SAP Outlines Its Unified E-Commerce Strategy

    As part of a significant effort to expand its e-commerce reach, SAP has outlined an approach to unify its customer experiences across multiple channels.

    Based on the e-commerce software that SAP gained with its recent acquisition of hybris, the SAP omni-channel strategy relies heavily on an application that presents a unified view of all data relating to any specific customer regardless of which application or database on which it may reside.

    While SAP is hardly the first vendor to outline an omni-channel approach to e-commerce, Ariel Luedi, CEO of the SAP company hybris, says what also distinguishes hybris’ Commerce Suite is that it’s much simpler to deploy either on premise or in the cloud and it provides a more sophisticated approach to collaborative filtering. That latter capability, says Luedi, is critical when it comes to providing context for analyzing the context in which a person buys something for an organization versus assuming that every transaction is specifically related to that buyer.

    With that capability, explains Luedi, organizations don’t run into the issue where the buyer of record may be acquiring something on behalf of someone else, which may cause the recommendation engine inside the e-commerce platform to incorporate that data as connected to that specific buyer, when that transaction might have been a one-time purchase for another party.

    Luedi says that regardless of the channel used during any transaction, hybris provides the context necessary to recognize customers and their transaction history. In a world where customers are likely to order products online via a PC and next time order something via a mobile computing device, having that level of context is now a critical e-commerce requirement.

    While most business-to-consumer (B2C) environments are familiar with the need to support transactions via multiple channels, SAP contends that business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce applications are not nearly as sophisticated. And yet, Jonathan Becher, chief marketing officer for SAP, notes that the B2B e-commerce segment as a whole is three to four times larger than B2C.

    Becher says that SAP sees hybris as a natural extension of the Ariba e-commerce platform the company acquired in last year. Ultimately, Becher says SAP plans to have both Ariba and hybris running on the SAP in-memory computing platform to drive both transactions and analytics in real time.

    Because customers have a lot more information at their disposal long before they ever engage a salesperson, the amount of time between when a company lets a vendor actually know it’s in the market for a product or service and when it actually closes the transaction has been dramatically reduced.

    To gain some visibility into the new purchasing reality, organizations are investing in analytics to better anticipate what customers are likely to purchase next. The end result will be a fundamental transformation of the role of salespeople within any organization as customer service representatives take on a much bigger role in terms of upselling existing customers.

    Naturally, it will take some time for all these changes to play out—not because of the technology involved, but rather the inertia associated with an organizational behavior change of this magnitude. But at this juncture, it’s not so much if this transformation will occur, but when.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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