The Crunch: Despite the notion that brick-and-mortar retail is in crisis as customers move toward online shopping, the vast majority of retail sales still happen in-store. But as customers increasingly want to move back and forth between online and in-store channels, Oracle Retail has positioned itself as a solutions provider that can build infrastructure to custom fit the unique needs of businesses. Consumers have come to expect retailers to blend the experiences seamlessly, and Oracle Retail can help transition resources toward building the smooth and personalized customer journeys that lead to conversions and repeat business.
Why is Amazon so popular? It’s a good question, and Jeff Warren has a great answer.
Jeff is VP of Retail Strategy & Solutions Management at Oracle, the global enterprise cloud computing provider. His focus is Oracle Retail, one of seven global business units Oracle has created to address the specific needs of business verticals.
Oracle Retail partners with nearly 6,000 firms worldwide to help them anticipate shifts in their markets, operate more effectively and deliver the seamless omnichannel experiences today’s consumers expect.
“The thing about Amazon is they’ve set the bar in creating an expectation of predictability around their brand. They emphasize the customer first in absolutely everything they do,” Jeff said. “It’s easy for customers to find something and purchase it at Amazon, and they know Amazon will deliver it on the timeline they expect — without question. They also know that if there’s ever an issue, returns are easy — just put it in a box and send it back.”
With Amazon setting such a high bar, one might wonder how traditional retailers can compete.
“So, this is where the fun begins,” Jeff said. “In North America today, 84% of retail sales still happen in-store. Why? Because physical stores actually have a huge advantage in retail. That’s the component the retailer needs to leverage and where Oracle Retail can help.”
Oracle Retail’s research suggests that consumers around the globe are converging on a set of expectations around omnichannel retail experiences. In Retail in 4 Dimensions, a report on its recent survey of 15,000 consumers worldwide, the firm finds shoppers are open to new technology but also want to retain a personal touch with brands.
They’re comfortable shopping online, but they also want to visit that familiar store down the street. They want to touch and feel the merchandise, chat with sales associates, and return items without hassling with the mail. And, no matter what path they take on their journey across shopping channels, they want their preferences remembered and their loyalty appreciated.
Shopping experiences need to fit into consumers’ lives, not the other way around.
The issue, Jeff said, is not whether retailers need to deliver an omnichannel experience — it’s how they go about it. They can either consume their own limited resources and build what they need from scratch, he said, “or they can work with experts who live and breathe these types of transformations every day.”
Customized Solutions to Meet a Variety of Retailer Use Cases
Retailers come to Oracle with different problems to solve. Some are looking for point solutions to meet specific challenges while others need a more holistic approach. When it comes to Oracle Retail, the retailer can begin where they have the biggest business need.
Louis Vuitton sought out Oracle Retail when the company needed to simplify its operations on a global level. The high-end fashion house and luxury retailer got its start in mid-19th-century Paris but now trades across channels in 64 countries. The company needed to unify its guest experience and empower its associates with customer intelligence.
“They had a choice,” Jeff said. “They could either assemble bits and pieces and put it all together themselves or go with a more comprehensive approach, so they chose Oracle Retail.”
Louis Vuitton runs Oracle Commerce to achieve a cross-channel customer view, and Oracle Retail Xstore Point-of-Service to simplify and standardize the in-store experience its associates provide no matter where they work and where their customers come from.
To facilitate intelligent inventory fulfillment decisions — both online and in-store — Louis Vuitton uses Oracle Order Broker Cloud Service. Associates can access inventory information in real time and choose between different fulfillment methods to complete transactions the most cost-effectively.
The point-solution use case is also prevalent in today’s North American grocery industry, where firms are responding to Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods by putting more emphasis on their own profitable private-label businesses. But most are not set up to accomplish the transition expediently.
“We have a point solution for that,” Jeff said. “Grocers can leverage the Oracle Cloud to get their private labels up and running within a couple of months.”
Solving Today’s Top Retail Challenges for Consumers & Employees
Oracle Retail’s services are designed to work together in a myriad of ways to drive innovation and inspire brand loyalty.
More than 55 on-premise and 30 cloud services help businesses anticipate consumer preferences, simplify their operations, and inspire employee and customer engagement by facilitating seamless integration between systems — like customer relationship, order management, and loss prevention.
Retailers can execute supply-chain management strategies with collaborative tools that inspire consumer trust and encourage repeat business. They can empower managers with planning and optimization tools that enable views of performance, market, and vendor data without increasing overhead.
Merchandising and IT teams can work with purpose-built applications, reducing implementation times and lowering total cost of operation. Associates can access point-of-service systems that offer omnichannel inventory visibility and personalization for the customer.
“We have a saying: Omnichannel excellence requires operational discipline,” Jeff said. By partnering with Oracle Retail, a retailer can leverage the best practices and apply the discipline by giving teams what they need so they can provide customers with what they want.
Achieve Omnichannel Excellence with a Single View of the Customer
Whatever path a retailer takes through Oracle’s suite of solutions, personalization of the customer experience is always the goal.
As the ways in which customers interact with retailers grow more complex, their desire to feel truly engaged with brands becomes stronger, as well. They want to receive unique offers that speak to their preferences and reward their engagement.
“When a customer comes into the store or visits online or via mobile, you want to know who they are and how they’ve interacted with you. You want to recognize them appropriately. A lot goes into providing the framework for that kind of experience.” — Jeff Warren, VP of Retail Strategy & Solutions Management at Oracle
When they visit a physical store, they expect to see the same product selection they saw at home on the web and to be known and understood in the same way they are online.
Oracle Retail’s solutions offer a firm backbone of operational systems to give retail associates a single view of the customer. “When a customer comes into the store or visits online or via mobile, you want to know who they are and how they’ve interacted with you,” Jeff said. “You want to recognize them appropriately. A lot goes into providing the framework for that kind of experience.”
Re-Evaluate Your IT & Operational Investments to Focus on Value
Brick-and-mortar retailers have distinct advantages over online-only businesses — even Amazon — they just need to focus on cost-effectively addressing the consumer experience. Businesses that work with Oracle Retail find they can repurpose IT spend by automating routine processes that don’t increase consumer value or engagement so they can concentrate on the things that do.
“Retail is under cost pressure,” Jeff said. “One of the most common conversations I’m having with the retail C-Suite is about how they can actually create capacity for innovation.”
That’s where the opportunity of the cloud and standardizing business processes becomes critical. “Now the retailer can take their operations investment that has been locked up in the cost of running and maintaining these applications, and refocus it around getting value from them,” Jeff said.
The consequences of changing that orientation will be profound. As Retail in 4 Dimensions makes clear, consumers are more willing to give their personal information to retailers who can offer a reward in return. They’re eager to give their loyalty to retailers who can keep up with them on their increasingly complicated journeys to conversion. They appreciate retailers who can offer flexibility and are open to trying new ways of engaging with products when trusted retailers introduce them.
The retailers that will win the customers of the future are the ones that can accomplish the necessary integrations most readily and efficiently.
“Our job at Oracle is to translate these fascinating insights around consumer sentiment into processes so we can get retailers out in front of their consumers to be able to meet and exceed those expectations,” Jeff said.