What an SAP, Hybris & Accenture Alliance Could Mean For Digital Marketing

chavie-larson-accenture-hybrisOn the heels of Accenture’s acquisition of digital marketing and strategy consultancy Acquity Group and the announcement that followed of a partnership with ecommerce platform hybris, executives from all companies gathered today in New York to talk forward moves with hybris’ new parent company, German enterprise giant SAP.

“We have, in the past, spent a lot of time gathering data and not using it,” said Susie Sapsara, global ebusiness manager for safety appliances company MSA, an Acquity and hybris customer. “Information just sat there. I’m a marketer, so I [look for ways that [things like] product sign-up information can be used for much more than selling” by automating the process.

With no shortage of enterprise platforms like IBM and Oracle claiming to provide an end-to-end customer experience with the data and know-how to optimize the experience all the way from customer acquisition through to support, SAP said it’s not focused on managing relationships. “The phrase I’d like you to think about is consumer engagement,” said Jonathan Becher, SAP’s chief marketing & communications officer. “The consumer today is digitally enabled and people are crowdsourcing their research” before they buy or convert.

AdExchanger spoke with Erik Larson, managing director, digital, data and analytics, at Accenture and Rick Chavie, VP of OmniCommerce for hybris, about the blending worlds of digital and in-store touchpoints, and what their alliance means for commerce and marketing services as a whole.

AdExchanger: With Accenture acquiring Acquity, how does this stack up in terms of the SAP/hybris deal?

ERIK LARSON: We’ve been a significant hybris partner for years, particularly in Europe. We’ve built out a series of joint things there, including integrating with SAP on a repeated basis. With the Acquity acquisition, it gives us the capacity to take advantage of the opportunity in North America as well. They already had a great relationship built with hybris. We, of course, had a great relationship with SAP. So, the two of us coming together at the same time hybris and SAP are coming together is a positive twist of fate.

SAP has been compared to IBM and Oracle in terms of its digital commerce output. Where do your loyalties lie with those companies?

We, typically, in any of our technology alliances work with the top people in a sector, so we do work with others besides hybris and SAP…Acquity was a large hybris shop, so our acquisition of them helps us take on the opportunity of hybris in North America. We’ve continued to grow very organically in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and Europe. We’ll continue that, but we’re always considering acquisition targets in this and other spaces.

SAP is beefing up its marketing portfolio with things like Precision Marketing. Do you think, inevitably, SAP could become more of a services play?

I think SAP has the resources and leadership to where if they decide to be something, they probably could. I wouldn’t want to pretend to have a crystal ball and guess where they choose to go next. I think our investments around Accenture Interactive [with our acquisition of Fjord] point toward a view that the marketplace is changing and that we want to consistently be able to help our clients understand the consumer in a really holistic way. When we bring that back to some of the discussion we had downstairs, it looks like B2B is starting to have some of the resources that B2C has always had and the focus and attention on the details of those different touch points is emerging.

Big data was thrown around a lot today. For retail brands, what’s the biggest challenge? Is it a people or tech challenge? And do you need to hire a data scientist?  

The short answer is, all of the above, but I would argue that the marketplace transition and the potential for the creepiness factor is probably the biggest challenge to overcome. Where you actually make sure the consumer, in fact, wants you to be that involved in the data about them and navigating that can be different within your segments, industry or current brand.

How could the SAP/hybris deal impact marketers from a paid perspective?

RICK CHAVIE: From our perspective, we’re not that directly engaged in managing paid advertising with our customers. We provide the platform that can access other touch points [through our partners] whether it’s going out on Google or other marketplaces or other companies’ sites. It comes back to the technical architecture of our platform, which allows them to stay current by engaging with all of these different platforms.

One of the things we like to think about as a platform provider, rather than just an application provider, is we can stay much more current than other companies because of the fact that we’re based on open standards. When we start exchanging information with other platform providers that allows them to be future-proofed. So we don’t have to invent the best search out on the Web. Our focus in terms of the product content, search and navigation tends to be more focused on the retailer or wholesaler’s website only, but we have a broad range of partners that can connect in to the platform and we’ve grown that tremendously over the last several years. It’s becoming a global network of partners that engage with us.

What are some challenges marketers face in this omnichannel environment?

When you think about brand consistency, which is a big challenge, whether you’re going from a phone, a tablet, to a PC to a digital sign, etc., and then go out onto different platforms, the ability to share the content has been one of our strengths… it’s the context and the content that goes along with that product once you search for it that makes a difference in conversion.

We think the execution layer, going from a site to your own commerce solution, is going to be the challenge. There’s been so much optimization to this point and so much science thrown at search optimization, but mainly from an ecommerce perspective. So if you start thinking about it beyond that seven to eight percent in the ecommerce world, what about the other 92%?

What happens there when I start searching for something that I can’t actually execute online, but, instead, maybe ‘I want to drive them from online to my store.’ Any CMO and merchant that can drive somebody from the site to the store sees the value prop immediately… I’ve got to be able to trace them a little bit, whether through email offers or other means beyond paid search to connect the dots between the site and when they go in to the physical store and that area is relatively unexplored. If you asked me where I would put my investment, it would be in driving from sites and from mobile into the physical store.

It almost sounds like a new attribution model.

Absolutely. And vice versa. Once you get that managed and if you can track them back, then you can be like, ‘Now, they’re on the physical side and I want to get them back to the ecommerce side,’ so you keep closing that loop and create sort of a virtuous cycle.

The challenge, until now, has been how do you identify that? I actually see the whole grocery side as having the biggest, quickest upside that is unexplored by and large [by the rest of the industry] today, because they have the loyalty cards. They do know who you are and maybe when you leave. They’re very young and early in terms of exploiting all that information that’s been sitting there for decades, but [this is an example] where you do have that kind of identification.

There are some retail venues where you have all that information – the credit card at department stores where even if you’re buying offline, you use their credit card and get at least 30 to 40% penetration. You have a good mix of customers where you can track that end-to-end navigation and I think that’s why you see Macy’s, Saks, Neiman Marcus using phrases like “omnichannel,” because they’re leading the charge in investment and resources across these channels. The key thing will be the closed loop and having data and the access, whether I’m a marketer, store owner, someone in the call center – it’s all having common access to data around you.

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