SAP Turns On Customer Charm with CX Offerings

SAP is zeroing in on customer experience (CX) in a big way.   

The firm, renowned for heavyweight ERP solutions, is aiming at CRM rivals like Salesforce and giving what customers want -- better integration, open data models, open source support and lightweight apps. It is looking to take advantage of the changing CX space.

“There was a serious battle going between digital natives and incumbents,“ said Alex Atzberger, president, SAP Customer Experience at the recent SAP Customer Experience LIVE event in Barcelona, Spain.

He noted that digital natives had the upper hand as they were digitally-integrated and data savvy. But incumbents started to fight back. “Customers are deciding to care about commerce delivery and privacy...and incumbents got smart with data and technology,” said Atzberger.

Atzberger argued the line between digital natives and incumbents is no longer relevant. The real difference lies in customer experience (CX) -- “the companies that lead with CX and those that don’t,” he said.

SAP wants to be the leading CX enabler.

The Promise of Unification

Seamless, end-to-end, and personalized CX is usually the holy grail of many firms. But firm politics, rigid mindsets, mission-critical legacy systems, inadequate data management, integration issues and data privacy worries stand in the way.

SAP C/4HANA -- a new product that the company launched in June 2018 -- aims to tackle these pressures. Atzberger noted the incredible progress made since the announcement with “over 10,000 customers using it.” The offering brings together five of its cloud offerings -- SAP Marketing Cloud, SAP Commerce Cloud, SAP Sales Cloud, SAP Service Cloud, SAP Customer Data Cloud from Gigya. They are linked to seven attributes, including harmonized user experience, end-to-end processes, business and master data services, suite intelligence and analytics, platform services, extensibility and integration, and open systems. The last two attributes are available now, and the rest in 2019.

CX proponents always want better extensibility, allowing them to create end-to-end customer journeys. The new SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory, a cloud-native extensibility framework to personalize and extend existing SAP applications "fast," aims to do exactly that. It builds on SAP Cloud Platform by adding new capabilities for “seamless connectivity” between applications or complete solutions to your accounts.

Meanwhile, the new Kyma enables cloud-native extensibility to help developers and customers prototype new ideas and validate them with the community. The most important part of this offering is that it is open source, allowing SAP to expand its developer and customer base.   

“So, you can innovate quickly to build extensions,” Atzberger said, adding that CX offerings must also address developer needs to be successful.

Building a Data-driven Ecosystem

At the event, SAP reinforced its support for Open Data Initiative (ODI). The initiative, which the firm announced together with Adobe and Microsoft in late September 2018, looks to remove silos between data repository using a single data model across the vendor’s CRM offerings.

ODI will improve data connectivity. It also allows firms to use artificial intelligence and advanced analytics algorithms across the platforms from the three vendors to get a better view of their customers.

More importantly, it eases pressure on firms struggling with data privacy compliance. With a single data model, they can enforce policies and mitigate risks holistically.

The most significant announcement was left for the smallest product: SAP Upscale. The offering breaks away from the company's all-in-one, comprehensive solution approach. It is a lightweight application designed for a specific section of the retail market.

“We want to get to this idea of less is more,” said Atzberger at a news conference during the event.

SAP Upscale, which is only available to U.S. Commerce Cloud users, allows retail firms to build web stores on the fly -- on the mobile or as a website -- with no coding. The mobile-first product also uses SAP Leonardo, the company’s intelligence offering, to decide the optimal layout across different mobile devices or websites while extending the customer experience in store.

Global CX Unleashed

The announcements drew strong praise from customers, especially the larger and more traditional incumbents who can now scale and compete with internet startups.

For example, Swinkels Family Brewers, a large, almost 300-year-old Netherlands-based brewer and New Era, a company that is synonymous with baseball caps, are making new inroads with CX with SAP’s renewed CX focus.

Swinkels Family Brewers maximized opportunities in countries like Ethiopia, overcoming unique challenges like lack of street names and addresses by working closely with SAP Customer Experience Labs.  "We are connected to customers every day, and this is where the customer experience begins,” said Anke Abbenhuis-Swinkels, the firm’s Starter for Innovation.

New Era was able to address the different customer perceptions as they build a global business. “We are a different brand to different consumers [around the globe],” said Lorenz Gan, chief innovation officer, New Era Cap.

“Digital is a great equalizer. CX leaders want to move fast, remove silos and be compliant and trusted to build relationships with customers, and we are enabling it,” added Atzberger.