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NetSuite: All Grown Up?

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Last week Oracle NetSuite hosted its annual SuiteWorld event in Las Vegas. It was big – 7,500 attendees big. And though the company had been acquired by Oracle just prior to last year’s event, this was the first time the show really had Oracle’s DNA running through its veins. As a result, it was a markedly different event.

I’ve been attending SuiteWorld for years now, and just like every show, it has its own “vibe”. I’m not trying to delve too deeply into the subjective here, but ask any analyst who attends a lot of events every year and they’ll tell you the hosting company’s corporate culture has tremendous influence on all aspects of the show. Most importantly: on what you remember – long after you’ve left the hall. And NetSuite’s events have been no exception. The company’s playful and sometimes confrontational nature had permeated much of its marketing materials and overall messaging. This is not a dig – all of it has been by the company's design. A design that has clearly paid off, as NetSuite is currently the largest tech purchase Oracle has ever made.

So it should come as no surprise that the theme of this year’s show was “Ready, Set, Grow.” Having attended Oracle’s Industry Connect event in New York just a few weeks ago, I had a good idea of the basic concept: Oracle’s plan is to let NetSuite manage its own fate (more so than any other of its acquisitions, even), but by leveraging the power of Oracle, the littler company could grow worldwide – all while helping its customers do the same. And the show was full of examples of customers doing just that.

One of my favorites came from Tony Drockton of Hammitt. If you don’t know the company, they make high-end designer leather handbags, and Tony started the company in 2007, just before the onset of the Great Recession. Not an ideal time. If you get a chance to hear him tell his story sometime make sure you do, but I’ll hit the main points here. The company doesn’t have stores, and knew that if was going to succeed, the stores it partnered with – earned one a time and subject to a rigorous vetting process – would have to adhere to minimum advertised pricing rules. The company’s survival would be based upon consistent MAP pricing no matter where a customer turned. And Tony adheres to a strict one-strike rule: many a retailer has lost distribution rights after discounting Hammitt products.

But where the Hammitt story gets even more interesting is in how it views the relationship it has with customers. In Tony’s words, “The relationship really starts once the bag is on her shoulders” – and he means it. No joke: he’s recently changed his title to “Chief Cheerleader,” and spends months at a time on the road visiting the stores where his products are being sold, all in an effort to better understand customers. Then, once a year, the company hosts its experiential retail event in its hometown of Hermosa Beach, CA. Hosted on a Saturday morning, Tony gets on social media the previous Sunday to reveal that he’ll be making an announcement on Facebook Live at 6PM in a couple of nights. At this time, the company activates the several hundred social media influencers it has all around the country, so that by the time the Facebook Live thing comes around on Tuesday evening he’s addressing a serious crowd of brand enthusiasts. On Thursday and Friday the event is held online, the only time customers will ever see a discount on a Hammitt bag. The discounts range from25-60% off, and any purchases made online can either be shipped free– or picked up at the event on Saturday morning at a country club in Hermosa Beach. The event lasts for three and half hours, features live music, food, cocktails, Tony riding around on a long board - in essence: fun. The thing customers want most. When Tony arrived this year, five hundred women were waiting to get in, having flown in from all over the country.

What does this have to NetSuite you might ask? Well, quite simply: the man doesn’t have to think about the technology part. Sure, he’s got employees to handle the technical aspects of his company’s growth, but as his brand inevitably grows (Hammitt is now in some Lord & Taylor, Dillards and Four Seasons locations, with plans for far greater rollouts before the end of the year), he now knows that NetSuite will grow with him. He’s no longer worried about outgrowing it and having to change platforms. It’s helped enabled him to pull back from operations and focus on making his brand stronger. And isn’t that what technology is supposed to do?

The company had lots of other announcements to make – the first 1,000 small businesses to sign up for its new SuiteCommerce product will receive a template-based web store free of charge, for example. And in CTO Even Goldberg’s keynote on day two there was thunderous applause around the inclusion of Suite Analytics’ new functionality (including the ability to pivot data, something the company has been working on for several years), as well as the machine learning components built into its new Intelligent Suite, overall.

But again, those are the details that live in the notebook I take to shows. Six months from now, what I’ll remember most about this year’s SuiteWorld is that the company is enabling businesses – even little guys - to focus on the things beyond the technical. To help differentiate themselves to customers in meaningful ways. In short: to grow.

 

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Articles & Opinions May 1, 2018
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