Mobile, TV shopping, catalogs, online stores, retail outlets: the sales channels that retail companies offer to customers are becoming ever more complex. The problems only really start, however, when it comes to integrating all of these channels on the process side. Andreas Wormbs, Industry Principal Trade for Germany at SAP, calls it the “omnichannel”. “The entire purchase history of a customer has to be available immediately on demand,” he says – regardless of whether the customer purchased items in the branch, online store, or via an app. Wormbs was recently using an online store app, but when he came to the checkout, he realized the credit card number was still the old one. When he tried to enter new details, he ran into problems, and gave up using the mobile app to buy the product. When he returned home, he logged back into the system via his PC and noticed that the entire purchase process was still in the system, and was able to pick up from where he left off. “It’s not enough simply to have a nice online store,” says Wormbs, “the entire process has to work properly.”
And this process has to cover the entire sales cycle of a product – from the initial contact through to the successful sale of the products.
Three focus areas for product innovation
In general, there are three focus areas for further product innovation in the SAP for Retail solution portfolio:
1. Important innovations are realized through in-house developments. One example is the SAP Customer Activity Repository, which has been on the market since summer 2013. This combines sales transactions from multiple channels for multichannel processes – from the Transaction Log (TLog) via the Web Channel Sales Order through to the ERP Sales Order. SAP HANA also offers real-time access for data analyses. As well as combining all customer and product data, the Customer Activity Repository also contains algorithms for various business areas such as inventory forecasts or data mining analyses. “Nothing irritates customers more than the unavailability of products that have been the subject of special promotions,” says SAP expert Wormbs. Current plans include functions for projection models (predictive analytics) and tailored customer sales pitches with quotations. Projection models should allow medium to long-term trends to be identified. “The important thing now is to give customers the tools they need to deploy these new innovations quickly,” according to SAP retail expert Wormbs. A key step toward this is prepackaged software solutions, or rapid deployment solutions. “With RDS, customers can put these solutions into live operation quickly,” says Wormbs. Such a package is being planned for the Customer Activity Repository.
Next page: Further focus areas
This story is part of our special focus on retail. All the articles related to this topic can be found here.
2. SAP is working with partners in other subareas. GK Software is a portfolio partner for checkout and branch systems. Again, it is vital that the GK solutions serve the integrated process chains in the omnichannel area. Loyalty programs also need to be recognized and deployed at the checkout.
Integrated solution with SAP for Retail and SAP CRM
3. For other steps in the process, SAP is making targeted acquisitions. For example, in August, SAP acquired e-commerce specialists hybris. The acquisition allowed SAP to broaden its retail portfolio with a modern e-Commerce platform. Key solution modules in this area are the online store, the Content Management System, which is already well-established among SAP customers, and the order platform. “What is important now is to ensure a joint road map for an integrated solution offering with SAP Retail and SAP CRM,” says Wormbs. “It is still too soon after acquisition to provide more details, however.”
The priority in all of these developments is to provide retailers with the best overall package for customers in the chain of contact, sale, service, and warranty. After all, it is not quite as easy to attract customers as it was a few years ago: “Customers are extremely well-informed, know what they want, and also want to influence products,” says Andreas Wormbs. As soon as they enter the store, they know the prices, have formed price comparisons, and expect the best offer. As Wormbs puts it: “Retailers need to be fully prepared.”