Retailers are now able to track exactly where shoppers navigate within their stores using in-store activity caught on video. This data is also helping retailers identify what ShopperTrak calls "power hours."
Oracle posted a very interesting short thought-piece Wednesday (June 19) about the different ways retail chains do—and should—handle lab strategy. Often labs are pure internal mechanisms, but they are more often the result of a tech acquisition. But the choice of strategies reveals an awful lot about attitudes of senior management. One key point is that management must be willing to accept—and learn from—failures. But if the CEO even thinks of the ultra-valuable data that comes from learning what shoppers will not accept as "a failure," the chain has even bigger problems than it thinks. By looking at the different choices made by Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Staples, Tesco, Wet Seal and Lowe's, Oracle categorizes three IT lab approaches. But how a lab is corporately structured will make little difference if senior management isn't willing to first learn (and to pay a lot for those lessons) and to be open to a future that they may not like. The job of a chain is to adapt to the reality in its market. The job of a dying chain is to cling to its current tactics if the future doesn't look like what it wants it to look like.
All JCPenney (NYSE:JCP) associates will be able to do in-aisle checkout "within one month," the troubled chain's CEO said during an earnings call on Wednesday (Feb. 27). The move comes as 25 percent of sales transactions in the stores are already being done on mobile POS. The 1,100-store chain is also a few months away from going live with a new financial system from Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL, to be followed before the end of the year by merchandising, planning and allocation systems, all of which will replace legacy systems. That's presuming the board's patience with CEO Ron Johnson holds out—unlike most big chains, JCPenney's E-Commerce site isn't doing any better than in-store, and the chain lost $552 million during the last three months.
By November, the 654-store Finish Line sportswear chain will become the first major retailer to have mobile checkout in every one of its stores, just in time for the holidays. But while piloting the system in almost 50 stores, the $1.4 billion Indianapolis chain has had to wrestle with the practical versus the potential. For example, the associate-issued mobile units have full CRM access, so associates are able to review a customer's full purchase history to deliver the best experience. To avoid awkwardness, though, most associates don't access such history until after a sale is completed, when asking for a loyalty card seems natural. "It undermines the strategy," said Finish Line CIO Terry Ledbetter. "But quite frankly, it was hard to imagine how resistant customers would be to telling you who they are. 'You don't need to know who I am,'" he said, adding that the chain is exploring using an opt-in feature on its mobile app that would broadcast to all associates when a customer walks in the store.
Oracle has jumped into an E-Commerce patent fight with guns blazing, asking a court to invalidate patents that have been used to sue Walgreens, Best Buy, Sam's Club, CVS and other large chains in the past year. The lawsuit, filed on June 1, says Oracle's customers are being sued or threatened for using its Web-commerce products, including its live-chat support feature. What's unusual isn't that Oracle is stepping up to defend its customers. It's how the database giant is doing that: by using its initial court filing to list dozens of previous patents that, Oracle says, prove the Patents-in-Suit should never have been issued.
Delia's, a 113-store national apparel chain (stores in 33 states, almost all in malls), is trying to master finding the sales promotion silver lining inside various Web crash clouds. On at least three occasions over the last several months, the chain's site suffered a non-trivial outage. It happens. But Delia's cleverly turned these outages into a marketing opportunity by sending an E-mail to all of its customers, where the chain apologized for the outage and offered to show its sincerity by offering free shipping on all products—but only for a couple of days, if that. It's almost as though this was a promotion that Delia's had always wanted to run and simply used the outages to make it seem more special.
Oracle took an unusual—and an unusually public—stance against the PCI Council this week, arguing that the Council is gathering too much information about data breaches. Oracle's concern? The more data that is gathered, the easier it will be to leak. PCI's current rule "imposes new obligations on vendors that are extraordinary and extraordinarily bad, short-sighted and unworkable. Specifically, PCI requires vendors to disclose—dare we say 'tell all?'—to PCI any known security vulnerabilities and associated security breaches involving VPAs. PCI is asking a vendor to disclose specific details of security vulnerabilities, including exploit information or technical details of the vulnerability and whether or not there is any mitigation available, as in a patch."
A blind call-center worker on April 12 sued a Maryland county government over a job downgrade and pay cut after the county merged its non-emergency call centers but didn't preserve screen-reading...
We've noticed an interesting separation between retail programmers' desire to make transactions happen as quickly as possible and what shoppers notice/care about/experience. As talk of near field communication (NFC) mobile payments approaching reality becomes common, we're wondering how much of the speed conversation is even a little bit meaningful. Some quick context: For years, advocates of NFC (and RFID contactless payment before that) mobile payments have argued that it will be much faster than magstripe. The practical reality is that the time for the transaction processing is pretty much going to be identical—about two seconds—for all of the above. The real difference in time—and there truly is one—has nothing to do with IT, authentication or any other technological issue. It's the practical reality that shoppers tend to keep credit and debit cards buried deep within their wallet/pocketbook, whereas they tend to either have their mobile phone in their hand or in a convenient outer pocket, easily within Bluetooth range. That extends the debate from whether a swipe or a wave is faster to whether the entire mobile payment process is easier and faster because of how people use mobile phones.
J.C.Penney this week became the latest retail chain to serve as poster child for improper retail procedures, which almost all other retailers have done for years. TJX was—and is—the poster child for weak security, when what it was doing wasn't materially different than what plenty of other similarly sized chains did. American Eagle Outfitters is the whipping boy for weak backup procedures. J.C.Penney is now the SEO monster. What all three chains had in common: They were following industry norms, and they were the first big player to get caught doing it.