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Key lessons of a retail solution upgrade project

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Want to execute seamless Omni-channel experience for your customers in your retail business?

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How a brick and mortar retailer has competed successfully against online rivals by implementing a customer centric omni channel strategy.


“Customers today expect a level of convenience that brick and mortar retailers do not meet easily”



Target has been one of the largest US large format brick and mortar retailers present in every state with thousands of brick and mortar stores since the early 20th century, initially struggling to keep up with competition of Amazon. Like many other retailers, Target had a hard time keeping pace with Amazon’s home delivery service and the convenience of the Amazon Prime Pantry functionality, that allowed customers to shop for groceries online with Amazon conveniently, quickly, and getting their orders delivered within 2 hour for free. Customers stopped shopping in stores because shopping in stores meant spending at least 2-3 hours on a weekly basis with a repetitive task that people did not enjoy and preferred to spend that time with their families, friends and not in a store shopping every Saturday.


Target, like many of its peers (K-Mart, Rainbow Foods, Cub Foods), started struggling competing against online competitors such as Amazon. A radical change had to be implemented quickly to avoid going bankrupt.

In 2014, the company has faced multiple challenges: an aggressive over expansion in Canada has strained the company’s financial resources while a highly publicized data security breach has also created negative impact for the retailer’s online business. As a result both CIO and CEO resigned and new leadership has taken over the company.
To tackle financial challenges and aggressive online competition, Target has initiated a bold and radical series of steps to change its business model to be fully immersed in an omni channel engagement with its customers.

As a result, Target’s revenues have increased, contributing to Target being named retailer of the year in 2018 and over performing both expected revenue and target profit figures. Current stock prices reflect well on Target’s performance, especially when comparing the prices to its peers.

What exactly has Target done to implement a seamlessly omni channel strategy that has allowed it to compete so effectively against online competitors such as Amazon? Multiple initiatives all focused on the customer.

Radical change in its stores: Target has chosen to implement a radical change in its stores by essentially converting them into a fulfillment center and a showroom style shopping experience. By doing this Target has gained a warehouse network more extensive than its online competitors, allowing it to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently. By performing this change, Target gained the capacity and ability to fulfill customer demand on multiple channels seamlessly and quickly (home deliver in 2 hours or less, like Amazon, in addition to in-store options as described below), which in turn brought a level of convenience to its customers unparalleled even among online retailers.

Online orders home delivered: Relying on its extensive network of fulfillment centers, Target gained the ability to fulfill and deliver to customers’ homes online orders quickly and efficiently, allowing the retailer to compete with online competitors effectively.
Online orders picked up in store: Customers not only have the choice of ordering online and getting the order delivered to their homes but can also pick the online order up in a store. This is a great choice to people on the road and driving by the store, allowing them to immediately or in very short time pick their order up. The warehouse in the store picks the online order just the same way as home delivery but places the completed pick for pickup. Process does not involve additional complexity but allowed Target to offer something to its customers online retailers never could, effectively out competing its online rivals with a differentiated service.

In store shopping delivered to the car: Customers also have the ability to shop in the store and scan, using their mobile phone or a scanner provided in the store, each item they wish to purchase but not actually carry the scanned items to the cash register. When ready to leave, the shopper checks out on the handheld device and goods purchased are ready to be picked up by car. For the store, the process is not more complex than picking an online order for car pickup, yet for the customer Target offers a new service for convenience not available at its online rivals. Families choose this convenient option to avoid lines at the cash registers but still be able to see and touch and try what they buy, saving time and the effort of pushing a cart through the store.

Traditional in store shopping: Customers still have the ability to shop like they used to: go through the store with a shopping cart, collect goods for purchase and check out at an automated or traditional cash register. Target is opening smaller stores closer to urban centers to reach traditional customers better.

To help customers, Target has also made available real time product availability information for its customers. Target’s website and mobile interface both allow customers to check real-time availability of searched products at stores within a defined range of distance from the customers’ location. Target has also added a cartwheel app designed to make omni channel shopping and communicating with the customer easier by providing a convenient access to weekly ads, coupons, discounts and updates.

By applying innovative ideas and processes supported by technology to deliver on new engagement channels to customers, Target has effectively out-competed its online rivals and has come to dominate the retail space in its markets in its own segment successfully.
To implement such an omni channel customer focused strategy Target had to make radical changes quickly, however the initiatives paid off and have proven that brick and mortar retailers can compete effectively against online competitors, to the degree that online competition has felt the loss of advantage on the online side of retailing and has begun investing in brick and mortar stores (Amazon bought Whole Foods).



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Environmental protection is one of the most important issue of today. Simply looking around, everyone can see and feel the impact we have on our environment.

We believe that by making thinking green a key part of our company culture, we can reduce our environmental footprint.

Quickborn is committed to support sustainability and as first step established a comprehensive recycling program within each of our offices in collaboration with facilities management and city council. Our employees are not only able to extensively recycle waste in our offices but can also collect recyclables from their homes and communities for disposal by facilities that are collaborators for our green initiative.

  • As part of our recycle–reuse–reduce program, Quickborn has provided our teams with reusable products such as water canisters and durable shopping bags to reduce single use plastic waste.
  • Donation of old computer parts and other items to a local partner organization supporting the ethical recycling of electronics has been organized and is accessible for our teams directly.
  • Encouraging green commuting reduces our carbon footprint. By supporting team members to commute using bicycles or electric transportation methods is also part of our program. We provide facilities to park bikes securely and support transportation costs for our team members preferring a green option wherever available.
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Retailers today must have the ability to execute marketing campaigns, communication and loyalty programs efficiently and effectively to engage with a hyper-connected, hyper-informed and very impatient customer. To execute customer engagement successfully, retailers need to centralize and analyze customer data and purchasing history at a mass scale and in a short time.
A good Customer Relationship Management tool will identify prospects and opportunities for driving additional value for the customer and also the retailer by processing and analyzing customer behaviour information and ultimately help retailers retain customers by recommending the most relevant offers. The main objective for the retailer is to better understand the customers, and to involve them in the relationship with the retailer at all stages of their interaction with one another by serving them better: with more relevant offers, timely information and help, but only when appropriate and useful.

You can read our article on Modern Day Customer Engagement here.

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In 2018, we conducted a survey of our customers and a global analysis of the retail market. Our experts have highlighted customer engagement as a key differentiating factor for success among retailers.

Retailers today must have the ability to execute marketing campaigns, communication and loyalty programs efficiently and effectively to engage with a hyper connected, hyper informed and very impatient customer. To execute customer engagement successfully, retailers need to centralize and analyze customer data and purchasing history at mass scale and in short time.

A good Customer Relationship Management tool will identify prospects and opportunities for driving additional value for the customer and also the retailer by processing and analyzing customer behavior information and ultimately help retailers retain customers by recommending the most relevant offers. The main objective for the retailer is to better understand the customers, and to involve them in the relationship with the retailer at all stages of their interaction with one another by serving them better: with more relevant offers, timely information and help, but only when appropriate and useful.

Remember that attracting a new customer costs ten times more effort than keeping an existing customer.

  1. Do we know the target customers accurately and efficiently?
  2. What are current trends?
  3. What are marketing campaigns that work?

These are all questions that need to be analyzed in detail to achieve good client engagement.

Engage social networks to work for retailers: What if satisfied customers talked about their experience to their friends? A retailer's job at this stage will be to provide maximum satisfaction in customer experiences by encouraging and enabling the concept of ambassadors:

  1. To identify and reward the engagement of customers on social networks
  2. To identify and engage the entourage of these customers

Customer Relationship
Means the recording of customer data and their interactions with the brand, for example through

  • their purchases,
  • their returns,
  • their interest in campaigns and promotions,
  • their calls and the resolution of their problems
  • their comments on social networks

All of this data must be recorded, sorted, and stored for analysis and insight.

The management of offers and promotions, personalized or not, the creation of coupons, or simply advertising; can now be targeted smartly, if CRM data is correctly used.
A great novelty is to bring marketing teams into symbiosis with customer relation teams, for example sales teams, customer service teams or digital teams; ideally this is accompanied by a specialized tool that allows a 360° vision of the customer.
The tasks are then simplified and made more reliable by following best practice patterns. The creation of customer segments, through analysis of customer behavior, make it possible to precisely target groups of people for specific messages and campaigns.

Customers must feel engaged. This is mainly done through loyalty programs, with or without a card or other identifying mechanism, which is usually accompanied by rewards of different kinds.
Loyalty options are the "visible and official" part of customer loyalty. Point calculations, loyalty levels, discounts or associated gifts are tracked and appreciated over time.
There are other factors of loyalty:
The customer can also associate with a brand, in the long-term or for a particular event; this is the case when a couple chooses a brand to build their list of wedding gifts.
The customer will also have a feeling of loyalty when their experience is fully omni-channel enabled, allowing them to keep their wish list or shopping basket created on the internet when they enter a brick & mortar store.
Customer loyalty can also be rewarded by social media posts as a brand ambassador.

For each of these functionalities, Data is at the heart of analysis and decision support; a good tool should be powerful and stable and the data should be organized efficiently and the user interface should be easy to navigate, so that teams can easily access the right information at a glance for all channels of engagement.

How can a retailer best select the right tool and easily integrate it into business processes and the existing application environment?

To answer this question one option is the Oracle Retail Customer Engagement Cloud Solution.

Beyond the standard features offered by CRM tools, including visualization of customer records and purchase history; this solution draws our attention to key points:

The business features associated with:

  • Marketing functionalities: offers and promotions, campaigns, coupon management are accessible through targeting by smart lists of customer segments, whether dynamic or static.
  • Loyalty: via management of loyalty cards, gift cards, reward programs and management of wish lists
  • Omni-channel customer journey: the tool makes it possible to coordinate all customer data regardless of channel (store, e-commerce, mobile) and to identify the trends.
  • Analysis: of results by intelligent reporting tools that enable buyers to adapt their offer and further improve the company's turnover.

We also want to highlight the ability to manage franchise operations which enables and manages access to customer information for franchisees based on their store or group of stores.

Other features simplify daily operations such as currency management, duplicate entry management, order and status management, role and privilege management.

Social media features are available to identify customer profiles and gather insights on social networks.

Technical and integration features available on cloud-based solution, along with other features such as the Web service approach, ergonomic configuration, and pre-integrated Oracle Commerce cloud suite for easy combination of payment tools (X-store), e-commerce (OCC), order management (OMS), BI (Retail Insight), make the cloud an ideal technology to deploy quickly with minimal effort and high reliability both for the users and the technical integration into the existing solution landscape.I

If you are interested in seeing or learning more about how a modern customer engagement can improve your retail business results, contact us for a presentation and demonstration of our approach here.

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solution upgrade 1Recently we have completed a merchandising solution upgrade project and have organized a meeting post completion to review lessons learned during the project. This is what our team has fed back on lessons learned. We are sharing our learnings for your benefit, reach out if you would like to get in touch and discuss in more detail these or additional specific points.

The scope and timeline of our project was the Merchandise Operations Management solution suite from Oracle Retail. The end to end project timeline was six months that included all activities from initial planning through full user testing and post-upgrade go-live stabilization.

The project outcome was a success both from timeline and budget perspective: we have completed the project on time, on budget and also on scope. We have also learned many valuable lessons on the way that have proven to be extremely useful in subsequent projects. This is what we have learned:


1.    Management Process Make sure an explicitly defined and agreed/accepted escalation process is defined and created from the very beginning between team members, PM and management on all parties in the project for streamlined communication and escalated issue management when escalation is needed and occurs.

2.    AB testing Make sure that in the project sufficient resources are assigned to manage tasks in an accelerated A/B testing method (two teams, team A and team B, do the iterations of the upgrade test runs in alternation, passing documentation to the passive team which then in turn does the next iteration.

3.    Estimation In estimating effort in duration and man days, make sure you include

a.     Sufficient time duration for all steps like documentation, iterative runs, etc.

b.     Sufficient resources/man days to do A B runs.

c.     Sufficient duration for communication delays depending on number of parties involved in the project. The more parties the longer the total aggregate delay duration in the project.

d.    Sufficient duration for at least 3-5 iterations on testing through all upgrade scripts, this effort turned out to be significantly higher than initially estimated, many many small (and some large) issues had to be ironed out before end to end run was stable for a PRD execution.

4.    Status sharing

a.    Make sure you systematically do daily team standup meeting for entire team so everyone knows who is doing what, who needs to do what (TODO), and what the open issues/TODOs are along with their statuses (make sure everyone in the project team is on the same page).

b.    Keep the meetings short and discuss issues in detail only with people involved, only keep the entire team in the standup as long as it takes to share status.

5.    Communication:

a.     Make sure all communication, internal and external, if done outside of the central issue tracking cloud solution (e.g. on Skype, emails, phone, etc.) get uploaded to WIKI/Issue Tracking Solution to the appropriate article/issue so it does not get lost. This includes everyone updating Tickets/WIKI with up to the end of each day status of what they have done on an issue, what they have tried, (SQLs, source code, results) so if someone takes over the issue, knows what has been done already!

b.    If the client does not use Tickets consistently, then Quickborn logs all issues that come in on non-Ticket channels (on emails, phone calls, SMS-es, etc).

c.    Make sure Oracle is kept in the loop at all times, some issues that come up may need to be escalated to Oracle, having them involved on a continuous basis will significantly decrease their reaction time and consequently project timeline will be protected.

CONCLUSIONsolution upgrade 2

In conclusion, many of the above points seem like a no brainer for an upgrade project but it is hard to see in advance which points will take the most time, be the most critical or failure-prone factor.

Based on our experience from one of these upgrade runs, the above points were top level feedback the team has shared.

The above list of points is not the complete list of learnings nor is the full list of actions taken and considered in an upgrade project.


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