Oracle’s Bob Evans Challenges Channel Partners to Remain Relevant

Coca-Cola managed to modernize the concept of the old-school vending machine to a hip Freestyle” apparatus with greater value for the iconic soft drink maker and restaurants. Leveraging mobile technology, home improvement giant Lowes has found a way to keep customers browsing its stores from buying the same products from competitors.

And via webcams at its factory, a Florida company that constructs sailboats has learned to more effectively engage customers by letting them check out the boat-building process and make revisions to design plans.

In a keynote speech Wednesday during the 2012 Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., Oracle executive Bob Evans cited all these examples to illustrate the advantages of keeping pace with the rapid changes in technology and business while embracing innovation.

Some of his messages to channel partners: In serving your customers, remain relevant and indispensable, adapt, and create value with knowledge and innovation.

The alternative, remaining stuck in the present and failing to adapt your business to major shifts in technology and other volcanic forces of change, may be something to fear. Consider the more than century-old newspaper industry.

Evans, Oracles senior vice president, communications, points out that the City of New Orleans no longer has a daily newspaper.

Of course, what has disrupted all that is this,” observed Evans, pulling out his smartphone.

Evans raised a number of questions for an audience whose rapidly changing world is the business of telecommunications and information technology. For instance, are you more relevant to your customers today than you were 12 months ago? When you talk to customers, do you use insider lingo or are you able to engage them in terms they can relate to?

Evans cited some marquee U.S. brands that are dramatically evolving to create more value for customers. For instance, Coca Colas Freestyle machines have taken the vending machine model to a new stratosphere by delivering significantly more choices to consumers and enabling the intelligence to track inventory. The ultimate test of Cokes success: Some teenage boys made YouTube videos on Coca Cola Freestyle, Evans pointed out.

Lowes is another company that has aligned its business with change. Evans said the company recently embarked on the largest IT investment in its history, purchasing tens of thousands of iPhones for new employees. The reason for the investment was compelling: Lodge a counterattack against the trend of customers shopping for better prices on their smartphones after seeing an item at Lowes. Now, Evans said, employees can check competitors’ prices and grant customers the convenience of purchasing an item without having to wait in line at the front of the store.

Of the examples Evans cited, perhaps the institution that has shown the greatest transformation is the National Football League. The NFL, he noted, has moved from a sports league to a formidable media empire with its own network and various digital strategies that are designed to further engage customers. Such strategies include social media websites Twitter and Facebook where the NFL’s followers number in the millions.

The NFL, Evans said, doesnt just want to connect with fans a mere three hours a week through a few hours of Sunday games on television; instead, they want to connect with their customers 168 hours a week.

That level of customer engagement is something all of us should strive for.

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