Retails Game Changing Innovation

Recently I was fortunate enough to speak with David Roberts, Vice President of Enterprise Transformation at Under Armour, during SAP ANZ’s The Best Run podcast. We explored the disruptive changes that are shaping the retail sector and the new technologies that are transforming retailers into intelligent enterprises.

David said when he started at the company, Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank expressed to him the company’s mission is make all athletes better through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation. With this clear purpose, Under Armour reframed its vision as a technology company that compiles and analyses data relating to customers’ health and wellness – such as sleep patterns, dietary habits, and exercise routines.

“It allows us to encourage people to be active, to transition from a sedentary lifestyle by tracking their steps,” he explained. “It allows you the opportunity look at your workouts, compare yourself against your peers, and give you real-time feedback using technology like machine learning and predictive analytics, native within the SAP S4/HANA platform, to give insights on how you can get the best out of your game – whatever your game may be.”

According to David, the key to innovation is having a more holistic view of the business and breaking down silos to discover areas of improvement. David said his first role at Under Armour was an IT position that overlooked finance, accounting, sales, and distribution.

“When you have a strong partnership between the business and what is historically referred to as IT, it results in not only the ability to sweat your assets, but also provides you with greater insight on where the need will be.”

David said Under Armour worked closely with SAP to develop a ‘single view of the consumer’, which feeds fitness and wellness data in SAP S/4 HANA and merges it with commercial data, POS data, and operational information to create a complete customer profile. “All of that information together creates an environment that allows you to take an unknown and identify it,” David explained. “Then you cultivate and curate all of that information that they’re providing to understand customers’ lifestyles, behaviours, and affinities. Using that information, you now have the ability to genuinely cater to an audience of one.”

Considering the wide variety of options available to consumers, the power of the experience economy means customers expect more personalised and tailored retail experiences. “Experience can’t be one-size-fits-all,” David said. “Users are more in tune and more informed than any other generation in its past. The expectations are far greater than we’ve ever seen before. In a digital economy where everything happens in real time, those who are reactive are the ones who are cannibalised in the retail industry.”

Closer to home we are seeing significant innovation in retail. The Australian agribusiness Ruralco has been innovating with SAP Technology for a number of years. Ruralco CIO Tom Hansen’s vision is to enable growth with a single, simplified point of sale that is mobile, scalable and provides the best possible customer service experience, with a view to increasing customer retention. Ruralco is seeking to achieve this by creating an integrated cloud-based retail point of sale running on the SAP Cloud Plaform, natively integrated into their SAP ERP & SAP Hybris systems. It is designed to provide the absolute highest level of in-store and on-the-road customer experience. This concept of using the SAP Cloud Platform as a mechanism for rapid innovation is valid to all our customers.

Employee safety is also at the forefront of retailers minds. Distribution centres, store loading docks and the actual store can create hazards for employees. The SAP Cloud Platform is being used across multiple industries to support monthly safety checks in locations all around Australia. The platform integrates with cameras on mobile devices; enables the identification of risks and risk severity; and documents plans and controls to address those risks. Many other great examples of innovation exist within SAP – the only constraint is imagination!

SAP understands that technology underpins the rate and scale of change in business. It is crucial for retailers to have the talent to manage and adapt to these emerging changes.

As I mentioned during the podcast, “Australia and New Zealand are developing around 30,000 new jobs a year in IT, ever more focused in the areas of innovation, as the need to differentiate from traditional and disruptive competitors accelerates. It is therefore increasingly important for us in ANZ to not only look to overseas for talent, but to nurture our own young talent and excite them to seek careers in IT.

“At SAP we are a sponsor of Young ICT Explorers program, which has been really successful at bringing on new graduates into the technology market to focus on innovation and providing us with new and innovative ways of thinking. Diversity of thought is more important today than ever.” The emergence of new technologies is blurring the lines between IT and other business functions, so its up to businesses to attract and retain the right talent that can think differently and create a culture of diversity and innovation through technology.