Thursday, April 26, 2012

Venda Expands Partnership with Digby

Digby, a leader in cross-channel mobile engagement and commerce, has expanded its agreement with Venda, a leader in convergent commerce, to leverage the Digby Localpoint Mobile Platform to help Venda eCommerce enabled retailers take full advantage of mobile engagement across all channels with a specific focus on brick and mortar stores.

The original partnership, formed in 2010, was initially focused on enabling the mobile channel for Venda eCommerce customers so that consumers could easily search, browse and buy through a mobile optimized website or rich app anytime and anywhere. Through this agreement, many top brands have been mobilized, including: Abbot Nutrition, Accessorize, Awear, Tesco Clothing, Heals, M & Co, Monsoon, Superdrug, and Wilkinson Plus. Now, Venda and Digby are helping brands leverage the power of location, marketing and Web-style analytics for the physical retail store, all through the retailer’s branded mobile experience.

“Through the Digby Localpoint Mobile Platform, Venda eCommerce enabled retailers now have the tools to build a direct connection with their customers based on their location, delivering valuable offers that drive customers to their stores, engage with them while in the store and enable brands to learn more about how to serve them better," said Dave Sikora, President and CEO of Digby. “Venda is a great partner and together, we look forward to helping brands achieve their strategic convergent commerce goals.”

Key components of the Digby Localpoint Mobile Platform from Venda include:
  • Analytics – Localpoint Analytics deepens the understanding of mobile consumer behavior around and within specific locations. It provides web-style analytics on brand and consumer engagement within the store so brands can, for the first time, gain valuable insight into these in-store behaviors to serve their customers better in the future.
  • Outreach – Localpoint Outreach enables brands to directly communicate through their app to drive loyal customers to specific locations with regional or local promotions. Brands can send unique "Deal of the Day" offers that are time and location sensitive where it is most logical for consumers to receive them – close to where they work, live and play.
  • Venue – Localpoint Venue influences consumers with triggered promotional offers and messages on entry, exit, and during their visit. Brand campaigns can be sent upon using the app when locating a store, checking in, scanning a UPC/QR code, searching for a product, rating a product, and even watching a product video.
  • Storefront – Localpoint Storefront is based on Digby’s long and successful history of providing the best-in-class mobile shopping experience for more than 50 top brands so consumers can easily search browse and buy when at home, mobile, and in the store.
“Mobile has become a strategic part of what retail brands want and need,” said Eric Abensur, Group Chief Executive of Venda. “Through this partnership with Digby, we are in a position of strength to help our eCommerce retail customers fully embrace mobile and engage with their customers on a whole new level, driving store traffic, loyalty and sales.” The timing of this new expanded agreement lines up well with industry trends. According to a recent survey by eDigitalResearch and IMRG, 40% of U.K. consumers using a smartphone while shopping ultimately made a purchase in-store, online or via mobile.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Digby's Localpoint Mobile Platform

When customers walk into a maurices store to check out the latest fashions, they can now also check in with their smartphones. The retailer has introduced a new branded mobile app to help them enhance their customer’s in-store shopping experience.

The app, introduced by AT&T and developed using Digby’s Localpoint™ Mobile Platform, allows the retailer to set virtual perimeters around their stores. Once a customer has the app on their smartphone, maurices can send the shopper timely messages and offers via a push notification, alerting the user to noteworthy news about the specific store location as soon as they enter the store. Shoppers can also use the app to scan product barcodes in the store, allowing them to read product descriptions, ratings and reviews.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Liberty of London Implements Smart Inventory Control

A recent challenge for Liberty of London was to maintain a core SKU offering and sell short runs of original merchandise across multiple sales channels. This was difficult because a customer may secure a last piece online but the item could still be on the shelf in the London-based store where a SKU could be sold to a retail customer. The company was sensitive to the Web customer's expectation: they have placed an order based on the assumption they will receive it. 
To address these challenges, Liberty of London selected MNP (Salisbury, UK) to provide real-time inventory management for the direct channels and interface with the company's Pro Logic merchandising solution, BT Expedite, and BT Fresca eCommerce platform. MNP's ActiveSeries suite is also used to centralize customer information to help enable a marketing team to drive further sales following analysis from the buying history of customers.

MNP provides enterprise retailing solutions through its ActiveSeries platform, which specializes in multichannel  sales for inventory management, order management, CRM, and customer services.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

hybris introduces Omni Commerce Connect (OCC) with hybris 4.6

hybris software, a global eCommerce solution provider with order management and inventory functionality, is dedicated to enabling commerce for new markets, platforms, devices, and services as well as supporting innovation and agility critical for business success in today's multichannel world. Forward-looking enterprises struggle with fragmented commerce infrastructures, development of mobile apps, enabling customers to buy products via social media, and even selling products on Internet-enabled TVs.

In response, hybris has included Omni Commerce Connect (OCC) in its new 4.6 version release. hybris OCC offers a broad set of commerce and data services which enable you to use and leverage the complete hybris Multichannel Suite functionality anywhere in your or your business partners’ existing application landscape. hybris OCC allows new or existing hybris customers to quickly commerce-enable new touch points and new channels without lengthy and costly IT cycles.

Key benefits of OCC include:
  • Extending your existing commerce infrastructure with plug-and-play integration and adding new touch points, such as smart phones and tablets, without lengthy and IT-intensive programming cycles.
  • Reuse of commerce processes and data to speed and streamline development so you can get innovations to market quickly.
  • Easily making commerce processes and data available to third-party developers to maximize allocation of development resources.
  • Extended SOLR-based search and navigation capabilities to facilitate merchandising to improve the customer experience and increase conversion rates.
  • Out-of-the-box integration with Google Commerce Search to maximize customer conversions.
Click HERE for more information.

Budding Business’ Online Store Survives Shark Tank During Primetime TV Appearance

Tower Paddle Boards, an online store based in San Diego, CA, powered by Volusion’s eCommerce platform, was recently featured on ABC’s primetime TV show, Shark Tank, landing a partnership with billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban.

Tower’s growing online business specializes in selling stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) to customers around the globe. Selling direct allows Tower to sell a $1200 retail SUP for under $700.

Less than a year after starting their online store, sales had taken off and Tower was selected to be on ABC's primetime TV show, Shark Tank, to pitch to a renowned panel of investors. The show filmed in July of 2011, and billionaire Mark Cuban offered to invest $150,000 for a 30 percent stake in Tower Paddle Boards. Cuban also negotiated for a first right of refusal to invest in any business that Aarstol raised money for in the future (this was a first for the show). That deal closed in November of 2011, and Aarstol had to keep the deal a secret for nine months as the show didn't air until March 16, 2012 to over 6 million people.

Volusion helped Tower prepare for the onslaught of traffic. For the show, Tower upgraded to one semi-dedicated server plus another dedicated server with load balancing between the two, and also installed a splash page upfront to ease the burden on the database.

"Getting airtime on a #1 hit show like Shark Tank is notorious for crashing Websites. Tower Paddle Board's site withstood the rush just fine.” noted Cuban.

Tower did more business in the 72 hours following the show than they did in the first six months in business. Within weeks of the show airing, Aarstol wrote Mark Cuban his first dividend check for $50,000 (a 33 percent return on his investment in 120 days from funding). Overall, Tower's business has tripled in the last year, and in 2012, they're on pace to reach $1.5 million in sales.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Agile Business Intelligence

[The first part of this post was produced for MultiChannel Merchant magazine in conjunction with its Operations Summit, Memphis, May 2-3, 2012.]

It has never been easy getting reporting and analysis tools into multichannel environments that satisfy all the potential users. Some of this is a data issue, some of it reflects varying users’ needs, but most of it, especially recently, is a reflection of how fast the business landscape keeps changing.

Data Challenges
The data issues are easily described though difficult to resolve. There are at least three major types of data that need to be accounted for: transaction data (related to sales and orders), marketing data (related to offers and campaigns), and accounting and financial data (related to payments, discounts, refunds, credits, and so on). And of course this data comes from multiple channels.

Within each of these categories are subcategories. The transaction data, for instance, includes data on inventory, which can actually be a subset in itself, related not only to SKUs but vendors, items on-order, returned items, etc. Marketing data includes promotion codes and source codes, and is also directly related to accounting data because the prices paid by customers using offers will affect revenues in an obvious way.

Taking into account how all of these various types of data need to be coordinated for reporting and analysis purposes is a job that demands interdisciplinary rigor and a clear idea of what each constituency of users wants and needs.

Understanding the User
Which brings us to the second challenge. Marketer evaluating campaigns need to look at response rates, but they also often need to look at items ordered. So they need both transaction data and “marketing” data. And they will want to look at item returns, as well, which is more transaction data, but a subset of it. And if they are looking at the impact of free shipping and handling, they are going to want to see financial data.

The complexity of doing this probably obvious. And let’s not forget that even among marketers, what one wants to see isn’t necessarily what another really wants.

In addition, between user sets there can be incompatible frameworks, such as a 12-month marketing calendar but a 13-month retail calendar.

For reasons such as these, most organizations decided quite a while ago to just dump data into spreadsheets and let each user do their own thing.

This works fairly well if the organization is small. But when you have more than a half dozen or so people doing their own thing, you quickly run into apples and oranges comparisons, which everyone knows can be misleading and dangerous.

“Dashboards” used to be a popular alternative, having a unified data set that let everyone pick and choose their own versions of how to see the data. But these are limited, as is standard “OLAP,” which is a drill-down type of analysis that relies on pre-set data parameters, which is also somewhat limiting.

Getting Agile
For reasons like these, the new hot trend is something called “agile analysis,” based on the concept of “agile programming,” which says that the best way to develop a system is to work closely with its users to get feedback at multiple and frequent checkpoints.

Agile Business Intelligence, or Agile BI, is a reflection of what David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center, calls the “changing shape of knowledge.” The impact of the Internet in driving information, and the effects of the ever-evolving Social Web, mean that the Internet is no longer an environment of linked pages but more like a mash-up of rich applications. And the impact of Social Media will only continue to add velocity, density, and volume to the data analysis mix.

Agile BI must reflect these changes, allowing decision-specific applications to be joined together to form flexible and evolutionary BI platforms, some of which may even be embedded in transactional or other applications. And as requirements change, transactional or analytical applications can be added, removed, or updated quickly because they don’t require an assessment of their impact on a universal “single version of the truth” data model that prevailed in the pre-Web dark ages.

Most of the agile BI solutions are or will be Web-based, but that’s not the critical element. What is essential is the ability to rapidly source information, connect it to other information in both a tightly and loosely integrated fashion, and quickly connect BI applications and platforms together. This is the combination that will be critical in meeting rapidly changing reporting and analysis requirements in the ever more fluid multichannel environment.

Agile BI Solutions
"Agile BI Out Of The Box" by Boris Evelson, a Forrester report produced for for Business Process Professionals, references and profiles the following Agile BI solution providers, which I am listing here for your to follow up on:

Balanced Insight
Composite Software
Oracle Endeca
IBM Cognos AAF
SAP NetWeaver BW

This is a very mixed bag of recommendations, but the report offers a good comparison chart to help you narrow down which solutions are likely to be best for your situation.

Mr. Evelson recommends not taking a headlong plunge into Agile BI, but to test the waters first with a project or two to get the hang of it and provide a "Proof of Concept" for your organization. Excellent advice!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Cyber Hacks: Which Analogy Applies?

The state of the art in dealing with cyber hacking is that it is inevitable, and that "damage mitigation" is the best that security specialists can ultimately do to protect your proprietary data and customer info, etc. See for example the article in Dark Reading via Information Week.

I will have more to say on this in future posts, but I think we can actually learn a lot about the likely future on data security from historical real-world analogies. For instance, if cyber security is now in its "Wild Wild West" phase, then we can anticipate that eventually the state of the art will evolve so that platforms, databases, programming tools, datacomm, and other elements in the data management ecosphere will become much more security-oriented and that a layered version of "law enforcement" will replace the shoot-em-up, every man for himself, outlaw-ridden cyber reality we live in now.

On the other hand, we could be in for a kind of Afghanistan situation, which for centuries has been ungovernable, ridden with tribal feuds, and vulnerable to spawning/tolerating groups like the Taliban, with no hope in sight for changing this reality. That would be a grim vision, indeed.

There are other socio-political analogies possible, such as Europe in the 20th century, which fought two horrendous internecine wars and spent the last half of the century trying to unify, at least economically, in a federated, peaceful environment, but seems to have built a ship that is leaking badly and could still sink.

And on and on. But the cyber security scenario of today WILL evolve. What's your version of the best historical analogy for where it may be headed?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Oracle Blog on Security

Mary Ann Davidson, Oracle’s Chief Security Officer, writes a very insightful blog that often covers PCI and data security issues from a compelling perspective. I recommend it highly!
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