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5 Reasons You'll Embrace Digital Transformation In 2016

Dinesh Sharma

Without a doubt, the lives of everyone on this planet has been impacted by the digital economy. Approximately 2 billion of us don’t leave our homes without a smartphone in hand. We shop online for almost every conceivable product. And for the 57% who are still unconnected, they are benefiting from a growing social community that is exchanging ideas, influencing governments worldwide, inspiring change, creating awareness of injustice, and coordinating aid to those in need.

At the same time, a growing number of companies are extending the possibilities of hyperconnectivity. Kaeser Kompressoren is embedding sensors in its systems to predict potential breakdowns and generate revenue by tracking the volume of compressed air consumed by its customers. Haier Asia is doubling up its digital platform to get closer to its customers and give them exactly what they want. Even Europe’s second-largest port found a way to increase capacity by 150% without physically expanding its bustling facility.

For these companies, digital transformation is not just a strategic move – it’s a fundamental part of their survival and overall business model. In fact, a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) revealed that 59% of executives view the failure to adapt to hyperconnectivity is their organization’s biggest threat.

2016: The year of real digital transformation

Despite all of this change, we have yet to scratch the surface of the possibilities the digital economy offers. Mark my words: 2016 will further prove the transformational power of the digital economy.

As we prepare to usher in a new year, here are my top predictions of how the digital economy will continue to revolutionize everything:

1. Digital masters will emerge – and win every time.

Companies that digitally transform everything they do and touch will further differentiate themselves from those that just dabble in digital services. Although the EIU reports that 19% of companies are radically changing their business model to seize the opportunities hyperconnectivity offers, they are becoming powerful brands.

Take Nike, for example. The well-known sports apparel company has transformed itself into a fitness and lifestyle brand. By actively engaging with customers through social media, mobile technology, and embedded sensors, it is fostering an empowered community. From tracking diet, activity, and fitness progress to sending reminders to get their customers moving, Nike is making sure that their customers have the support they need – whenever and wherever they need it. 

2. Digital Darwinism will become a significant threat.

Technology and society are evolving at a pace that is simply too difficult for many organizations to keep up with.  In fact, according to some predictions, 40% of the Fortune 500 are expected to no longer exist within 10 years if they do not evolve soon.

To survive, companies must be not only the strongest and the most intelligent, but they also must adapt to change.  We have all seen this firsthand as we spent the last 20 years saying goodbye to brand leaders that resisted the call and opportunity to digitize. So for the 81% that are not taking digital transformation seriously, make 2016 the year you start to get serious.

3. Digital transformation will be pervasive across every area of the business. 

To be truly transformed, companies must go beyond window dressing the customer experience, embedding a few sensors to monitor production, and monetizing a service with digital technology. They must reach deep into the bare bones of the company, going as far as human resources and finance and as high up as the executive boardroom.

Digital transformation is just the enabler – real change happens when the business culture, leadership, and processes of profit centers and cost centers embrace it and evolve with it. The cloud, mobile technology, networks, and analytics present every business area with a unique opportunity to gain greater efficiency, perform instant data analysis, and achieve better collaboration. Not only does digital transformation help companies modernize and become an attractive employer brand for younger talent, but it also creates a seamless customer experience, promotes more effective collaboration, and empowers the entire workforce.

One brand that shows the power of such an undertaking is Burberry. Famous for its digital retail experience online and in physical stores, the luxury retailer has taken its personalization strategy to its employees too. By making it easier for employees in all areas to sell the brand to customers, Burberry is experiencing increased engagement across its workforce. And in the end, that means a better customer experience – anytime, anywhere, and through any channel.

4. The sales funnel will disappear – for good.

For decades, the sales funnel has been used as a visual representation of separating qualified buyers from the rest of the prospect pool. However, thanks to the Internet and social network, the sales process has accelerated to the point where the funnel is no longer relevant.

CEB recently uncovered that the average buyer is 57% through the purchase decision process before their first interaction with a sales representative or channel. Plus, companies only have 12% of their customer’s mindshare through the buying experience.  As a result, customers tend to fall through the funnel undetected and without a defined journey.

Through digital transformation, sales and marketing can better address this issue by providing multiple touch points that can make the brand accessible to every existing and potential customer – no matter the path taken. Along the way, data should be collected, consolidated, and distributed across the enterprise to provide insight and power decisions at the moment of the interaction.

5. Cryptocurrency will pave the way for better data security. 

Bitcoin. Drones. Virtual reality. Cloud. All of these emerging technologies has drawn a fair amount of press lately. However, there are always naysayers fearful that these innovations will not measure up in terms of protection from cyberattacks and data breaches. And probably the most eyebrow-raising one of all is cryptocurrency. However, Bitcoin has included a level of security into its ecosystem: The blockchain.

Through redundancy, computational compliance, and high-speed processing, all transactions are logged on a publicly available general ledger and copied across thousands of servers. When a transaction is initiated, every one of those servers must agree that the information given is accurate. Should someone try to cheat or hack into the ecosystem, it will be rejected as soon as the new account identifier is detected to be unidentifiable.

Is it possible that someone can work faster than these servers? According to The Economist, it is nearly impossible to generate a new version of the blockchain quick enough to overtake more than half of the servers controlling it. As computing power and speed increases, so will the servers’ ability to process information faster than the most-competent blockchain miners.

What do you think of these predictions? Dust off your crystal ball and share how you foresee the digital economy evolving!

 

Learn more about what’s possible for your business in the digital economy. Check out these reports detailing the Economist Intelligence Unit’s research:

 

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About Dinesh Sharma

Dinesh Sharma is the Vice President, Marketing, Internet of Things, at SAP. He is a GM-level technology executive with leadership, technical innovation, effective strategic planning, customer and partner engagement, turnaround management and focused operational execution experience at both large enterprise and startup companies.

Innovator Or Follower? Reimagined Processes Keep Distributors In The Lead

Karen Lynch

The world is moving ever faster. Customers demand a wider variety of products and services with shorter delivery times. Competitive markets demand that wholesale distributors become more efficient.

To survive in this environment, distributors must rethink their business processes. Leading companies are using digital technology to optimize business outcomes. They are implementing bold initiatives to automate core administrative business processes. They are changing the way they operate by changing or eliminating fundamental business processes. They are moving from being reactive and slow to agile, proactive, and insight-driven.

Distribution companies are taking a fresh look at their key processes. They often find that any process can be more modern or digitized. To stay ahead of competition, the time to plan and execute is now.

Here are some ways distributors are approaching this challenge.

Become easier to do business with

The customer experience today is a lifecycle, not just an individual interaction. Customers expect a consistent experience during every touch point with your organization. Leading distributors provide a variety of ordering channels. These include call centers, websites, text messages, and in-person interaction. The goal is to deliver the exact products and services customers need at the time they need them.

Establish detail-driven customer engagement

Distributors are becoming more efficient by focusing on their best customers. They are gathering information through segmentation and stratification of their customer base. These details can help transform marketing activities, personalize user experiences, and grow customer loyalty. Companies can then nurture the most profitable customers. And they can take insight-driven action to improve relationships with the least profitable customers.

Enable predictive analytics

Companies should use data should to forecast and predict, not to reminisce. Imagine being able to tell your customers which products they will need and when they will need them. Companies use predictive analytics and up-to-the-minute insight to react to trends in real time.

Address operational efficiency and bottom-line results

With an eye toward higher efficiency, distributors are reimagining their operations as well. They negotiate the best deals with suppliers to improve margins, pricing, and inventory levels. They use solutions for integrated strategic sourcing and supplier management to achieve 8–14% savings. Companies use optimized operations for complex, high-volume financial processing. This can be valuable for their own company or as a service for business partners. For many companies, rebate and chargeback processes are still manual. This can leave significant revenue on the table. But digital solutions can automate these processes, identifying every opportunity to collect.

Leverage business networks

Distributors are leveraging the value of business networks. They can automatically order and pay for goods and services, both direct and indirect. Pre-defining suppliers, pricing, safety stock and reorder points enables touch-less and automated processing. Automation of these manual processes gives employees time to focus on customer-centric activities. This helps improve loyalty and increase sales.

Innovator or follower?  The choice is yours

In today’s digital economy, wholesale distributors must reimagine business processes to remain competitive and best serve customers. Distributors with vision are leading the way for the rest of the industry.

To learn more about digital transformation for wholesale, click here.

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Karen Lynch

About Karen Lynch

Karen Lynch is the Vice President, Global Wholesale Distribution Industry Business Unit at SAP. She sets the vision and direction and execute the go to market plan to address the needs of Wholesale Distributors across the globe by using SAP solutions.

Top Tech Partnerships Transforming The IT Industry

Kevin Ichhpurani

The recent unprecedented partnership announcement between SAP and Apple is just the latest in a string of game-changing partnerships and mergers in the tech industry. Driven by the relentless pace of innovation, the technology sector is only one of numerous industries that are moving quickly to ensure they stay relevant.

For example, leading healthcare companies are partnering with technology goliaths like Google to create life-changing innovations that will transform our world, such as surgical robots for non-invasive surgery. Industries ranging from automotive and academia to insurance, banking, and beyond are feeling the impact of digital disruption, competing through new digital ecosystems, and responding in ways that will reinvent how we live and work.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the latest key technology partnerships.

1. Apple and SAP

The recently announced SAP and Apple partnership is a revolutionary breakthrough for business. It will combine native apps for iPhone and iPad with the enterprise capabilities of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. It allows developers, partners, and customers to build iOS apps tailored to their business needs in order to manage critical business operations.

The business capabilities for apps enabled by this partnership are endless. Imagine having a virtual assistant who not only responds to your requests, but also proactively reaches out to let you know when there are situations you need to be aware of. In fact, some of the first apps will contain functionality, referred to as co-pilot, which is touted as the first true digital assistant in the enterprise.

Here’s an example of how co-pilot functionality works. A machine in the production line is overheating. A sensor flags the issue to the inspector bot and to your app. The app with co-pilot functionality notifies you – in natural human language via text, action, or voice – and provides relevant information on the issue and suggestions on the best course of action to take. The app monitors the situation and helps you to quickly solve the problem by facilitating the proper service procedures and ensuring that you are kept abreast of the resolution. Importantly, the app will learn from behavioral data to improve its recommended actions in the future.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO stated, “This partnership will transform how iPhone and iPad are used in enterprise by bringing together the innovation and security of iOS with SAP’s deep expertise in business software. As the leader in enterprise software and with 76% of business transactions touching an SAP system, SAP is the ideal partner to help us truly transform how businesses around the world are run on iPhone and iPad.”  

2. Cisco and Ericsson

“In a world driven by mobility, cloud, and digitalization, the networks of the future will require new design principles to ensure they are agile, autonomous, and highly secure.” So said technology giants Cisco and Ericsson when they announced a sweeping strategic partnership to create the “networks of the future”.

The multifaceted partnership touches virtually all aspects of both companies, from sharing patents and intellectual property rights to joint development and creation of new products to collaborating on global services capabilities including consulting, integration, and support.

Together, the companies plan to offer the best of both companies – routing, data center, networking, cloud, mobility, management and control, and services – across network architectures from devices and sensors to access and core networks to the enterprise IT cloud.

Cisco and Ericsson are dramatically reinventing themselves to meet the realities of the digital economy, and enabling their customers to accelerate their own business transformations. By delivering an end-to-end product and services portfolio and joint innovation, they plan to provide the mobile enterprise experience of the future and speed the platforms and services needed to digitize countries and create the Internet of Things ecosystem.

Customers will not be the only beneficiaries of this partnership. The companies expect an incremental revenue opportunity of $1 billion or more for each company by calendar year 2018. Plus, in February 2016, the partners expanded their agreement to include Intel and Verizon, with the goal to develop a 5G router for business and residential service, and accelerate 5G innovations. (Apple, Nokia, and Qualcomm are also members of a Verizon-led initiative to develop and test 5G wireless technologies.)

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins commented on the need for partnerships these days, saying, “In today’s fast-paced world, next-generation strategic partnerships allow us to innovate and move with greater speed.”

3. Dell and EMC

This is a merger as opposed to a partnership. But I had to mention it because it is one of the largest tech mergers to date, and it will have a widespread impact on the IT industry and beyond.

At the EMC World event this month, Dell Chairman and CEO, Michael Dell, said the merger will create a next-breed technology company that strategically covers the “customers’ entire infrastructure, from hardware to software services, from the edge to the core to the cloud.”

The $67 billion Dell and EMC deal also directly involves several well-known companies that they refer to as the ‘family of companies’ currently owned by one of the two tech giants, including VMware, Pivotal, SecureWorks, RSA, and Virtustream. The merger still has some hurdles to cross, but if it closes as expected by October, the combined company will have close to 170,000 employees.

The ripple effect across industries

These significant deals are part of a larger global trend of partnerships, alliances, and consolidations. The impact of some of these major technology partnerships and mergers is expected to cause a ripple effect across multiple sectors and the global business landscape.

This is only the beginning; I’m eager to see where these technology partnerships can take us.

Learn more about the Apple and SAP partnership to revolutionize work on iPhone and iPad.

For an in-depth look at how technology is changing the business landscape, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

To learn more about the multiple factors driving digital transformation, download the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

Discover how the Mobile Industry is Now Simpler Then Ever.

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Kevin Ichhpurani

About Kevin Ichhpurani

Kevin Ichhpurani is EVP of Strategic Business Development at SAP.

Live Businesses Deliver a Personal Customer Experience Without Losing Trust

Lori Mitchell-Keller, Brian Walker, Johann Wrede, Polly Traylor, and Stephanie Overby

Trust is the foundation of customer relationships. People who don’t trust your business are not likely to become or remain customers.

The trust relationship has taken some big hits lately. Beloved brands like Chipotle and Toyota have seen customer trust ebb due to public perception of their roles in safety issues. Consumers continue to experience occasional data breaches from large brands.

Yet these traditional threats have short half-lives. The latest threat could last forever.

Most customers claim they want personalization across all the channels in which they interact with companies. Such personalization should create long-term loyalty by creating a new level of intimacy in the relationship.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images2But that intimacy comes at a high price. For personalization to work, brands need to gather unprecedented amounts of personal information about customers and continue to do so over the course of the relationship. Customers are already wary: 80% of consumers have updated their privacy settings recently, according to an article in VentureBeat.

Companies must get personalization right. If they do, customers are more likely to purchase again and less likely to switch to a competitor. Personalization is also an important step toward the holy grail of digital transformation: becoming a Live Business, capable of meeting customers with relevant and customized offers, products, and services in real time or in the moments of customers’ choosing.

When done wrong, personalization can cause customers to feel that they’ve been deceived and that their privacy has been violated. It can also turn into an uncomfortable headline. When Target used its database of customer purchases to send coupons for diapers to the home of an expectant teen before her father knew about the pregnancy, its action backfired. The incident became the centerpiece of a New York Times story on Target’s consumer intelligence gathering practices and privacy.

Straddling the Line of Trust

Customers can’t define the line between helpful and creepy, but they know it when they see it.

Research conducted by RichRelevance in 2015 made something abundantly clear: what marketers think is cool may be seen as creepy by consumers. For example, facial-recognition technology that identifies age and gender to target advertisements on digital screens is considered creepy by 73% of people surveyed. Yet consumers were happy about scanning a product on their mobile device to see product reviews and recommendations for other items they might like, the survey revealed. Here’s what else resonates as creepy or cool when it comes to digital engagement with consumers, courtesy of RichRelevance and Edelman Berland (now called Edelman).

Creepy

  • Shoppers are put off when salespeople greet them by name because of mobile phone signals or know their spending habits because of facial-recognition software.
  • Dynamic pricing, such as a digital display showing a lower price “just for you,” also puts shoppers off.
  • When brands collect data on consumers without their knowledge, 83% of people consider it an invasion of privacy, according to RichRelevance’s research, and 65% feel the same way about ads that follow them from Web site to Web site (retargeting).

Cool

  • Shoppers like mobile apps with interactive maps that efficiently guide them to products in the store.
  • They also like when their in-store location triggers a coupon or other promotion for a product nearby.
  • When a Web site reminds the consumer of past purchases, a majority of shoppers like it.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about which personalization tactics are creepy and which are cool, but trust is particularly threatened in face-to-face interactions. Nobody minds much if Amazon sends product recommendations through a computer, but when salespeople approach customers like a long-lost friend based on information collected without the customer’s knowledge or permission, the violation of trust feels much more personal and emotional. The stage is set for an angry, embarrassed customer to walk out  the door, forever.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images3It doesn’t help that the limits of trust shift constantly as social media tempts us to reveal more and more about ourselves and as companies’ data collection techniques continue to improve. It’s easy to cross the line from helpful to creepy or annoying (see Straddling the Line of Trust).

Online, customers are similarly choosy about personalization. For example, when online shoppers are simply looking at a product category, ads that matched their prior Web-browsing interests are ineffective, an MIT study reports. Yet after consumers have visited a review site to seek out information and are closer to a purchase, personalized content is more effective than generic ads.

Personalization Requires a Live Business

Yet the limits of trust are definitely shifting toward more personalization, not less. Customers already enjoy frictionless personalized experiences with digital-native companies like Uber, and they are applying those heightened expectations to all companies. For example, 91% of customers want to pick up where they left off when they switch between channels, according to Aspect research. And personalization is helpful when you receive recommendations for products that you would like based on previous in-store or online purchases.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0004Customers also want their interactions to be live—or in the moment they choose. Fulfilling that need means that companies must become Live Businesses, capable of creating a technological infrastructure that allows real-time interactions and that allows the entire organization—its structure, people, and processes—to respond to customers in all the moments that matter.

Coordinating across channels and meeting customers in the right moments with personalized interactions will become critical as the digital economy matures and customer expectations rise. For instance, when customers air complaints about a brand on social media, 72% expect a response within an hour, according to consulting firm Bain & Company. Meanwhile, an Accenture survey found that nearly 60% of consumers want real-time promotions; 48% like online reminders to order items that they might have run out of; and 51% like the idea of a one-click checkout, where they can skip payment method or shipping forms because the retailer has saved their preferences. Those types of services build trust, showing that companies care enough to understand their customers and send offers or information that save them time, money, or both.

So while trust is difficult to earn, once you’ve earned it and figured out how to maintain it, you can have customers for life—as long as you respect the shifting boundaries.

“Do customers think the company is truly acting with their best interests at heart, or is it just trying to feed the quarterly earnings beast?” asks Donna Peeples, a customer experience expert and the former chief customer experience officer at AIG. “Customer data should be accurate and timely, the company should be transparent about how the data is being used, and it should give customers control over data collection.”

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0005How to Earn Trust for a Live Business

Despite spending US$600 billion on online purchases, U.S. consumers are concerned with transaction privacy, the 2015 Consumer Trust Survey from CA Security Council reveals. These concerns will become acute as Live Businesses make personalization across channels a reality.

Here are some ways to improve trust while moving forward with omnichannel personalization.

  • Determine the value of trust. Customers want to know what value they are getting in exchange for their data. An Accenture study found that the majority of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations, and offers.
    “If customers get substantial discounts or offers that are appealing to them, they are often more than willing to make that trade-off,” says Tom Davenport, author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities. “But a lot of companies are cheap. They use the information but don’t give anything back. They make offers that aren’t particularly relevant or useful. They don’t give discounts for loyalty. They’re just trying to sell more.”
  • Let customers make the first move. Customers who voluntarily give up data are more likely to trust personalization across the channels where they do business. Mobile apps are a great way to invite customers to share more data in a more intimate relationship that they control. By entering the data they choose into the app, customers won’t be annoyed by personalization that’s built around it.
    For example, a leading luxury retailer’s sales associates may offer customers their favorite beverages based on information they entered into the app about their interests and preferences.
  • Simplify data collection and usage policies. Slapping a dense data- use policy written in legalese on the corporate website does little to earn customers’ trust. Instead, companies should think about the customer data transaction, such as what information the customer is giving them, how they’re using it, and what the result will be, and describe it as simply as possible.
    “Try to describe it in words so simple that your grandmother can understand it. And then ask your grandmother if it’s reasonable,” suggests Elea McDonnell Feit, assistant professor of marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. “If your grandmother can’t understand what’s happening, you’ve got a problem.”
    The use of data should be totally transparent in the interaction itself, adds Feit. “When a company uses data to customize a service or offering to a customer, the customer should be able to figure out where the company got the data and immediately see how the company is providing added value to the customers by using the data,” Feit says.
  • Create trust through education. Yes, bombarding customers with generic offers and pushing those offers across the different Web sites they visit may boost profits over the short term, but customers will eventually become weary and mistrustful. To create trust that lasts and that supports personalization, educate the customers.

Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) Mean Stinks campaign for Secret deodorant encourages girl-to-girl anti-bullying posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The pages let participants send apologies to those they have bullied; view videos; and share tips, tools, and challenges with their peers.

P&G has said that participation in Mean Stinks has helped drive market share increases for the core Secret brand as well as the specific line of deodorant promoted by the effort. Offering education without pushing products or services creates a sense that companies are putting customers’ interests before their own, which is one of the bedrock elements of trust. Opting in to personalization seems less risky to customers if they perceive that companies have built up a reserve of value and trust.

“Companies that do personalization well demonstrate that they care, respect customers’ time, know and understand their customers and their needs and interests,” says Peeples. “It also reinforces that interactions are not merely transactions but opportunities to build a long-term relationship with that customer.”

Laying the Foundation for Live, Personalized Omnichannel Processes

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0006Creating a personalized omnichannel strategy that balances trust and business goals starts with knowing the customer. This can happen only when multiple aspects of your business are coordinated in a live fashion. But marketers today struggle to collect the kind of data that could drive more meaningful connections with customers. In an Infogroup survey of more than 500 marketers, only 21% said they are “very confident in the accuracy and completeness of their customer profiles.” A little over half of respondents said they aren’t collecting enough data overall.

Collecting enough of the right types of data requires more holistic data-collection techniques:

  • Take advantage of the lower costs for processing and storing terabytes of data, and develop a data strategy that combines and crunches all the customer data points needed to drive relevant interactions. This includes transactional, mobile, sensor, and  Web data.
  • Social media analytics is also a central tactic. Social profiles and activity are rich sources of data about behavior and character, merging what people buy or look for with their interests, for instance. Such data can feed predictive analytics and personalization campaigns.
  • Experiment with commercial tools that can filter and mine the data of customers and prospects in real time. This is a significant step beyond basic demographic data collections of the past.

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0007Once the necessary data is available, companies need the technology, processes, and people to make sensible use of it in an omnichannel personalization strategy. Only when a company is organized as a Live Business can that happen. Here’s how your company can move toward being a Live Business:
Be live across channels. Having a consistent customer journey map across channels is core to omnichannel personalization. It requires integration across multiple systems and organizational silos to enable core capabilities, such as inventory visibility and purchase/pickup/return across channels. This integration also constitutes a major chunk of the transition to becoming a company that can act in the moments that matter most to customers. If all channels can sync in real time, customers can get what they want in the moment they want it.

Free the data scientists. Marketing rarely has full control over the omnichannel experience, but it is the undisputed leader in understanding customer behavior. While data science is part of that understanding, it has traditionally played a background role. Marketers need to bring the data scientists into efforts to sort through the different options for digitizing the omnichannel experience. The right data scientists understand not only how to use the tools but also how to apply the data to make accurate decisions and follow customers from channel to channel with personalized offers.

Walgreens’ Technology Approach to Personalization

Walgreens is a leader in building the kind of technology base that can enable real-time, omnichannel personalization. Its digital transformation is 16 years in the making, according to Jason Fei, senior director of architecture for digital engineering at Walgreens. At the heart of its infrastructure is a Big Data engine that feeds many customer interaction and omnichannel processes, including customer segmentation. The company adds third-party systems in areas such as predictive analytics and marketing software. Walgreens has a cloud-first strategy for all new applications, such as its image-processing and print-ordering applications. Other elements of the drugstore chain’s technology platform include:

  • Application programming interface (API)-driven architecture. Walgreens’ APIs enable more than 50 partners to connect with its apps and systems to drive customer-facing processes, including integrations with consumer wearables to drive reward points for healthy habits, as well as content partnerships with companies such as WebMD. “With APIs we can be an extensible business, allowing other companies to connect to us easily and help in the digital enablement of our physical stores,” Fei says.
  • Responsive Web sites. The company’s Web site is built using responsive and adaptive design practices so that the site automatically adapts to the consumer’s device, whether that is a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop computer. “We have a single code base that runs anywhere and delivers a consistent, optimized experience to all of our customers,” Fei says.

Making the Most of the Technology Base

This technology foundation has allowed Walgreens to push forward in personalization. For example, according to Fei the company uses sophisticated segmentation and personalization engines to drive outbound e-mail and text campaigns to customers based on their purchase history and profile. “We don’t blast out messages to customers; we use our personalization recommendations to be relevant,” says Fei.

The next phase of this strategy is to develop live inbound personalization tactics, such as recognizing customers when they come back to the Web site and tailoring their experience accordingly. These highly automated, self-learning systems improve over time, becoming more relevant at the moment a customer logs back in.

“When you search for a product, the Web site will take a good guess of what you might actually want. If you always print greeting cards at the same time of year, for example, the system would automatically deliver content around that,” Fei explains. “Everyone comes to Walgreens with a mission, so we can be very targeted with our communications.”

Walgreens’ mobile app combines real-time personalization with convenience. You can scan a pill bottle to refill a prescription, access coupons, send photos from your phone to print in the store, track rewards, and find the exact location of a product on the shelf.

Walgreens also recently deployed a new integrated interactive voice-response system that includes a personalization engine that recognizes the individual, says Troy Mills, vice president of customer care at Walgreens. The system can then predict the most probable reason for the customer’s call and quickly get them to the right individual for further help.

How to Get Started with Live Customer Experiences

sap_Q216_digital_double_feature3_images-0008As Fei can attest, getting Walgreens’ omnichannel and personalization infrastructure to this point has involved a lot of work, with much more to come. For companies just now embarking on this journey, especially midsize and large companies, getting started will mean overhauling an outdated and ineffective technology infrastructure where duplicate systems and processes for managing customer data, marketing programs, and transactions are common.

A bad internal user experience often transcends into a bad customer-facing experience, says Peeples. “We can’t afford the distractions of the latest app or social ‘shiny penny’ without addressing the root causes of our systems’ issues.”

Live Business Requires Striking the Right Balance

The boundaries of trust are a moving target. Sales tactics that used to be acceptable decades ago, such as the door-to-door salesperson, are unwelcome today to most homeowners. And consumers’ expectations are unpredictable. At the dawn of social media, many people were anxious about their photos unexpectedly showing up online. Now our identities are tagged and our posts and photos distributed and commented on regularly.

But while consumers are getting more comfortable with online technology and its trade-offs, they won’t put up with personalization efforts that make use of their data without their knowledge or permission. That data has value, and customers want to decide for themselves when it’s worth giving it away. Marketers need to strike the right balance between personalization and a healthy respect for the unique needs and concerns of individuals. D!

 

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Lori Mitchell-Keller

About Lori Mitchell-Keller

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the Executive Vice President and Global General Manager Consumer Industries at SAP. She leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping our customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers.

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Technology Trends Shaping The Way Utilities Work

Lloyd Adams

No one needs to tell you that the digital revolution is here to stay. Digital business is big business. This is especially true now that one-time novelties like the Internet and mass-scale analytics have exited their infancies. It’s safe to assume that while the digital transformation is not yet complete, it has extended to almost every corner of industry.

Chief among the ways in which technology is changing the world is in the realm of utilities. How we get our power matters, as does how it’s metered and distributed. Too little of it and the system isn’t working; too much and it becomes wasteful and inefficient. A happy middle ground both satisfies consumers and conserves resources. So how might the utility organizations use digital resources to make utilities more efficient?

How can we use technology to create a better world?

The wide array of digital resources makes it easier than ever before for utility companies to track their operations. This in turn enables them to respond to energy supply and demand more immediately. It also allows them to deliver electricity in a more responsive and less wasteful way.

The smart grid is a great example of how hyperconnectivity and supercomputing combine. Together they enable a much smarter means of energy distribution. The smart grid uses smart-meter technology in homes, renewable energy, and new data-driven systems to maintain efficient operations and save non-renewable resources.

The digital energy network is another cutting-edge idea. It enables a two-way flow of both power and information. Large stakeholders still help control the flow of electricity and energy. But now consumers can help as well. The result? Better efficiency, less waste.

Who showcases digital business models at their best?

Luckily, some utility front-runners are offering valuable insight into the future for all. Consider CenterPoint Energy. It integrates information technology and operational technology to emphasize streamlined results and conservation.

Or the Tokyo Electric Power Company. It aims to install 27 million residential smart meter devices by 2020. These meters track energy usage and relay it back to the central utility company. Such metering will help the company make better, greener decisions about energy usage.

Then there’s Tesla, which already has a reputation for cutting-edge environmentalism. Its Powerwall lithium ion battery enables homes to store solar energy. This historically tricky feat will allow residents to “go net zero.” That means keeping their home off the grid entirely.

Each digital business models showcases a different strategy. Together, these strategies can transform our current energy economy. The result? Environmental resource management on a scale never before seen.

Will you benefit from going digital?

Yes. Like any powerful technology, these digital business models reward utility companies who adopt them early. Using digital tools to monitor operations and output has many benefits. You can grow your company for stakeholders and shareholders. You can differentiate from competitors. And you can clean up power for the sake of your city and the world.

Of course, most likely you’ve already incorporated a fair bit of digital technology into your operations. If you’re like many utility companies, though, there’s much more you can do. Engage with customers more meaningfully by making them partners in the metering process. Digitize your business to streamline information gathering. Pair up with same or similar businesses to achieve economies of scale

These approaches enable energy portfolio management on scales never before seen. The result for your business goes well past innovation. You’ll also see differentiation, growth, and competitiveness on a whole new level.

For more information on Digital Transformation for Utilities, click here.

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Lloyd Adams

About Lloyd Adams

Lloyd Adams is national vice president of Utilities for SAP North America. In this role, he is responsible for sales and customer relations in the SAP Utilities North America practice.