Last updated: The future is coming: What businesses can expect to face in the coming decade

The future is coming: What businesses can expect to face in the coming decade


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Anyone who tells you they can predict the future is lying, but if you were paying attention at the SAP Hybris LIVE: Digital Summit 2017, you’ll have caught a glimpse of what the coming years might hold. Technological developments are transforming the lives of consumers as well as those of businesses. , and failing to take those changes into account will make it much harder to get those consumers’ attention over the next decade.

Some auguries of technological change are easily seen. “The great majority of businesses simply aren’t ready to support a mobile-first engagement with customers,” said Jamie Anderson, CMO of SAP Hybris, during his keynote. “Over half of them still can’t be contacted by social media. And this in a world of 1.9 billion smartphone users and 1.8 billion Facebook users.”

Get ready for AI-driven commerce

Anderson also also picked out artificial intelligence in his keynote as a key opportunity for organizations. Pointing to the movie Minority Report as inspiration, he explained: “It wasn’t the chase scene or the arms-waving-around way Tom Cruise used the computer, it was the bit when he’s going past a shop and it pushes a truly contextual piece of marketing at him. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of a real, believable future.”

Anderson believes that AI will drive the future of commerce, making it vital to consider in every part of the business. “There needs to be intelligence behind every channel, which is again where things like artificial intelligence and machine learning come in. There has to be a response mechanism and intelligence baked into every channel because customer service and experience is absolutely key.

Coping with the data deluge

Big data was another theme that several speakers repeatedly returned to. Much has been made of the power of demographic and behavioural data from social networks in the past few years, and some credit the technique with contributing to the victory of the Brexit and Trump presidential campaigns. Moritz Zimmermann, Senior Vice President, presales, CEC SAP Hybris, told the conference: “When it comes to the question of what should be the next birthday gift, Facebook might actually be better than your spouse.”

This scares many people, and Zimmermann warned that what was once routine data collection can terrify many consumers. “Isn’t the fact that there’s somebody out there with a file on each of us – isn’t that a scary thought to begin with?” he said.

“The amount of things we can find out about a person from their Facebook likes is occasionally intimidating. But there’s a positive side to it,” said Anderson. Zimmermann recommended that firms go out of their way to make data useful to the customer. Google Maps was one example he gave – in return for Maps knowing your home and work addresses, it can let you know about traffic jams on your route.

SAP is working on its own solution to this problem – the SAP Hybris Profile. “It collects signals from the consumer and the consumer’s behavior in real time, from everywhere, be it from the physical space, be it through iBeacon sensors, geofences, from smart products,” said Zimmermann. “It takes that data in real time and stores it in a new way.”

All data collected on a user is gathered on a website, where the user can see it and revoke access whenever they wish. “It gives control back to the user,” he added. “In a secure and compliant fashion.”

Adjusting to change

Coping with these changes is not going to be easy for companies, and a panel of digital experts shared their experiences of implementing new ideas in their organizations. Philip Murphy, Head of Digital COE at Glanbia PLC, said that it takes time to get buy-in from a large company on major changes to their business. “A lot of senior stakeholders… don’t understand the complexity of what you’re doing,” he said. “You’ve got to show them a vision of what the future could look like for the organization.” Helle Pedersen Georgakis, Senior Project Manager at MAN Diesel & Turbo SE, added that it’s important to sell the benefits, not the product.

Frank Niemann, Vice President Software at Pierre Audoin Consultants, said that companies should get the idea of new projects “going live” out of their mind, calling it a “term from the past”. While Eberhardt Weber, Founder and CEO of SAAS AG and, emphasized the value of experimenting and trying new things out. “I know it’s not so easy if you run a big enterprise,” he said. “but if you have the opportunity I would recommend to everybody… just do it.”

In many cases, said Anderson, the key to success is to be agile and responsive to the future. “Business agility is absolutely key in this economy because customers themselves are harder to engage then they’ve ever been,” he explained. “If you look at the customer today. 99.7% are ignored because they are largely irrelevant and driven by data that’s already out of date.”

So here what you need to do to get ahead of the game. Keep an eye on artificial intelligence technology, be careful of privacy concerns when employing big data analysis,  and ensure your customers have full control of any data you keep on them. Stay agile and flexible, try new things constantly and make sure you have buy-in from all stakeholders. “The business model that got you here”, said SAP’s Fergus O’Reilly, global vice president of solution management, while introducing SAP’s new Revenue Cloud solution, “isn’t necessarily the business model that you’ll carry on with.”

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