December 17, 2004

WM Canada Picks Radiant

This is a fantastic contract for Radiant:

Radiant Communications Corp. (www.radiant.net), one of Canada's largest independent providers of IP-based data communications and Internet services, announced today that Wal-Mart Canada has selected the Company's IP telecommunications network for their online, digital, photo processing services.

"In order to provide our customers with the best online photo processing service for their digital photos, we require an IP network provider who delivers a high level of service," said Tony Hugens, Wal-Mart's Business Development Manager PhotoCentre On-Line.

Wal-Mart Canada selected Radiant for high-speed DSL services in all 30 of its district offices, as well as its in-store photo labs. Wal-Mart conducted a successful, 15-store, pilot program for online photo processing services in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Posted by Kevin at 10:38 AM

December 11, 2004

walmart.com Outage

Last Wednesday, walmart.com experienced outages and sluggishness:

Walmart.com spokeswoman Amy Colella acknowledged www.walmart.com experienced availability problems Wednesday morning, but she characterized them as "minor issues" that affected the site briefly and have since been resolved. "We confirmed that customer transactions weren't affected and the site is now up and running," she said.

She declined to be more specific about what caused the problem, which she described as "isolated."...

Checks by two IDG News Service service staffers in two different U.S. locations at around 3:40 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time found www.walmart.com unavailable. Several minutes later the site seemed to be working normally again.

The performance problems at www.walmart.com seem much less serious than the ones that affected Amazon's Web site Monday. Godskind said.

Sluggishness or outages at online storefronts are critical for online retailers, particularly during the holiday season, hurting not only sales volume but also customer satisfaction and confidence.

UPDATE: Walmart.com adopted a new software/analytics tool to help it deal with peak loads:
By using RealiTea to view the clickstreams that may lead to the system-unavailable messages, retailers are able to identify where the need to tweak their infrastructure to support higher traffic volumes to keep pages loading as intended, Galat says.

Retailers will also use the analytics tool to monitor shopping carts and other crucial site features, he adds. The RealiTea system can be set to alert a merchant, for example, whenever 10 or more shoppers per hour abandon a shopping cart after having carted $100 worth of products.

Analysis of those customers� shopping sessions might reveal, for instance, that several of them abandoned the cart after clicking on information on inventory availability. Further analysis might then find that the inventory system itself was not properly updating product-availability information, Galat says.

Posted by Kevin at 2:01 PM

December 9, 2004

RFID Blog!

On her RIFD blog, Anita Campell has an interesting post on how suppliers are rushing to meet Wal-Mart's RFID requirements:

CIO Magazine's "Tag, You're Late" suggests that many suppliers subject to Wal-Mart's RFID mandate are not ready to meet the mega-retailer's January deadline. They'll do the least amount they can in the near term to meet Wal-Mart's requirements.

This is no surprise to most observers. But seeing the story being reported through anonymous sources is very telling about those sources' state of mind...

It's going to take longer for businesses to start seeing the benefits of RFID than some of the early, optimistic predictions suggested. And the path to realizing those benefits will be littered along the way with missed deadlines, rocky initiatives, and deflated expectations.

I want to link to almost every post, as the entire blog is exceptionally well organized, prepared, and written.

Posted by Kevin at 11:09 AM

November 29, 2004

Sears + Kmart = IT Innovation?

Many readers doubted the profitability and efficacy of the Sears-Kmart merger. Some IT analysts see things differently:

[B]oth companies -- particularly Sears with its powerful data warehouse � need to understand that the right use of technology can be a differentiator and an ally in the battle with Wal-Mart and other specialty retailers. He just hopes they can keep innovating while they're stepping back and reassessing....

Where they may like to go is head to head with Wal-Mart. Laurie Orlov, a vice president and principal at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., thinks the acquisition, to borrow a line from Martha Stewart, is "a good thing."

"IT in the retail world is so affected by what Wal-Mart does," she said. "Sears and Kmart want more control of the IT aspect of their supply chain. If there are innovations at either company that will trump Wal-Mart, then this combined muscle is good."

To me, that's a lot more hope and hype than seems warranted...

Posted by Kevin at 11:40 AM

November 15, 2004

What WM Knows about You

When the New York Times writes about what WM knows about it's customers (~80% of you), it gets a lot of attention. Other papers will show for free the full text of the article much longer:

A week ahead of the storm's landfall, Linda M. Dillman, Wal-Mart's chief information officer, pressed her staff to come up with forecasts based on what had happened when Hurricane Charley struck several weeks earlier. Backed by the trillions of bytes' worth of shopper history that is stored in Wal-Mart's computer network, she felt that the company could "start predicting what's going to happen, instead of waiting for it to happen," as she put it.

The experts mined the data and found that the stores would indeed need certain products - and not just the usual flashlights.

"We didn't know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane," Dillman said. "And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer."

Thanks to those insights, trucks filled with toaster pastries and six-packs were soon speeding down Interstate 95 to Wal-Marts in the path of Frances, and most of the products that were stocked for the storm sold quickly.

Such knowledge, Wal-Mart has learned, is not only power. It is profit too.

Plenty of retailers collect data about their stores and their shoppers, and many use the information to try to improve sales, but Wal-Mart amasses more data about the products it sells and its shoppers' buying habits than any other company, so much so that some privacy advocates worry about potential for abuse.

A small town general store owner knew a lot more about his customers' purchases than WM ever will. To damnpen WM's understanding of your consumer habits, you could just pay with cash; all they'll know is that somebody bought it... a level of privacy you could never have in a general store.

Posted by Kevin at 2:51 PM

November 14, 2004

Wal-Mart Gift Registry Kiosk's Offer Access to the Internet's Operation Dear Abby

*Updated 3x*

However one may personally feel about the U.S. led war in Iraq, for those not already aware of it and whom are inclined to do so, anyone may use Operation Dear Abby to send an e-mail to *AnyServiceMember* (i.e., generally speaking) of each of the five branches of the U.S. military (one branch at a time, depending on which one you may select) and, as I understand it anyway, whether they may be serving in Iraq or elsewhere, including here within the U.S.A. and, also includes those whom have been injured and hospitalized of course (note that message text is limited to only 1000 characters, including spaces).


What Does this Have to do with WalMart, You Ask?

Due to an associates suggestion about whether the company could help out in making Operation Dear Abby accessible to those whom may lack Internet access, in rather short order Wal-Mart made:

[...] it possible for customers to access operationdearabby.net through the gift registry kiosk. In its first seven days it was available, 123,467 messages had been sent through the gift registry.

[...]

Read about it in full via the Wal-Mart Foundation Website, here.


For additional information concerning Operation Dear Abby, read the following items:


What More Can I Do to Support Our Troops?

By the way and, most importantly, if you find yourself wondering what *more* you could do along these same or, even better, other lines in supporting our troops and their families, click here for additional information.

In addition, The Art of the Blog has posted a blog post with an ever growing and updated compilation of links to all sorts of resources they have come across from one place or another, here [via Verns blog, here].

In fact I particularly like the link for the Website set up for people have a way to Send Pizza to our Troops (yet while I don't mean to give into cynical doubts at all, am just hoping it is the real deal and they are making good on delivering every time to the regions they state our troops are currently be served via their arrangements: i.e., certain areas of the Gulf and Middle East).


Had originally come across Operation Dear Abby earlier today when I paid a visit to Crickets blog. Her blog post (here) on the subject has additional insights concerning the program in general. [Thanks Cricket!]


*Note*: added link to AARP Magazine Mail Call article; added link to *recent* Houston Chronicle Dear Abby column; expanded the resource links portion concerning what more people can do ..., which is now under the heading of What More Can I Do to Support Our Troops?: last updated on Monday, November 15, 2004 at 2:59 AM [EST].

Posted by Morgan at 10:05 PM

June 16, 2004

100+ Suppliers for RFID

WM is building up momentum for with its RFID supplier network:

Wal-Mart expects to have more than 100 suppliers shipping products to the retailing giant with radio wave tracking devices by January, according to a top executive.

Simon Langford, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s manager for RFID (radio frequency identification) strategies, told Baseline that the retailer will have 137 suppliers in compliance with its RFID requirements by its January 2005 deadline. Wal-Mart's mandate requires the top consumer goods companies to tag cases and pallets with RFID tags.

Posted by Kevin at 4:49 PM

May 19, 2004

RFID Update

An anonymous commentor has linked to an excellent review of the success Wal-Mart has had rolling out RFID in its distribution center and on a few large items in stores.

Wal-Mart is currently focusing on case and pallet tagging. However, in the initial test, there are three products in which the case is also consumer packaging. On the outer packaging of two HP printers and one scanner, an EPCglobal sticker next to the RFID tag notifies customers of its existence.

To strengthen customer notification during the initial roll-out in North Texas, Wal-Mart will be placing supplemental signage on the shelf and/or aisle where the tagged cases could reside. Information pamphlets are also available on shelf-mounted tear pads. These provide information on Wal-Mart's EPC implementation and explain that customers may choose to keep the tags or discard them after purchasing the product.

Future Bringing More Suppliers, More Products

Moving forward from this point, Wal-Mart expects the number of suppliers tagging cases and pallets to expand every few weeks. Accordingly, consumers may soon see additional products displaying the EPCglobal symbol.

It is expected that many of these will be electronic products or other large items such as bicycles or lawnmowers. In all instances, the cases will have tags only on the outermost packaging.

This is worded ambiguously. Does WM plan to have RFID tags on inner packaging? On the items themselves?

Posted by Kevin at 4:41 PM

May 12, 2004

BusinessWeek Profile of WM CIO

BusinessWeek peeks into the tech world of WM, profiling its CIO and executive VP Linda Dillman:

Dillman, who has been with Wal-Mart for 12 years, following a five-year stint at computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ), helps the retail chain use technology to figure out things like the right mix between self-service checkouts and live cash registers in a typical store. More important, she has helped cut weeks off invoice-processing time and billions off its costs of managing inventory.
READ THE WHOLE THING! IN case you won't here's another key paragraph:
More efficient inventory management is another of Dillman's priorities. Six weeks ago, she introduced the so-called FISH (First In and Still Here) report, distributed to key merchants and Wal-Mart execs, that traces how long various inventory items have remained on the chain's shelves. The idea is to discover which products aren't selling well and to adjust inventory levels accordingly. Even below-cost price reductions can translate into huge savings for Wal-Mart, which carries $25 billion to $30 billion in inventory at a given moment.

Posted by Kevin at 8:16 AM

May 8, 2004

WM Remembers What you Buy

Many people fear that Wal-Mart will replace their small-town general store and grocer. Some of these same people fear that WM will use its information tracking system illicitly, even though they don't worry about people at the local general store gossiping about their purchases. Crammed in the middle of this article is a description of who WM uses its information about you:

Ted Walnofer, Wal-Mart Manager says, � Big ticket purchases. If there's a grill to be bought a microwave a bike, a king size comforter, higher ticket items, will always spike first of the month, middle of the month.�

Since it began tracking, Wal-Mart had seen customer spending level off toward the middle of the month. But in the last year, something has changed. Instead of a curve, where spending dips, it's a sharp V, where spending nearly collapses around the 11th, until people get paid again on the 15th.

Walnofer says, �The consumer has become strapped. You can see with the job losses and concern in economy.�

How does Wal-Mart know we're living paycheck to paycheck? Because 100 million people shop in U.S. Wal-Mart's every week and the company takes in 6 to 8 cents of every dollar spent on U.S. retail, other than automobiles.

Walnofer says, �Only the United States department of defense has a better information system, computers, other than Wal-Mart.�

No, Wal-Mart's are better.

Posted by Kevin at 12:05 PM