When Two Systems are a Crowd
The process of retailing across different customer channels has gradually shifted from being called “multichannel” to being called “omnichannel.” This is not a mere semantic change; evolving customer expectations require retailers to not only offer a linked customer experience across different channels, but a seamlessly identical one. Calgary, Alberta-based specialty sporting apparel/merchandise retailer Jersey City found itself facing the need to switch from providing a multichannel customer experience to providing an omnichannel customer experience a couple of years ago.
“A big issue was that we had two systems, one for the Web and one for the stores,” said Ron Pratt, IT director of Jersey City. “All along it has been an issue, but not one worth pursuing until our site got so busy we couldn’t run two separate systems anymore. If we made a change to the back end, it needed to automatically get to the site.”
The company, which in addition to 39 brick-and-mortar stores runs three e-commerce sites (the main company site, as well as a specialty headgear site and a site dedicated to licensed apparel for the Canadian Football League), decided to look for a different way of doing things. In late 2011, it began researching options to rectify what was becoming a serious situation.
“We had two basic options,” Pratt said. “Either find a different retail software provider or find something we could integrate with our existing systems.”
In fall 2012, Jersey City selected CAM Commerce Retail Star, a Java-based platform that supports omnichannel areas of the business, including POS, back office, inventory management, warehouse, distribution center, allocation, e-commerce/ kiosk, and data mining in a single integrated system. The most crucial feature of the CAM Commerce system that drove the selection was its real-time inventory management capabilities, according to Pratt.
“It gave us the ability to use current store inventory for the site,” he explained. “If an item was out of stock at the store, we could remove it from the site. We fill less popular items from the store and more common goods from the warehouse.”
Following a step-by-step implementation plan from CAM Commerce, Jersey City was able to go live with RetailStar, as well as the iCelerant e-commerce hosting solution from Celerant Technology, on its Canadian Football League site.
In addition to allowing store fulfillment of online orders, Jersey City also selected solution features, including a “floating shopping cart” drop-down menu that hovers over a cart at the click of a mouse, customer product reviews, Google and PayPal checkout, and the ability to check the actual shipping rate in real time. Jersey City also leveraged the solution to extend its omnichannel capabilities a little further.
“Stores can use the website as a catalog,” Pratt said. “Associates can show customers items on the site using fixed terminals.”
Pratt said that since going live with RetailStar and iCelerant in June, Jersey City has had better sales on its CFL site, and has also integrated the solution’s functionality into its store on Amazon.com. Other benefits include streamlined back-end operations and improved site usability and navigability for customers.
“We’ll begin rolling out the solution to our next two sites after the holidays,” Pratt said in a final vote of confidence.
Learning and Helping
Of the many reasons retail IT professionals attend the annual National Retail Federation (NRF) Convention & Expo each January in New York City, keeping current with all the latest industry topics and trends is surely at the top. Each year, RetailROI independently offers SuperSaturday, a one-day event held the Saturday before the official Sunday kickoff to the NRF Convention.
This year, SuperSaturday falls on Jan. 11. Held at the PwC Auditorium in New York from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., SuperSaturday brings together top retail analysts and C-level executives to converge on retail trends in marketing, technology, mobile and social media, with all proceeds from vendor sponsorships donated directly to RetailROI. SuperSaturday is the conference before the conference, and in addition to providing valuable data in a forum you won’t find anywhere else, it also provides even more return on hope for some of the world’s most deserving and least advantaged inhabitants. What could be a more profitable way to spend the day?
Learn more about attending and getting involved with SuperSaturday at Retailroi.org/supersaturday.
A Return on Hope
Retailers usually measure the success of project spending by ROI, or “return on investment.” ROI measures how many dollars you get back for every dollar you invest. This is a prudent and necessary way of justifying investment in things like IT systems, facilities and processes.
But not everything of value can be measured by simple dollars and cents. How do you measure the return on hope given to hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged children, both in the United States and around the world?
You can’t, at least not by any conventional means. But many in the retail industry are already well aware of the incredible human return on the efforts of the Retail Orphan Initiative, or RetailROI (Retailroi.org). Since its founding five years ago, RetailROI has helped more than 110,000 orphaned and vulnerable children through education, computers, food and medical care.
RetailROI — Giving Kids a Better Tomorrow
RetailROI is a nonprofit group inspired by the late Paul Singer, former senior VP and CIO for SuperValu and Target Corporation and a champion of adoption initiatives. Singer brought RetailROI to life with the active involvement of IHL Group president Greg Buzek and RetailConnections president Marc Millstein. It brings together retailers, analysts, technology vendors and many others affiliated with the retail and IT industries to devote their time and resources toward both raising awareness and providing real relief and assistance to orphaned and at-risk children all over the world.
Since its founding in 2008, RetailROI has undertaken 69 individual projects aimed at bringing hope to and improving the lives of children who otherwise would be left in dire and even life-threatening circumstances. Just a few of these noteworthy projects include:
- Helping expand Safe Families from 12 to 65 cities in the United States and three in Canada as well as the U.K., providing support and hope to families in crisis;
- Helping 4KIDS grow projects from four to 32 states, with training and support for foster families;
- Rescuing more than 350 girls from human trafficking in Nepal and India;
- Impacting nearly 2,900 adoptive families in the United States with funds and education;
- Building schools in Liberia, with a new school in Haiti currently under construction;
- Building computer labs in Liberia, Honduras, Ethiopia, Zambia and the Dominican Republic, with nine computer labs competed so far;
- Funding clean water projects in Haiti, Liberia, Uganda and Ethiopia;
- Funding children’s homes in Cambodia, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Honduras; and
- Providing more than 1.3 million meals in famine/relief areas and for orphans, through RetailROI and partners.
While stories circulate of how in some cases more than 90% of money donated to certain charities goes toward salaries and more fundraising, RetailROI ensures that there is a true monetary return on investments made in its efforts, as well. More than 94% of the funds raised by RetailROI in the past five years have been used in direct support of charities that provide hands-on relief around the world for orphan care, adoption relief, foster care support and rescue of children from human trafficking.
Rose Spicer, senior director of Oracle Retail Marketing, knows firsthand of the positive impact RetailROI has on both the recipients and participants of its efforts.
“In October 2008 I partnered with Paul Singer to create a platform for his personal passion for orphans and adoptions,” said Spicer. “We combined a case study with his personal mission at Oracle OpenWorld 2008. That keynote speech created a spark and divinely inspired action to create the RetailROI initiative. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this amazing initiative and everything that our entire retail community has given toward the success.”
Of course, “retail” is the key to RetailROI, and countless retailers have also dedicated their time and money toward RetailROI initiatives. Randy Cucerzan, senior director of IT/ enterprise services of footwear and apparel retailer Genesco, offered some thoughts on how being a part of RetailROI changed his life for the better.
“In just five short years, RetailROI has impacted the lives of thousands of orphans and economically disadvantaged children in the U.S. and around the world,” Cucerzan said. “Through donations and services, vol unteers have helped schools by offering their skills, business acumen and advice, as well as through donations of goods and supplies. I am proud to have been a part of RetailROI these past five years and have received back much more from participating than I have ever given.”
The analyst community is also heavily involved with RetailROI, as evidenced by the testimonial of Jeff Roster, research VP of Gartner. Roster also describes how his whole family has had their lives changed by engaging in RetailROI initiatives.
“My involvement in RetailROI has been life changing, both professionally and personally,” Roster said. “I’ve had a chance to work with the brightest minds in retail working to help some of the most desperate and vulnerable people on the planet. I’ve been fortunate to see my two teenagers thrive in a Honduran jungle while distributing aid. There are literally no words that adequately describe what this organization has meant to the Roster clan.”
Retail is all about the exchange of goods for currency. But RetailROI flips that equation around by making “good” the currency which keeps hope flowing for disadvantaged children and those who help them. That’s a return on investment with dividends that keep paying and paying.