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How To Avoid A Personal And Supply Chain Massacre This Valentine’s Day

Richard Howells

Female clerk in a flower shopThe Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre is the name given to the 1929 murder of seven mob associates as part of a Prohibition-era conflict between two powerful criminal gangs in Chicago led by Al Capone and Bugs Moran.

While no mistake I could possibly make this upcoming holiday would result in such bloodshed, I’m willing to go to great lengths to avoid my very own Valentine’s Day massacre this year.

Here is a simple checklist I plan to follow to ensure a happy Valentine’s Day – with a look at the not-so-simple, behind-the-scenes supply chain workings required to avoid a massacre.

Say “I love you” with a card

Valentine’s Day is big business. In fact, around 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent annually, making it the second largest card-sending occasion, behind Christmas, according to figures from the Greeting Card Association.

When I go to my local pharmacy or specialty card shop, I am always amazed at the selection of cards available for the holiday, and I constantly have to wonder how the manufacturers ensure on-shelf availability across the hundreds of thousands of outlets spread across the U.S.

More and more, however, customers are seeking a more personalized approach to Valentine’s Day cards. Hallmark is a great example of a card company that is keeping up with this trend, introducing its specialty retail concept store HMK.

At HMK stores, shoppers can create unique, personalized gifts that reflect an individual’s sense of style, and these products carry a unique artistry coupled with the emotion typically found in a Hallmark-brand item. But with customized products, inventory planning is not that simple. These items call for a more demand-driven supply chain, requiring HMK to go from make-to-stock to engineer-to-order, with some of the engineer-to-order processes even taking place onsite.

In addition to physical cards, an estimated 15 million e-Valentines will be sent this year. After all, the card business is now an omnichannel one, and numerous sites exist that offer customers the ability to personalize a card and send it to a loved one.

Show love with a bouquet of flowers

I – like 75% of men, according to a survey conducted by Luth Research – plan to give flowers this Valentine’s Day. Along with Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day is the most popular holiday for giving flowers, generating an estimated $100 billion worldwide for the industry. Approximately 180 million roses – the majority red – will be sold and delivered within a three-day period.

So how exactly do our roses get to our loved ones on the big day? The cold-chain logistics of transporting short shelf-life products such as flowers across a global network from a farm in Ecuador, for example, to a happy spouse or significant other in Massachusetts, let’s say, is not easy. It requires a lot of planning, collaboration, and execution. Humidity-controlled shipping containers, refrigerated cooling facilities, and other equipment are required to minimize delivery delays and ensure freshness.

Flowers have a shelf life of about 10 days. A day lost in the supply chain is 10% lost in shelf life, which can cost the wholesaler big bucks and result in an unsatisfied customer, her Valentine’s Day dream left drooping right in front of her!

Appeal to the sweet tooth with chocolates

Candies and chocolates have long been a Valentine’s Day tradition. In fact, Valentine’s Day is fourth on the list of holidays with the most candy sales – behind Halloween, Easter, and Christmas. The National Confectioners Association estimates that more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day. (Fun fact about chocolate.)

The modern chocolate supply chain is a global affair. It all starts with the cocoa, which is predominantly grown in equatorial countries, with Ghana and the Ivory Coast responsible for 50% of the global supply. Imagine if there was a natural disaster or other break in that supply. Can you picture the panic late in the evening of February 13 – when most men shop – if there was no chocolate left on the shelf? It would definitely highlight the need for the global supply chain to be more robust and explain why supplier backup is so critical.

To establish resiliency against supply shocks such as the cocoa-bean shortage, companies need to combine risk-management strategies with a balanced supply network, a multi-tier understanding of inventory positioning, and the visibility and responsiveness to re-plan supply interruptions.

Another rising challenge to this global supply is the spotlight around the sustainability of the supply in West Africa and the prevalence of child labor, human trafficking, and forced labor. This certainly doesn’t jibe with the “hearts and roses” image typically associated with Valentine’s Day. Partially as a result of this, we are now seeing a number of chocolate companies around the world sourcing Fair Trade Certified cocoa. Many are also increasingly sourcing cocoa beans that have been certified by independent organizations to meet various labor, social, and environmental standards.

So with those little pointers, and a “tip of the cap” to the business processes that make it all happen, here’s to a happy Valentine’s Day.

For more on protecting your supply chain, take a look at our research infographic on Supply Chain Fraud: Where Has All the Money Gone?

Join me on Twitter: @howellsrichard.

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About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

Three Factors Driving Business Agility

Anja Reschke

Why is business agility important in today’s digital era? Without it, you may be outwitted by swift new competitors that move into your industry. You might also risk becoming irrelevant, according to the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

Every sector is at risk of digital disruption, and you need to take action and adjust quickly in order to remain successful in today’s digital economy.

A group of consulting, technology, and business leaders from across the consumer goods spectrum addressed this issue at a recent forum. Their findings are outlined in the whitepaper, Rethinking the Value Chain: New Realities in Collaborative Business by Capgemini Consulting and The Consumer Goods Forum.

Three business agility influencers

The group determined that three key factors are significantly altering the business landscape and persuading companies to change the way they traditionally do business in order to become more agile:

  1. Consumers are changing. Consumer demands are increasing, and their omni-channel path-to-purchase is no longer linear. Their customer experience could involve a mobile app, web research, social media, an in-store visit, and an online purchase – in any order. They are also more influenced by online social networks than by conventional advertising methods, and they expect quick outcomes from responsive companies.
  1. Business is changing. Innovative business partnerships are becoming more important and technology is accelerating competition. There is an increasing threat from agile high-tech companies and start-ups that don’t follow established go-to-market patterns. Digital companies with completely new business models are gaining a competitive advantage as they boldly cross formerly well-established market boundaries.
  1. The world is changing. Global economics and demographics are shifting. Emerging markets are growing rapidly, with a different set of needs that agile companies are more capable of responding to quickly.

The biggest obstacle to business agility

The most challenging hurdle for business agility comes down to one thing: complexity.

Large organizations are so complex – with multiple layers, business units, legacy systems, and departmental silos – that agility seems almost impossible. But the ongoing pressures of the digital economy are forcing even the most complex global companies to become more agile just to stay competitive. What steps are you taking to make your company more agile?

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is affecting business, 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.

Learn how digital technology is transforming the healthcare industry in the SAP eBook, Connected Care: The Digital Pulse of Global Healthcare.

Discover Five Things That Will Increase Your Business Agility.

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About Anja Reschke

Anja Reschke is the Senior Director of Strategic Ecosystem Marketing at SAP. She is responsible for the development of joint strategic marketing plans, programs, and activities, with global strategic services and technology partners.

How To Catch Up In The Digital Transformation Race

Paul Clark

It’s been said that every business is now a technology business, and if the competition is already forcing digital transformation in your industry, then it’s already too late for you to catch up.

I don’t buy that.

I don’t think it’s too late for any company to change course and succeed in today’s digital economy. New technology and innovative business models are cropping up everyday and changing the business landscape in multiple sectors, so there’s always something you can do about it. Indeed, a recent McKinsey article helps formulate some ways that incumbents can anticipate and deal with digital disruption.

The journey to business innovation

According to the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World, there are five main areas that organizations can focus on as they move toward digital transformation:

  1. Improve your customer experience. Innovate your products and services with a relentless customer-centric focus. Use streamlined messaging and a consistent approach through multiple customer touch points. You might also want to consider mobile customer engagement.
  1. Digitize your core business. Automate your processes with faster, simpler systems, and seamless integration between multiple areas of your business and value chain.
  1. Enhance your digital capabilities and create value from data. Focus on boosting your digital capabilities through advanced analytics, agile platforms, and continuous delivery. Consider a business model based on data, with digitally enhanced IoT products, and product-related services based on sensor data.
  1. Connect your workforce. Focus on training, attracting, and retaining employees and contractors with the high-tech skill set needed to support an innovative business model.
  1. Build your business network. Strengthen relationships with existing partners, and expand your digital ecosystem by working with innovative, and perhaps atypical but relevant organizations that could enhance your positioning.

Innovating in the digital era is not just about adopting new technologies. It is also about embracing a culture of innovation, encouraging collaboration, and tapping into digital ecosystems to achieve results well beyond the scope of an individual organization.

I don’t think it’s too late for any business to catch up. But you might want to be quick about it.

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is affecting business, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing The Business World.

Discover the multiple factors driving digital transformation in the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

Have you already gone through digital transformation in your business? Find out how to reinvent an entire industry.

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About Paul Clark

Paul Clark is the Senior Director of Technology Partner Marketing at SAP. He is responsible for developing and executing partner marketing strategies, activities, and programs in joint go-to-market plans with global technology partners. The goal is to increase opportunities, pipeline, and revenue through demand generation via SAP's global and local partner ecosystems.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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How Disruption Will Cause The Insurance Industry To Change

Joe Pacor

Digital transformation is changing our world, and the insurance industry cannot sit idly and avoid these changes. It’s expected that the digital customer experience will drastically drive insurance profitability in the years to come. Over 50% of insured clients won’t recommend an insurer that doesn’t have digital interaction options. An overwhelming 61% of customers prefer to track their claim status digitally instead of contacting the insurance company or agency through more traditional means. It’s estimated that 79% of insurance executives recognize the need for innovation, but are having problems with daily operations. Over 60% see both opportunities and threats in the digital transformation process. At the same time, 74% of insurance executives feel they don’t have the necessary skills to drive the needed changes.

How does your company adapt to such a changing landscape? One common way approach is updating existing business models. Many companies have already been successful in driving digital transformation through a wide range of channels. Online-only insurance solutions and faster approval times are emerging in some companies. Others are turning to e-aggregator platforms to  keep their business afloat while changing company practices and assets to the digital economy.

Here are a few examples of promising companies and how they’re innovating to meet disruption.

Esurance

Esurance started in 1999 as an online-only business. With over five million customers, it has seen rapid growth since its beginnings. And because the insurer started out with a direct insurance digital approach, it is ahead of the game in terms of digital transformation since many competitors are still struggling to move away from their agency-based model.

Though it’s not available nationwide, it has become available in 43 states, which is still significant growth for a company that is not yet 20 years old. Esurance offers much lower rates, due to its direct insurance approach that cuts out many middleman expenses. As one of the first direct insurance companies, it is still catching up to competitors for customer service, but may very well be an example of future insurance company operations.

Haven Life

When it comes to fast approval, Haven Life has Big Data science down perfectly. This MassMutual spin-off claims it can approve most customers for new term life insurance in about 20 minutes. The company bases its decision on motor vehicle records from the state, prescription drug information, a customer questionnaire, and other data available to the company. The quick decision process will make the company much more popular among individuals seeking insurance policies under $1 million. As the system is based entirely online, it reduces agency costs significantly.

Moneysupermarket

In the UK, a newer e-aggregator platform helps customers compare prices and purchase insurance online. Moneysupermarket provides fast access to other online services as well. It was launched in 1999 as a digital-only solution that compares mortgage rates. In 2003, the insurance portion of the platform began with a mission to save at approximately 10 million households at least £200 through competitive shopping.

The company streamlines the process by having the prospect fill out a single form. That information is then used to pull quotes from multiple insurance companies. The prospects can compare the different policies to see which one is the best fit for their situation. They can then either select and purchase at that time or come back at a later time to finish the process. The company benefits by seeing additional sales at a much reduced cost compared to traditional marketing channels.

The role Big Data plays

Insurance businesses are also forming new business networks to provide a more tailored product to clients. As an example, State Farm and ADT provide a paired offering that protects connected homes through a single service. This helps customers reduce the number of businesses they must work with. At the same time, both companies benefit with increased business as customers turn to the network for simplicity.

Meanwhile, the Internet of Things is creating a new level of hyperconnectivity and data harvesting behind the scenes. Insurance rates currently based on a doctor’s visit will instead draw information from wearable devices, workout records, and pharmacy records. Rate reductions for self-driving cars will be based on the percentage of time the car is driven by a human versus driven autonomously.

With all these changes disrupting the industry, remaining flexible and connected makes all the difference. Is your company ready to meet the changes digital transformation is causing? If you aren’t, it is time to look at options to become more agile.

Learn more about how we can help you meet the challenges of disruption head on today. Please download our Insurance White Paper “How Insurers Can Prepare for the Digital Revolution” today to see what SAP has to offer. We will work with you to develop an insurance business that’s ready to meet the needs of the digital world.

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About Joe Pacor

Joe Pacor is senior director, Industry Cloud Marketing-Insurance at SAP, responsible for driving the growth of SAP's value proposition as a technology provider, trusted business partner, and thought leader for the insurance industry.