SAP’s Customer Experience LIVE event in Barcelona had an amazing kick off on opening day. First, Alex Atzberger, President, delivered an action-packed, and informative keynote, providing his personal insights on market trends, challenges and opportunities, and the specific ways the SAP C/4HANA suite is coming together to meet them. But, that was just the beginning.
To see the entire extravaganza in its entirety, including exciting multimedia-driven presentations from high-profile SAP clients, fascinating executive addresses, product demonstrations, and more than one big surprise, head to the broadcast page and see for yourself!
While you’re there you can also catch the Cloud Keynote sessions from each pillar of the SAP C4/HANA Customer Experience suite. Look for news around some of the big initiatives underway at SAP, including the Open Data Initiative, a new partnership between Microsoft, Adobe, and SAP, which is set to revolutionize the way organizations manage data across platforms and innovate with Cloud technologies.
I was particularly interested in hearing from the customers in attendance, who generously gave their time and effort to come and tell their stories. While there is no way one person could take in even a small fraction of all the content available, I managed to participate in a wide enough variety of sessions to identify three challenges that stood out among attendees.
Consumers are changing, so business must change too
“For us, the beginning of this was more of understanding our customer, and now we’re evolving to predicting and offering what they want, when they want it.”
- Ana Guzman, Senior Manager, Digital, TGI Friday’s
“Direct marketing allows us to understand our business cases and customers much better.”
- Gajarajan Nagarajan, MD, Cloud and Enterprise Apps, Maxim Integrated
A key message that was reiterated over and over again was that audiences are rapidly evolving, and one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to keep up with their needs.
The modern buyer journey is driven by endless choice and touch points for engagement, demanding new ways of looking at business models as a whole and the technology stack. Organizations use data to increase their understanding of their customers, their competition, their assets, their performance metrics, and other elements that can help them identify competitive differentiators in the market.
But, the sheer volume and variety of data managed by most enterprises today creates its own weather within their strategic efforts, and the forecast is often not good. All the data in the world won’t help you if you can’t use it effectively.
Data silos are everyone’s problem
“I think there are offices in our organization that have 16 data silos…it’s a very diverse, very decentralized organization.”
- Jan Detert, Global Lead, Personalised Consumer Experiences, Nestlé
“We didn’t have a unified look of where the data is…it was all segregated in different places, and was almost impossible to get a clear view of what was going on from the customer’s perspective.”
- Mike Weller, COO, Softonic
The rush to digital transformation has created some tricky quandaries as the market shifted to big data and digital-first strategies. Much of this has to do with siloed data stuck in outmoded legacy systems that are difficult to connect with modern, Cloud-based technology stacks.
This is a core issue for organizations remaking themselves from traditional, brick and mortar models. Some brands we heard from in this category today included Bosch, Colgate, and Franklin Covey, all of whom had to overcome issues stemming from channel-based strategies or dirty data to move forward in the digital age.
What was interesting to me, though, was that even companies that started out as pure play digital business models – or that simply begin applying Cloud point solutions to support rapid growth and increased complexity – also struggled with this problem. During its transformation initiative, for example, Spanish software discovery portal, Softonic, had to reach way back into its data structure to move from a server-based to a Cloud-based architecture: a lengthy and complex exercise that has nonetheless paid off and paved the way for the company’s future.
The overarching message is this: Centralize now. Cloud-based architectures are enabling true agility and disruption, including through the use of AI, machine learning, and other algorithmic technology for personalization and 1-1 marketing. But, getting this right requires a reimagining of the business from the ground up to put customer outcomes, not sales objectives, at the center of digital strategy.
Trust is (still) the key to success
“If you think of someone in your personal life or your work life that you’ve trusted, it’s so much easier to converse with them, as opposed to if you’ve been in a legal contract before. That is the lowest possible communication and trust possible, because you have to be able to vouch for and verify everything.”
- Blaine Carter, CISO, Franklin Covey
“When the regulators come, and inevitably they will…you need to be sitting at the table with a great partner, and you need to have a very detailed path on users and how they gave you permissions.”
- Mike Weller, COO, Softonic
One hundred years ago, there was really only a direct consumer to merchant relationship. You walked into your local shop, the vendor knew you by name, understood what you were there for, and served you accordingly. Then came the age of mass advertising, big box stores, and the beginning of digital commerce.
Advancements in technology allowed businesses to begin personalizing digital content and services. But companies initially relied on reams of incomplete or inaccurate third-party data to do this, which often resulted in ineffective experiences for consumers.
Today consumers are accustomed to – and even crave personalized digital experiences – but are fed up with being tracked, spammed, and deceived. They want to be respected, and government regulators are backing them up. In a way, this is bringing us back to the original kind of brand-to–customer relationship; the kind where the customers’ wishes are the driving force, not the business’ sales forecast.
SAP Customer Experience is in the vanguard of this new, trust-based model. And, this year – at our biggest and most important event – our clients are telling us in droves that this kind of trusted customer relationship is the future of commerce and customer engagement.
We are listening. For forward-thinking, customer-obsessed businesses, the future looks bright indeed.
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