Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award Finalist Profile: Taking Customers on an Immersive Innovation Journey


An SAP Marketing team proves virtual reality is the perfect platform to demonstrate the company’s new solution portfolio supporting digital business.

Although SAP has strong market share and brand awareness, the company is often viewed in terms of traditional ERP rather than for its continuous innovation. A new idea was needed to highlight the combined strengths of SAP’s portfolio, including a strong focus on the digital core, SAP S/4HANA, and the SAP Leonardo digital innovation system.

Katja Mehl, head of Customer Experience at SAP, summed up the formidable task: “Our goal was to position SAP as an innovative leader in digital transformation and help customers better understand the value of our portfolio.”

The team knew from experience that the world of traditional marketing showcases and presentations is over.

“Customers want an immersive experience where they can explore things for themselves in a short amount of time and in a fun way,” said Heather Morrison, head of Innovation and Experience Marketing for EMEA and MEE at SAP. “We needed a big idea to change the perception of SAP and motivate customers to engage with the business potential of SAP’s new portfolio of solutions.”


Introducing the Virtual Reality Innovation Experience

The team decided to use cutting-edge technology to tell an end-to-end story from a pure customer standpoint, choosing virtual reality (VR) technology to immerse the customer into a scenario while demonstrating the power and benefit of a live business. “Using virtual reality for the first time in SAP marketing was a milestone and marks a starting point for an entirely new way of storytelling, customer interaction, and lead generation,” mentioned Mehl.

By using the example of global sportswear company adidas, the 3D VR showcase demonstrates how customers can benefit from SAP S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo to reinvent, build, and run their business to win in the digital economy. The live scenario, called the VR Innovation Experience, was developed in a cross-functional team and in cooperation with adidas. In the VR, SAP CoPilot, a personal, artificial intelligence assistant, guides viewers through the experience — from sales and marketing to production, logistics, and finance.

Customers discover the production and launch of a smart, fully customizable, IoT-based, and sensor-embedded adidas sneaker with location-based tracking, haptic feedback, and sweat analysis. Each 3D-printed sneaker can be produced with a unique design and personalized materials. This way the viewer can understand the benefits of innovative technologies such as machine learning, blockchain, IoT, Big Data and analytics, and relevant services from an end-user perspective, like personal training plans, performance tracking, real-time coaching, and voice feedback, as well as dietary and health advice.

adidas was very pleased with the resulting scenario: Michael Vögele, CIO of the adidas Group, called it a “strong experience” and “a very complex and challenging project explained in a brilliant and new way.”


The VR Innovation Experience Team brought colleagues from various disciplines together to work on one common goal. “Having many areas of the business and multiple team members work on a single storyline is complex,” explains Sebastian Pförtner, senior marketing manager, but he noted that everyone saw the power of combining our innovative solutions with customer collaboration. Pförtner stated several other risks: “Making the right decision on which solutions to integrate was a risk, especially with regards to emerging technologies. Using a new medium was a risk, too, as we did not know whether our customers would feel comfortable about sitting, watching, and interacting seven minutes or more while wearing VR glasses.”

One VR Scenario, Many Use Cases

The scenario was first presented at CEBIT 2017, and then went on to become an essential feature of more than 40 events globally. It can also be experienced at nearly all SAP Executive Briefing Center locations and customer experience centers worldwide. So far, well over 10,000 people have seen it and customer feedback has been extraordinary. “Many asked for the scenario to be set up and shown at their events and locations, which we now do regularly. Furthermore, we use it as showcase for sales meetings and to enable colleagues from other entities,” notes Pförtner.

Future Plans for the SAP VR Innovation Experience

The team sees the adidas showcase as a first step toward more immersive VR showcases enabling customers to play a more active role in determining and exploring a particular scenario. Two new scenarios with a focus on consumer goods personalization and digital supply chain are planned for release in March 2018.

The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is the highest employee recognition at SAP, awarded annually by the CEO to an individual or a team.

Finalist Fast Facts

  • Submission title: SAP VR Innovation Experience
  • Board area: Office of the CEO
  • Team: SAP VR Innovation Experience (Katja Mehl, Heather Morrison, Sebastian Pfoertner, Nemrude Verzano, Stefan Feickert, Klaus Burger)
  • Achievement: In partnership with adidas, the team created a virtual reality showcase that guides viewers through a smart company, from sales and marketing to production, logistics, and finance, showing how SAP S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo can help customers reinvent their businesses.
  • Impact: The virtual showcase positions SAP as an innovative leader in digital transformation and helps customers better understand the value of SAP’s portfolio.