Oracle’s retail technology is well suited to today’s rapidly changing market.
“Retail is at an incredible inflection point right now,” says Vince Beacom, group vice president, Oracle Retail. According to Beacom, the collapse of consumer spending meant that retailers had to make their supply chains more efficient and their workers more productive. At the same time, consumer-based technologies such as social networking and mobile computing began to reach critical mass.
Smart retailers have learned to see technology as a way to become more effective, rather than just as a cost center, Beacom says. And Oracle Retail’s experienced team is well positioned to help them keep up with the rapidly changing market. “We’re a bunch of ex-retailers who can leverage all the Oracle technology to make retailers better retailers with the technology,” he says.
Here, Beacom answers questions submitted by Profit readers through Twitter. Find out what he has to say about how Oracle helps retailers connect with today’s customers.
@rtouchpoints: How is the adoption of smartphones and mobile apps affecting the way shoppers educate themselves?
Beacom: One of the trends we’re seeing is retailers looking to put tools in the hands of customers that basically empower them. Customers want to be empowered in their shopping experience. When you go onto a Website, the assortments are completely tailored to you based on what you’ve clicked. When you go into a store, it’s just not like that. And I think mobile’s going to be a way to bridge the online world and the bricks-and-mortar world.
For example, clothing retailer Wet Seal has an app that a teenage girl can put on her iPhone. When she shops at the store, she can build outfits on her phone and then get access to all the collective intelligence of Wet Seal’s Facebook community to figure out what she should be buying.
But you want to make sure you don’t disappoint customers. That’s why we connected that application to the back end of an Oracle inventory system. So, if that teenage girl sees a cool denim skirt, she will only get recommendations for coordinating blouses if they’re in stock at the particular store where she shops.
@ocp_advisor: Does Oracle have a point-of-sale [POS] solution for retail?
Beacom: We believe we have the number-one POS solution in the world. Some fantastic brands run our solution, such as Best Buy, Kinko’s, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Unlike most POS solutions, it’s written on a very modern architecture. It’s J2EE-based, and because the whole thing is built on a SOA, it is very extensible and open, so it can fit companies’ unique processes.
We’ve actually deployed our POS on an Apple iTouch, and customers are starting to roll out that solution. One is Victoria’s Secret, which sees seasonal spikes in business. Say they only have six registers in a store—but around Valentine’s Day, they’d like 25. With our POS on an iTouch, every store associate can have one, with a scanner built right into it. They can help customers shop, and then check them out right there.
@caro_coldplay: What’s Oracle’s vision for retail in Latin America?
Beacom: For the past four years, Latin America has been one of our fastest-growing retail markets, particularly in Mexico and Brazil. Core to our strategy for entering a new region is our customers’ success. Lowe’s expansion into Mexico went live last spring. Grupo Pão de Açúcar, the largest supermarket chain in Latin America, prioritized supply chain as the highest value for phase one and has successfully gone live. It has been exciting to see OXXO, the largest convenience store chain in Latin America, grow and succeed.
Brazil presents a huge opportunity. It has a burgeoning middle class, and we’re beginning to see the expansion of consumer credit. Anytime retailers are going through that kind of growth, they’re outgrowing the systems that they have. To enjoy the benefits of economies of scale, they generally centralize a lot of their processes, like merchandising, and look for efficiencies in their supply chain. And all of that is generally enabled by software.
Thank you to readers from Mexico, India, the U.S., and beyond who asked questions through Twitter.
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