October 2nd, 2014 by Maria Minsker

This year marked my second Oracle Openworld, and what a difference a year makes. Acknowledging his company’s “dinosaur” status time and time again, Oracle CTO Larry Ellison didn’t waste any time before tackling accusations of lagging behind. He went on the offensive during his keynote, calling out competitors Salesforce.com and SAP for developing on Oracle’s platform, and proclaiming Oracle a force to be reckoned with in the cloud. When it comes to SaaS solutions for example, though Ellison was willing to concede that Salesforce.com is beating Oracle in sales force automation, he called his company a leader in marketing because it “has more customers, more applications, and more innovative technology than competitors.”

But is he right? You may recall that Oracle was named “One to Watch” in the Marketing Solutions category of our Market Awards issue. Market leaders Adobe, Marketo, Salesforce.com, Silverpop and Teradata edged ahead for a variety of reasons. Salesforce.com was busy building out its ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, and Adobe had just finished rolling out their Marketing Cloud following a very smart acquisition of campaign management vendor Neolane. Marketo continued to impress with its best-of-breed offering, while Teradata and Silverpop impressed with their analytics tie-ins. (Silverpop had just been acquired by IBM, which helped too.) Still, the analysts we surveyed were confident that Oracle wouldn’t disappoint–they too were busy making big acquisitions. Eloqua, Compendium, Responsys and Bluekai were all marketing-motivated buys, and when the company held a big Marketing Cloud unveiling event in April, I was confident that this was going to be Oracle’s big move. But alas, it was kind of a let down.

When September rolled around, I was sure I’d hear big things at OpenWorld, but I didn’t. I don’t mean to discount the integrations that Oracle has made–they’re all steps in the right direction. For example, to help marketers improve collaboration, streamline processes, and better manage their digital assets, Oracle has integrated its marketing cloud with Box. The company has also integrated the Oracle Data Management Platform solution (formerly BlueKai Data Management Platform) with Oracle Cross-Channel Marketing, to “help marketers define, target, and retarget their ideal customers to build more-effective marketing programs,” according to a company statement. Again, these are important steps, but they might not be enough to impress analysts or customers.

If Oracle intends to position itself as a true competitor in the war of the marketing clouds, then it needs to commit to marketing. Everyone knows that Oracle’s strengths are in the IT space, so I’m not surprised when talk of databases and in-memory machines dominates the keynote discussion, but if Ellison/Hurd/Safra are ready to pick a fight with Salesforce.com or SAP on SaaS offerings then Oracle has to counter with solid solutions, not just use the platform those solutions are built on as a defense. (“They develop on our platform!”)

They’re working on it, I know. I can tell because there were actually many more marketing sessions this year than last, and much more to do in CX Central, the customer experience track of the conference. What really bothered me, however, was that even though the phrase “business and IT must come together” was repeated about a thousand times during Mark Hurd’s Q&A keynote with customers, there wasn’t a single CMO on stage. Most of the customer companies were represented by a CTO, and the marketing focus was lost. A few of the customers smartly touched on marketing/sales, but not enough to really zero in on how Oracle has helped them. Intel’s CIO Kim Stevenson came the closest, discussing how Intel has used Eloqua and Bluekai to drive its marketing and sales innovations, but even after her explanation, I was left wanting more.

It seems like for the time being, marketing is still a side project for Oracle. The solutions are there, but the packaging is still lacking. Oracle might be well on its way to shedding its dinosaur image, but it’s not exactly discovering the wheel yet either.

September 26th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

No one hates waiting in line more than me. I cringe at the bank when there is more than one person waiting to step up to a teller or the ATM. When I bring my car in for service and find more than a few people ahead of me at the dealership, I know I’m in for a long day.Redovi za ulaznice za  utakmicu Hajduk - Dinamo 120209

And neither banks nor car dealerships are at the top of the list when it comes to long lines. Among the worst line offenders are amusement parks, government offices, retail stores, airports, restaurants, and emergency rooms. The average wait time in emergency rooms is four hours and seven minutes; and during peak crowd levels at amusement parks, people will have to wait at least 90 minutes at each ride.

“The average person spends two years of his or her life waiting in line, which is unacceptable by any measure,” said Alex Bäcker, founder and CEO of QLess, a provider of mobile technology that eliminates physical lines and waiting rooms, in a statement.

Bäcker’s firm, which claims to have liberated 20 million people from waiting in lines, offers cloud-based technology that replaces physical lines with a user-friendly mobile queue system. Using QLess, customers add their names to a virtual queue from any phone, the Web, or an in-store kiosk, and continue about their business until notified that their turn in line is approaching.

With the holiday shopping season—and the dreaded Black Friday—approaching, QLess is now offering a free trial of its line-eliminating mobile wait management technology.

“Giving consumers hours of lost time back awards businesses a clear competitive advantage. Lines are archaic, and the simple implementation of a virtual waiting solution can enhance customer satisfaction, reduce walk-outs, increase throughput, build loyalty, and increase profitability,” Bäcker said in a statement. “If you are a business that has unhappy customers because of long lines, QLess is here to make customers happier while reducing the number who leave during the wait.”

I’m not likely to switch banks just because of a line, but I will not be happy about. With this technology, at least I can be more productive.

September 19th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

As more information surfaces about Home Depot’s data breach, it seems to grow in significance every day. The latest numbers: The home improvement superstore chain is now reporting that the data of 56 million customers who used payment cards at one of the its stores in the United States or Canada between April and September, might have been compromised. That would make this latest threat to consumer data much bigger than the breach at Target during last year’s holiday shopping season.

Home Depot has said that it became aware of the breach on Sept. 2 and that the malware has been eliminated from its systems, but that’s little comfort to the millions of people whose information—and identities—might have been compromised.

In a statement on its Web site, Home Depot apologized for the incident: “We apologize for the frustration and inconvenience this breach may have caused. ”

Inconvenience? Really? Having to wait in line at the bank is an inconvenience. I think this qualifies as a little more than an inconvenience, and customers are probably a little more than just frustrated.

And not to make an example of anybody, but this latest cyber attack makes it clear that all major retailers are now at risk.

And while Home Depot customers scramble to protect their identities, prevent fraud, and restore their peace of mind, retailers must take action to ensure that consumer data is protected. Specifically, they need to identify holes in their data security protocols, and they need to do it ASAP.

Home depot also claims to have completed a major payment security project that provides enhanced encryption of payment card data at its point-of-sale systems in U.S. stores, with the rollout of enhanced encryption to Canadian stores to completed by early 2015.

It is no longer acceptable to merely react to a breach. Retailers that fail to protect their customers’ data will spend more money mitigating an attack than they will taking proactive steps to prevent one.

Though the numbers are sketchy, some estimates put Target’s costs at  $148 million, minus a $38 million insurance receivable.

Home Depot has emphasized that affected customers will not be liable for any fraudulent charges to their accounts and is now offering free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, to any customer who has shopped at a Home Depot store since April. For 56 million people, that could really add up. Let’s just hope retailers finally wake up.

September 18th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

This past week has been a financial nightmare. Not only was there fraudulent activity detected on two of my credit card accounts, but my debit card was also attacked, and now I am officially paranoid that every other account I own is at risk. Nevertheless, dismayed as I may be, I’m choosing to channel my frustration into sharing a few customer service comparisons I’ve made. SO here goes: My debit card and one of my compromised credit cards were issued by Chase, while my other compromised credit card was issued by Citi Bank. Here’s how the two experiences stacked up.



PRO: My credit card was hit first. I was alerted through an email that there might be fraudulent activity on my account, and asked to verify transactions. After I clicked “No” to indicate that I didn’t recognize the transaction, I received a text message almost immediately, providing me with the number for the fraud department. Fast, easy, cross-channel engagement.

PRO: I received an email about possible fraud on my debit card account just minutes after hanging up with the credit card fraud department. When I couldn’t verify these transactions either, I received another text informing me that I would be receiving a call from Chase shortly. They called right away. Very nice touch.

CON: Though I’m grateful that Chase detected fraud on both accounts quickly, I’m curious why neither fraud department rep picked up on the fact that two of my Chase accounts were targeted. Based on the dates the fraud reps shared with me during our respective conversations, the fraudulent transactions occurred in the same time frame, and perhaps even overlapped, so why weren’t they all addressed at the same time? When I log into my Chase account online, I see all of my accounts simultaneously–doesn’t Chase? For customers, especially customers dealing with a situation like possible fraud, this disjointed experience is jarring and induces double the stress. It’s time to take CRM vendors up on their promise of a “360 degree view of the customer.” The technology is there. Companies like Chase just have to take the plunge.

PRO: Obviously, both my debit and credit card accounts had to be closed. To get me a replacement debit card as quickly as possible, the representative I spoke with on the phone offered me two options: 1) Wait for it to come in the mail or 2) Go to a select Chase branch and get a new card printed on the spot. Finally! I’ve been waiting for option 2 to become a reality for years. I found a branch that offered the service (a good number of them do), walked over, and had a new debit card in minutes. Boom, done.

CON…with a silver lining: There’s no on-the-spot printing option for a replacement credit card. However, the rep I spoke to offered to ship the card express and get it to me the next day. Hey, I’ll take it.

PRO: The thief managed to actually use some of my funds via my debit card before Chase noticed something was up, so getting that money back ASAP was a priority. The rep helped me file a claim for the amount in question, and assured me that I would get it back within 48 hours. Within a few hours, I received a text message saying the amount was credited to my account. The text also contained the claim number and other info to help me track the investigation, which I plan to do.


PRO: Citi Bank initially alerted me to possible fraud via a text message, which I selected as my preferred method of communication when I registered for the account. Though I applaud Chase for its cross-channel approach, sometimes one channel is enough, as long as it’s the right one.

CON: The text I received asked me to verify a transaction and reply with “1” if I recognized it, or with “2” if I didn’t. I replied with “2,” and waited. And waited. And waited. Chase responded to me within seconds, so when I didn’t hear back from Citi for a good 10 minutes, I gave up and dialed the number on the back of my card.

Small PRO/big CON: After entering in all of my account information, the call center automatically connected me with the fraud department. I’m guessing there was a flag on my account, so the system was able to determine the reason for my call and saved me the trouble of explaining the problem to three different people. Once I reached the fraud department’s automated system, however, it asked me for “the case number I received in my message.” What message? What case number? The text I originally received provided no such information, so I was pretty puzzled.

CON: When a rep finally picked up, she said she needed to verify my identity. She then asked for the account password, which I gave her. But that wasn’t enough, apparently. She “still couldn’t verify my identity,” and had to send me a text message with a verification code. I would have to call Citi back, give them the code, and only THEN would she be able to speak with me. Seriously? I mean I totally understand the need for added security, but this was just bizarre. I told her I didn’t want to do all that, to which she simply said, “Ok, then just tell me the security code on the back of your card.” Um, why is that the back-up plan? That should be Plan A.

CON: Though Citi offered to close my account and issue a new card right away, the rep didn’t offer to go over my last few transactions to make sure they were all in order like the Chase rep had. Luckily, I checked them online myself before the call, and told her about a purchase I didn’t authorize. She said she would file a claim, but asked me several times if I was sure the charge was fraudulent. Maybe I was just getting annoyed and upset by that point, but it almost felt like she didn’t believe me. A customer shouldn’t have to feel that way.

CON: My new card will take 7 to 10 business days to arrive. It will also take 7-10 business days for my unauthorized charge to be credited back.

CON: After I got off the call, I wanted to log into my account to make sure I hadn’t missed any other suspicious charges. To my surprise, I couldn’t access any of my transaction history or past statements online. I ran into the same problem when I tried to use the Citi Card app. And, as an added bonus, the app also informed me that I would have to re-register for online access, app access, and basically every other feature I rely on once the new card arrives. Chase updated my account with new card information right away, and never took any transaction or statement access away.

So what’s the verdict? For me, Chase takes the cake. They took the right steps and put my convenience first, without ever making me feel like I had done something wrong. Here’s to hoping this fiasco ends here; I really don’t want to have to add another bank to this list.

September 11th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

The word is officially out and it looks like most of the rumors (or at least some of them…) were true. Apple is, in fact, releasing two versions of the iPhone 6, and is also finally debuting a highly anticipated wearable device, the Apple Watch. Now I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have an alarm set for 3am tomorrow so that I can preorder my new phone, but I do have to admit that it seems like the buzz around the flashy new hardware is stealing the spotlight from an even more exciting development: the software. I, for one, am pretty excited that Apple is getting serious about the mobile wallet.

Just two days after the announcement, Apple Pay is already a polarizing issue. Despite critics arguing that security concerns will prevent the technology from becoming mainstream, tech junkies are already hailing it as a revolutionary tool. In reality, both are probably at least partially true.

On the security side, Apple is still reeling from the recent celebrity nude photo scandal, and it’s not easy to stand on stage and introduce a virtual wallet technology just weeks after leaving dozens of accounts vulnerable. With that said, I’m going to assume Apple really is taking a closer look at their security measures, and is confident that similar problems wouldn’t plague Apple Pay. As it stands now, the security standards are already a notch above Apple’s typically approach.

To make payments with the iPhone 6, consumers will have to use the phone’s Touch ID technology. No passcodes, or passwords–just biometrics. The phones will collect credit card information by taking a photo of the card once, but will not store any of the credit or debit card data on Apple servers. This, however, begs the question: What will happen to those photos and how will Apple store them securely? (As we know from the Snapchat fiasco, even disappearing photos never really disappear.)

Photo concern aside, paying with a mobile wallet should theoretically be more secure than swiping a credit card. Each device will have its own unique code, as will each individual transaction, and businesses that accept Apple Pay will never have to see the numbers. And, perhaps more importantly, counterfeited magnetic stripes and other point-of-sale bugs that target physical cards could become a thing of the past. But the technology does open the door to other types of threats.

Apple Pay will rely on NFC, a technology that allows payments to take place wirelessly through a scanning action. It’s already widely available (think Starbucks), but it’s not fool proof. If a thief gets close enough, he could hack into a consumer’s device and take over. It would have to be really close though.

So how promising is Apple Pay? Even if the company can prove that the payment system is secure, there is still a major adoption hurdle to overcome. Just look at Google Wallet.

To Apple’s credit though, it’s already trying to avoid the mistakes Google made. Unlike Google, Apple is aiming to unify offline and online mobile payment. “It may in fact be the m-commerce dimension of Apple Pay that really helps it take off,” MarketingLand’s Greg Sterling wrote. “To the extent developers incorporate Apple Pay into their apps, we could see a meaningful uptick in mobile commerce. The friction-removing simplicity of the in-app Apple Pay experience is what may get people hooked and give them confidence to try the offline, NFC experience…Google didn’t offer a truly unified online and offline payment experience. The two haves were called “Google Wallet” but there wasn’t an element like Touch ID to tie them together. ” he added.

Ultimately, the reason why Apple Pay will likely gain traction is simple: Apple does it better. With the Apple Watch, the company has taken a clunky wearable device and made it beautiful, appealing, versatile… And just like that, it’s no longer a clunky piece of hardware; it’s jewelry. With Apple Pay, it’ll be the same story. “Apple Pay, because it is Apple, is one way Apple will succeed where others have failed,” Tom Redd of SAP Global told Forbes. “Hey, the Millennials live by Apple, and if Apple says, ‘Do it,’ consider it done.”


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