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“Transforming to Thrive in an Omnichannel Environment” encapsulated the technologies and solutions being showcased by SAP and industry partners including /N SPRO, Capgemini, razorfish, Applexus, attune, Hortonworks, Deloitte, GK Software, HP, Huawei, intel, Motorola Solutions, Tata Consultancy Services, and Seal Consulting Inc., among many others, at SAP’s eight annual Retail Forum in New York City last week.
Retailers from various channels and industries participated in panel discussions, keynotes, design thinking workshops, demonstrations and networking events. This year, breakouts were organized against three retail platforms: Food, Drug and Convenience Stores; Fashion and Department Stores; and General Merchandise and Hardlines. These more focused breakouts ensured that attendees were able to make the most of the more than 30 sessions packed into the two-day event.
Think Like a Freak: Redefine the Problem
Stephen Dubner, co-author with Steven Levitt of "Think Like a Freak" (Harper Collins 2014), challenged attendees to find data that reflects reality instead of data that supports conventional wisdom or even decisions we’ve already made. “Conventional wisdom is hard to dislodge,” he said. “But sometimes conventional wisdom is just wrong.” Unfortunately for individuals, the cost of saying “I don’t know” —which Dubner says are the three hardest words in the English language—can be higher than being wrong.
Dubner used predictions as an example. He noted that most predictors, in terms of geopolitics, stocks, commodities and sports, are about as good as “a monkey with a dartboard.” But because there are no negative consequences for those with wrong predictions, the practice won’t go away. Unfortunately, there are consequences in retail, so it’s best if our industry’s prognosticators stick with what’s known.
Dubner chose content from "Think Like a Freak" to illustrate the value in “redefining the problem.” In the “What’s Your Problem?” chapter, Dubner and Levitt share the story of six-time winner of Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest Takeru Kobayashi, who changed “How do I eat more hot dogs?” into “How do I make hot dogs easier to eat?” His solution of splitting the hot dog from the bun and by wetting the buns with a water and oil combination, led to a record breaking 53 ¾ hot dogs and buns in 2001.
Pat Bakey, Global General Manager, SAP Retail, spoke with Progressive Grocer about SAP’s commitment to help clients “re-set the moment around the customer.” Successful retailers today must be able to respond with speed, flexibility and adaptability, he said. SAP works with retailers at many levels of consumer responsiveness and addresses a client’s most pressing issues first. “We’re not consumed by the shiniest object,” said Bakey. “We want to help our customers create efficiencies and then we innovate on top of that.” First, SAP works with customers to determine the experience they want to create for their shoppers. “That drives the priorities,” says Bakey. Then, SAP gauges the readiness of a given client to embrace change. It might be starting with the customers’ journey through the store, and working on a store renovation. It might be addressing a customer’s talent needs and investing in their people, says Bakey.
A key tool for helping retailers better understand and act on consumer behavior—with speed, flexibility and adaptability—is SAP’s Customer Activity Repository (CAR), unveiled at the 2013 Retail Forum, but now being adopted by a number of retailers. CAR is powered by the HANA In-Memory platform and brings together customer, sales and inventory information from previously siloed applications; for some retailers, these applications can run to the several dozen. CAR houses all the “intra-day” aspects of retail inventory management for an omni-channel world—multiple independent applications that historically have had diverse formats: customer interactions in-store, online, and via mobile channels, and social media feedback. CAR delivers real-time POS Data, Multichannel Sales Repository and Analytics, Inventory Visibility Analytics, and predictive capabilities, leveraging the Demand Data Foundation and Unified Demand Forecast. As customers are changing to support omni-channel, questions of where product is and how that product gets to the shopper can be answered rapidly to make better decisions.
“Consumers are demanding to be at the center of the retailer’s universe,” says Randy Evins, senior principal industry value engineering food, drug and convenience retail. “It’s a more seamless, comprehensive relationship that goes beyond the store experience.” CAR is a tool that enables the “perfect” store, which Evins says has knowledgeable staff, helps customers to live healthier lives, demonstrates commitment to sustainability, provides a great eating experience, and many levels of expertise.
CAR is unique in not only delivering a unified demand forecast in real time, but also reincorporating every decision back into the platform, communicating with all parties in real time.
As Bakey told attendees, “Disruption is here to stay… and our speed of change is fast and accelerating. The impact of this change is that we have to rethink our business strategy. Business processes have to be consumer-driven, not retailer-driven." SAP, with platforms including its Customer Activity Repository, aims to help retailers simplify, transform and innovate to retain their relevance with consumers. Channeling Albert Einstein, Bakey said, “The questions are timeless in retail, including those about pricing, assortment, pricing, and timing, but the answers change.”