” he recalled. “We hadn’t identified a need but decided we’d listen.”
Seeing the potential value of newBrandAnalytics’ offering, Dick’s Sporting Goods began working with the vendor in May 2013 for a short run-up to launch of the platform in July 2013.
“We prepared the data for a week or so to figure out the right way to look at it for our organization,” Eckel said. “We push all social media data through the software to analyze it. We can look at brand sentiment and how specific regions or locations are performing.”
The highly scalable, multi-tenant custom platform is hosted with Rackspace and features an HTML5-based front end. While Dick’s typically checks data on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis to compare against previous trends, the company can pull data at any time for real-time analysis and reaction.
“What we’ve been seeing is no massive surprise, but it gives us more color behind our quantifiable data,” Eckel explained.
Different data, such as commercial chatter and customer service chatter, is applied to different parts of the business. In addition, since initial rollout Dick’s has been customizing social media data for use by other departments besides marketing. Areas such as operations and human resources are now receiving custom data sets for their own use, and Dick’s plans to continue expanding this program for other departments, as well.
“The highest utility is on the brand side,” concluded Eckel. “We look at native chatter and how it can drive brand sentiment. We are making this part of our corporate culture, which is to be as insightful as possible.”
Having the potential for growth that exceeds the capability of your existing systems is a good problem to have, but it is still a problem. Groupe Dynamite, a fast-fashion women’s apparel retailer based in Montreal, faced that very challenge in early 2010.
“We had a highly customized legacy environment and a strategic plan to go global that were not congruent,” said Ian Booler, senior director business transformation and project management, Groupe Dynamite, which operates 300 stores under the Garage and Dynamite banners in North America and the Middle East. “We needed to invest in a new technology platform to get to another level.”
Fast Fashion, Methodical Rollout
With the assistance of Deloitte, Groupe Dynamite conducted a one-year analysis of its retail enterprise environment, and narrowed platforms down to Oracle and a couple of other retail enterprise vendors. According to Booler, the company selected Oracle Retail because it was the most adaptable to the specific requirements of the fast-fashion vertical and had a proven integration path to the TradeStone and MID allocation software applications, which were already deeply embedded in the best-of-breed framework at Groupe Dynamite.
Groupe Dynamite signed a licensing agreement with Oracle in June 2011, and in November 2011 selected Tech Mahindra as an integration partner. The two companies spent the next three months developing an integration and design blueprint, while Deloitte helped Groupe Dynamite scale its Manhattan Associates warehouse management system for the new, improved enterprise environment.
Detailed design then took until November 2012, when Groupe Dynamite started unit testing and then integration testing that lasted until April 2013, followed by an intensive round of user acceptance testing in the summer to ensure the platform would properly integrate with all applications and financial systems used by the organization.
In September 2013, Groupe Dynamite was finally ready to run two pilots — one on the Oracle Commerce platform for the launch of its Dynamite banner’s transactional website, with links to its existing Manhattan Associates warehouse management system, and another pilot focused on the distribution of store supplies using the Oracle Retail Merchandising System (RMS).
All Systems Go
Pilot results for the Commerce site included a tripling of forecasted sales volume on the Dynamite site and confirmed ability to accurately ship and receive goods in both retail stores and customer locations. In February 2014, Groupe Dynamite cut over all its retail and franchise stores to the new Oracle environment. Groupe Dynamite has also rolled out a shared online shopping cart for the Groupe Dynamite and Garage e-commerce sites, and is currently piloting Oracle Retail Point of Service (POS).
The new SOA platform has allowed for real-time integration of some key applications and increased transaction volume capabilities, with allocation message volume rising from 20,000 daily messages to 100,000 daily messages, as well as the ability to process them in real time.
“Once we roll out Oracle POS, we will have a real-time view of inventory at the distribution center and in the Store Inventory Management (SIM) system,” said Booler. “The Oracle Commerce platform now provides our customers with the ability to look up in-store inventory from all parts of the enterprise. With the Oracle POS, the stores’ inventory will be updated in a near real-time basis.”
Retailers are taking advantage of the mobile channel for an increasing number of activities, including personalized marketing, in-store traffic monitoring and customer recognition. However, while using the mobile channel to create temporary POS stations might be less flashy than some of these other applications, letting customers “surf” between fixed and mobile POS terminals can be an effective means of improving both the customer experience and store profitability.
A Night at the Opera
“We use temporary mobile POS stations both in the gift shop and more frequently in the opera house during performances,” said Hope Van Winkle, director of merchandising for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. “Our season runs from September to May, and we have the American Ballet Theatre in the summer for six days a week. There are tables in the house selling merchandise related to the performance that are essential, but not permanent. They go up and down nightly.”
Metropolitan Opera has been using temporary mobile POS terminals to ease sales at the temporary tables and also reduce crowding in the gift shop since 2008. In 2012, the retailer switched to a mobile solution based on Motion Computing CL910 Slate Mate hardware and Celerant Command POS software. This solution provides Metropolitan Opera with a single view of inventory across all channels, which it previously lacked.
“We have two mobile POS stations in the house and two in the store,” Van Winkle explained. “It has improved the customer experience because we don’t have more fixed stations where they are purchasing goods. The gift shop is small and gets packed during ‘go in’ before a performance; mobile checkout helps ease long lines. When you’re buying something you want it done. The customers love it.”
Metropolitan Opera is pleased enough with its POS “channel surfing” during peak times that it is continuing to look at opportunities to expand its use of mobile POS within the opera house.
“We are looking at ways to use mobile POS more efficiently,” Van Winkle added. “We’re planning on relocating the fixed registers in the gift shop. It would be nice not to have them at all.”