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What the Cloud Has Done to Enterprise IT, 3D Printing Will Do to Manufacturing and Supply Chain [Video]

Ian McCullough

Manufacturing and Supply Chain Managers: you didn’t really think that the storm was going to be limited to the Information Technology department, did you?

Making the software and databases that you depend on to make your plants and fulfillment more efficient has been a nice start, but you have been aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg…right?

You’re next

Outsourcing manufacturing to third parties eliminated the need for businesses to run their own factories. The next step is outsourcing manufacturing directly to customers. Factories will be a thing of the past. So will warehouses and inventory. When someone needs a physical object, the notion of “just in time” manufacturing will take on a whole new meaning; they’ll download a design and just make it themselves.

A Popular Mechanics profile of the Fab@Home open source 3D printing project.

Affordable 3D printing is already putting small-scale factories directly into people’s offices and homes. Once everyone has a multipurpose factory in their living room, there’ll be a lot less need for fancy facilities. For a comparison, I think we’re at “personal computing circa 1980″ and I would contend that personal computing didn’t become “mainstream” until circa 1995.  3D printing is probably a minimum of 10-15 years from being really mainstream.

Think, however, about a few of the ways that personal computers have done to the world economy since 1980:

  • They wiped out the need for millions of jobs in clerical functions like administration, filing, accounting, and archiving.
  • They made mathematical modeling way faster. That made it easier to predict things and consequently waste much less.
  • When paired with a modem initially and then later a direct Internet connection, they made written communications instantaneous.

Consider now what cloud computing has done since the turn of the millennium:

  • It has eliminated the need for in-house rack servers.
  • With no capital required for buying hardware, it has greatly reduced barriers-to-entry for Internet-based businesses.

What will 3D printing do in the years to come?

  • It will enable personalization and customization to a previously unimaginable degree. People are already making a stunningly diverse range of things – from cake toppers to human cartilage.
  • It will wipe out the need for millions of logistics and transportation jobs. The only things that will need planes, trains, ships, and trucks will be material gels (the “inks”) and the 3D printers themselves.
  • The current state of the art focuses on solid objects. It will take some time before we get to something resembling Diamond Age-style finished good manufacturing, but it won’t be all that long. Robotic assembly already happens in factories around the world; as technology advances the 3D print head will generate a range of components and small robotic arms and claws built directly into the device will handle multi-part, multi-stage assembly. And it will happen on your coffee table.
  • In the near term, it will make millions of subcomponent manufacturing jobs unnecessary. There are tons of little plastic and metal parts that people take for granted in finished consumer or industrial goods. The ability for 1st party/1st tier manufacturers to bring more of their supply chains in-house at low cost will be huge. Once it becomes faster, 3D printing will put lots of second and third-tier suppliers out of business.
  • Designers will be able to distribute their products directly to consumers for in-home manufacture. As a matter of fact… they already can.  For those who aren’t interested in the full-blown “do it yourself to the point where you build your own 3D printer” ethos of a project like Fab@Home, a clear leader in this emerging market is MakerBot, which has brought the cost of entry-level consumer hardware down to $1749.

 

 

  • Just like home inkjets need words and pictures, 3D printers need content too. An important part of MakerBot’s efforts is Thingiverse, an online community where people publish and share the files for their 3D-printable objects. Having paper printers in lots of homes didn’t mean that everyone needed to become a graphic designer; likewise, having ubiquitous 3D printing will not mean that everyone needs to become an industrial designer. Given the way that people buy music these days, it’s easy enough to see us coming full circle and downloading a file from an online store with the instructions to make a vinyl record.
  • It isn’t even necessary for everyone to personally own a 3D printer. Items are now being printed at mall kiosks, retail shops, and facilities like TechShop. Rather than go to a supply store, professional craftspeople will print components for projects as they need them. The key is that these devices dramatically cut the number of intermediate steps, including changes to form and to location, between raw material and ready-to-use. Here’s an example of that taken to an extreme: there’s a team that has made a solar-powered 3D printer that can create glass objects using only sand and sunlight.

Information infrastructure is becoming more consolidated and accessible in the cloud. Manufacturing infrastructure is becoming more distributed and democratized with technologies like 3D printing. Looking towards a time when anyone in the world will be able to make anything that they want – be it software or hardware – you have to wonder just one thing: what need will your business be meeting?

Ian McCullough is an independent project management and operations consultant for consumer-facing businesses. He has successfully deployed cloud-based solutions at the companies he works with, so he is an active practitioner and builder – not just some random theorist. For more information, you can visit his LinkedIn profile.

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Why Manufacturers Must Run Live

Harry Blunt

Whether you label it digitization or digitalization, the digital economy is rewriting the rules of business. In this new environment, companies of all sizes must operate their businesses differently while freeing themselves from the constraints of the past.

It’s a time in business where the consumer is king, and access to information and product choice is everywhere. Manufacturers will only survive and thrive if they can Run Live.

As a manufacturer, what can you achieve by running live?

When manufacturers Run Live, they can operate without boundaries, in the moment at speed, with unique and actionable business insights. Running a live manufacturing business restores the balance of sales influence between the manufacturer (seller) and the consumers (buyers) they service. Manufacturers that Run Live do so with more customer insight and less business complexity. They operate with far greater innovation, speed, and predictability, all of which is required to successfully compete in today’s highly disruptive digital economy.

While a digital business is filled with possibilities, it can be equally unsettling and chaotic. It is important that companies Run Live if for no other reason than to bring added order and control to a business environment that is largely characterized by business disruption.

When companies are able to run their operations live with predictable recurring revenues and costs, they are far more profitable and less susceptible to being victimized by market changes. Successful companies have historically always balanced the need to generate more recurring revenue with reduced operating costs. What is new is the demand for improved live business agility and an enhanced level of customer insight and business ecosystem interaction, which are now required to ensure companies can continue to run with predictable results at optimal operating costs.

A company’s focus toward innovation and improving operating efficiencies must become increasingly outwardly focused, starting first with the customer and then extending into the manufacturer’s business ecosystem. Trying to manage corporate innovation and operating efficiencies within department silos, or even within a company’s four walls, is a dated business operating model that won’t work to service an outwardly driven and customer-centric digital economy.

Put customers at the core of your live business

To meet the demands of innovating and operating cost-efficiently in the digital economy, manufacturers must begin with an external view of the world, and that view must always begin with the customer.

Manufacturers must service their customers and run their operations as live, digitized extended supply chains, because while the world has become more connected, it is also far more interdependent. How well a company manages its risks and opportunities around these live, digital interdependencies has a direct impact on the company’s ability to service its clients and on its potential recurring revenues and operating costs.

To achieve differentiated customer value and true operating efficiencies in managing these digital interdependencies, manufacturers must deliver superior customer experiences and operational excellence in four key areas:

  1. Customer-centricity: Mastering “end-to-end” omnichannel commerce from initial order engagement through demand response and same-day product delivery
  1. Individualized products: Having the flexibility to design and manufacture to a lot size of one at mass-production cost efficiencies
  1. Resource scarcity: Developing and safeguarding people talent and assets while ensuring sustainable and compliant products and operations
  1. Sharing economy: Leveraging business networks and digital connectivity to further empower innovation and operating efficiencies throughout the extended business ecosystem

Continue your education on live business and the extended supply chain

On June 14–15, over 500 attendees from small and large manufacturers will gather in Lombard, Illinois, to discuss how leading manufacturers are driving transformational change by leveraging a live and digitized extended supply chain.

Learn how 3D printing, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, business networks, and the SAP S/4HANA platform are providing manufacturers with the digital core and solutions they need to reinvent and reimagine their businesses.

With keynotes and presentations from leading industry analysts and SAP experts, customer case studies, and solution demonstrations, the forum will help you come away with the knowledge you require to build a customer-centric, live manufacturing business that delivers greater innovation and a more predictable and sustainable future.

The event is free is to customers. Learn more by visiting the event website: SAP Manufacturing Industries Forum 2016.

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Harry Blunt

About Harry Blunt

Harry Blunt is the NA Marketing Director for the SAP Extended Supply Chain solution portfolio. The SAP extended supply chain portfolio helps companies run as "Live" digitized businesses while managing critical interdependent business processes from initial product ideas up through product deliveries and services. Incorporating innovations like the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and the SAP S/4HANA operating platform, coupled with tightly integrated mobile applications and business networks, we help our customers leverage the capabilities of their entire business ecosystem to obtain greater innovation, stakeholder collaboration, and improved business performance.

5 Reasons Manufacturing SMEs Need Cloud More Than Ever

Falk Brauer

The business environment for sales teams in manufacturing and engineering industries is increasingly demanding: IT infrastructures have become complex, whilst everyday sales activities claim simplicity and ease. Additionally, CEOs demand a clear overview of incoming opportunities and the business process.

So how do cloud solutions help sales teams in manufacturing and high-tech industries to survive?

Before looking into the specifics of cloud solutions for sales teams, we need to understand the current situation:

Outsourcing of IT has failed

In the last decade, there was a major shift in IT operations. Starting in the late 90s, companies optimized their IT budget by shifting personal costs to project costs via outsourcing. Furthermore, decisions of “buy vs. build” often were made in favour of building software. At this time, standard software often did not exactly match the companies’ demands, and they preferred a custom-tailored solution.

The outsourcing and custom-tailored solutions approach of the past is now becoming a legacy of many companies. As a result, IT is sitting on outdated solutions that are either expensive to maintain or are not maintained at all. Upgrade projects often fail since they do not offer additional benefits to the business. At the same time, sales people are left to standard office software such as Microsoft Excel to price quotes and calculate discounts, and to MS Word, which is prone to errors and lacks efficiency, to create proposals.

However, the rise of software-as-a-service changed the availability of new specialized software as well as the IT operations model dramatically. Chances arise even for small or medium enterprises (SMEs) to support their sales people in a way that is not only affordable but also the least disruptive in regards of their current sales practices. 

As business becomes more demanding, the role of IT grows more strategic than ever

In the past, IT was more focused on operating internal systems and developing custom solutions – or managing outsourced teams. Being faced with fast-paced business environments and CEOs demanding transparency and control over business processes, their mandate is becoming more strategic. Nowadays CIOs are key to strengthen and optimize business processes and thus take over a more consultative role, which supports the business owners’ decision-making process.

Performing this shift in responsibilities, CIOs must also balance and reorganize their financial and human resources to cater for more consultative workloads. Cloud software can facilitate this shift as the operations, maintenance, and support responsibilities move to specialists, which are rented in the sense of software-as-a-service (SaaS). At the same time, the incurring costs are shared among the customers of a software product and shift from CapEx (Capital Expenditures) to OpEx (Operational Expenditures) via a monthly or yearly subscription fee.

TCO comparison cloud vs. traditional software

Centralized internal systems do not work for sales people on the road

Another trend that emerged during the last decade—not only in manufacturing—was to centralize major systems like orders and material being maintained in one ERP system. This worked out nicely for personnel with a fixed work place, but is a problem for mobile people such as the sales force.

Opening up central systems for external access to provide sales reps with relevant information where they need it poses many security and data compliance risks. IT departments try to cover this issue by management of the internal network, reverse proxies, and VPN. However, secure operations of complex network setups remain complex, and users often experience these approaches as slow and cumbersome. Sales reps depend on fast and reliable access to sales relevant data anywhere and at any time.

Cloud applications can be the answer as they offer standardized, securely managed ways to synchronize or access internal systems data like ERP data and make these accessible in the cloud. Managing bandwidths and network to the users are both off the shoulders of IT, and become part of the SaaS package.

Collaboration needs vs. ad-hoc processes

Nowadays, especially in manufacturing, the value chain of a company with several locations can appear scattered, hence hard to support by IT. Sales reps are located where the customers are, whilst manufacturing premises are built and operated in lower-cost areas. Nevertheless, the need for collaboration between sales reps, manufacturing sites, and engineering experts is key to produce marketable solutions in an engineering-to-order scenario and to produce accurate customer quotes.

Supporting this essential part of the business process is no major feature of traditional software, but rather managed externally. Employees use email or other collaboration tools and applications. These gap fillers do not only pose security risks to sensitive data, they also don’t help structuring the often ad-hoc initiated collaboration process. Mailboxes are clogged, data gets lost, and IT finds themselves surrounded by a jungle of shadow IT.

A cloud solution can tackle this challenge when the respective collaborative processes are backed deeply into the system itself. Collaborative processes such as information exchange, collaborative quote inputs by different parties, document sharing, and approval processes happen directly in the software and on the objects that run the business processes rather than externally; for example, via email. Leveraging the numeral integration capabilities of a reasonable cloud solution, the users such as sales reps and managers can enjoy seamless integration with email programs like Microsoft Outlook.Collaboration is Key in manufacturing_web

Usability is key for sales people

As reality shows, IT cannot force users to stick to outdated software with insufficient features to support their everyday business challenges. Furthermore, users also stop using given software or tools if the usability is not satisfactory. The so-called “consumerization of business software” describes this trend and explains the resulting behaviour: Sales people go back to using pen and paper, look for easy-to-use applications running on personal devices like tablets, or don’t document their sales process at all. This is not only inefficient and non-scalable for an entire company, it also leads to a lack of transparency of the sales process, and managers are unable to pull production forecasts or make accurate revenue predictions.

Cloud software usually covers only a small business process in comparison to the much bigger on-premise suites of the past. This enables cloud solutions to focus on the specific requirements of users like sales reps and sales managers. Hence, usability is backed into the DNA of cloud companies, and this term does not only cover design and interaction patterns, but also general performance and response times which are essential in fast-paced business environments. The integration of existing workflows via Excel uploads and Excel, Word, or PDF downloads further help to increase the user adoption rate, thereby increasing productivity.

The 5 reasons to shift sales operations to the cloud

Summarizing the main challenges that CIOs in manufacturing and engineering businesses face nowadays, the following chances for a shift of the sales operations to the cloud arise:

  1. For SMEs, cloud solutions are an affordable and least disruptive way to replace legacy custom solutions or error-prone and inefficient gap-filling solutions.
  1. With the software-as-a-service model, IT operations, maintenance, and support can be shifted to experts whilst costs are moved from CapEx to OpEx, and the total cost of ownership (TCO) decreases drastically.
  1. Cloud solutions relieve the negative effects of data centralization for sales reps on the road, and deliver relevant sales knowledge to them in a reliable manner and under high security standards.
  1. A reasonable cloud software not only fulfills collaboration needs amongst the users, but also deeply backs collaboration processes into the system and ensures compliance with security standards and internal company approval structures.
  1. A strong focus on usability in cloud solutions leads to a high user adoption rate, and thus enables an efficient sales process in the organisation.

outdated software user experience vs. high usability in cloudConfronted with the role shift for IT departments from operations to strategic responsibilities – a fast-paced and highly competitive business environment and a highly demanding user group – CIOs of today need to invest in cloud solutions if they want to keep up. Leveraging smart and lean cloud solutions that limit costs and multiply productivity can be seen as a road to business success for SMEs in manufacturing and engineering industries.

This article originally appeared on the In Mind Cloud Blog.

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About Falk Brauer

Falk is In Mind´s Vice President Technology. He writes about technology trends around cloud, semantic web and analytics and how they apply to our customers in manufacturing and engineering companies.

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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100 Top Digital Marketing Influencers And Brands

Michael Brenner

New technologies and social media in the last two decades have fundamentally changed the way consumers think, behave, and engage with brands. While traditional marketing models are still applicable, marketers today are learning a whole new set of digital marketing skills and strategies to better connect with consumers.

It’s no surprise then that digital marketing spending is forecasted to account for at least 35% of total marketing budget this year, and is predicted to grow another 12% next year. This increase in digital marketing investment has created a surge in demand for digital marketers. These digital marketers are marketing nerds who are obsessed with analytics and Big Data, but are also highly creative and skilled in everything from copywriting to graphic design, photography, and videography.

If you are a digital marketer or aspire to become one, what are some of the top digital marketing trends or ideas you’ll need to know this year? Onalytica asked seven of the influencers identified in its Top 100 Influencers And Brands research to share their views; check out what they have to say! In full disclosure, I was identified as one of the influencers and was asked to share my opinion on the topic. You can find last year’s list here and 2014’s list here.

What the experts are saying about digital marketing

Jeff-BullasJeff Bullas – CEO at Jeffbullas.com Pty Ltd

“There is an elephant in the room for many digital marketers. They love the vanity metrics of traffic, social media sharing, and follower growth. They are hooked on the engagement and feedback that cool content provides to the brand. But they often don’t work on the last few hard yards. It isn’t seen as sexy and it can be boring. It’s converting that traffic and engagement into leads and sales. It’s is time for many social media and content marketers to grow up”

sam-hurleySam Hurley, Founder of OPTIM-EYEZ

“This saturated, fast-paced digital world in which we live can seem overwhelming for business owners and marketers alike. Aside from the sheer amount of information and data we force ourselves to consume each and every day, there’s one precious unit of measurement which we most commonly neglect: Time. To become a successful business owner, brand, solopreneur, marketer… you have to become a master of time. Digital marketing is evolving at incredible rates, which only feeds our fixation with shiny new objects such as virtual reality and the newest social media platforms. My advice for this year onward? Focus your time and energy into three key revenue generators which suit your business model (and you!). Become exceptional at nurturing these generators and don’t veer off course. Take heed of the new digital trends and adapt, but don’t divert. For these three revenue generators, funnel effort into three primary traffic channels (paid, owned, and earned) that will gain qualified exposure for your business — exposure that converts into sales. That’s all! Test what works and stick with it. Don’t waste your time being a jack of all trades. Finally; build relationships, be yourself, and push your name through social media. I cannot express enough how important this is. Personal branding is absolutely critical for trust, credibility, and inbound leads. Spend time on yourself and everything else will follow. Seriously, I’m living proof of this methodology. I’ve never had to advertise to attract my own clients. My website isn’t even live yet! If this seems crazy to you, it’s time to alter your approach to business. Concepts of marketing will always remain unchanged. It’s only the tools, buzzwords, and technologies that form and shift around us…don’t be dazzled by them. Digital marketing is fun. Profit as a result (and your continued sanity) is better.”

Larry-KimLarry Kim – Founder of WordStream

“We’ve reached peak social – a point at which the signal to noise ratio of social updates is unsustainable – companies, individuals, and automated tools are cranking out so many social updates that post engagement rate is getting crushed. At the same time, the social platforms are obviously looking to monetize their platforms with an increasing number of ads, which further diminishes organic visibility. As more content and ads floods social networks, the slice of engagement for the average brand must shrink because there’s only a finite amount of content consumption and engagement to be had. Social platforms are responding by creating and refining curated user timelines, and only the top brands with the most engaging content will survive.”

Rand-FishkinRand Fishkin – Founder of Moz

“Adblocking was part of a huge conversation in 2015, and my guess is that the reaction to this growing technology is going to mimic how entrenched players have reacted to technology leaps in the past — by trying to legislate it away. I anticipate that in either the U.S. or the EU, some form of government action will arise (in the U.S., most likely due to lobbying, a.k.a. our legalized system of bribery) to “protect the interests of publishers and journalists who serve the public good.”

Evan-DunnEvan Dunn – Digital Marketing Practice Lead at Transform

“The digital media landscape is complex. With new channels, media and technology popping up every month, it’s only getting more complex. The most critical component of success in today’s marketing universe is a cohesive strategy – a theoretical framework that makes sense of every marketing activity executed by your brand, and provides an architecture for measurement and optimization of every activity. After all, if you’re not sure whether an activity is driving ROI, is it really worth doing? Today’s marketing, whether online or off, must be a scientific art (or an artistic science, either one). It can no longer be gut-driven, dominated by creative, and powered by trendy jargon. Measurement, analytics, statistics, quantification, optimization – these are the stuff of proven strategies. Don’t be distracted by flashy ad-tech, although it is sometimes useful. If your digital marketing objective is growing numbers (customers, sales), then your means of accomplishing it must be by analyzing the numbers. Quantitative Marketing is the future of all forms of marketing, including digital.”

Michael-BrennerMichael Brenner CEO of Marketing Insider Group

“Ten years ago, you would have found it difficult to find anything labeled “digital marketing” on the job boards or even listed in the descriptions for openings companies were trying to fill. Now, digital marketing is the hottest job title in all of marketing. Digital marketing skills are in such high demand because we understand how to market to today’s always-connected, multi-device consumer. The top digital marketers today combine right and left-brain talents. We are one part content marketers, editors, and writers, who understand how to create the kind of content that people actually want to read and share. On the other hand, we are also one part data nerds, who understand how to analyze all the information available to us as we continuously create and promote content across email, search, social, and even offline platforms. Today’s digital marketer knows how to reach, engage, and convert new customers for our businesses. We defy the old notion that marketing can’t be measured. Because we’re doing it every day.”

Michael-J.-SchiemerMichael J. Schiemer – Founder at Schiemer Consulting

“In today’s ultra-competitive digital marketing landscape, differentiating your company from the competition is paramount. There are too many generic or mediocre digital marketers and digital marketing agencies out there that won’t stand the test of time. Other more established marketers will rest on their laurels, fail to adapt, and become obsolete in a short period of time. I think all digital marketers and agencies should ask themselves three questions: How are you going above and beyond for your clients? What value do you bring to the table that they can’t get anywhere else? What prevents your services from being outsourced or replaced by a few inexpensive software programs? If you can’t answer those questions quickly and confidently, then you need to step up your efforts or find a new industry.”

Top 100 individuals

RANK TWITTER HANDLE NAME COMPANY INFLUENCER SCORE
1 @jeffbullas Jeff Bullas Jeffbullas.com 44.13
2 @Sam___Hurley Sam Hurley OPTIM-EYEZ 38.2
3 @MarketingProfs Ann Handley MarketingProfs 31.99
4 @AshleyFriedlein Ashley Friedlein Econsultancy 28.46
5 @Rocco_Zebra_Adv Rocco Baldassarre Zebra Advertisement 27.97
6 @iMariaJohnsen Maria Johnsen Golden Way Media 26.57
7 @larrykim Larry Kim Wordstream 21.45
8 @randfish Rand Fishkin Moz 21.07
9 @PamMktgNut Pam Moore Marketing Nutz 18.67
10 @leeodden Lee Odden Top Rank Marketing 16.82
11 @acfrank Andrew Frank Gartner for Marketing 15.73
12 @dknowlton1 Daniel Knowlton KPS DigitalMarketing 13.62
13 @DioFavatas Dio Favatas Truth Initiative 13.08
14 @evanpdunn Evan Dunn Transform 12.53
15 @BrennerMichael Michael Brenner Marketing Insider Group 12.43
16 @adamwoodsaus Adam Woods Reed Exhibitions 12.37
17 @WBB_13 Brent Bouldin Bank of America 11.47
18 @jaybaer Jay Baer Convince & Convert 10.41
19 @davidbnz David Bell University of Pennsylvania 10.32
20 @DaveChaffey Dr Dave Chaffey Smart Insights 10.24
21 @chuckaikens Chuck Aikens Volume Nine 10.18
22 @JenPolk1 Jennifer Polk Gartner 9.92
23 @AlexTachalova Alexandra Tachalova alextachalova.com 9.76
24 @ajalumnify AJ Agrawal Alumnify 9.6
25 @MikeSchiemer Michael J. Schiemer Colbea 9.23
26 @jeremywaite Jeremy ☁️ Colbea Enterprises 9.18
27 @azeckman Ashley Zeckman Top Rank Marketing 8.4
28 @MariSmith Mari Smith marismith.com 8.18
29 @MelonieDodaro Melonie Dodaro Top Dog Social Media 8.11
30 @augieray Augie Ray Gartner for Marketers 8
31 @krbenedict Kevin R Benedict Cognizant 7.93
32 @SimonYates Simon Yates Gartner for Marketers 7.82
33 @NealSchaffer Neal Schaffer Maximize Your Social 7.58
34 @Matt_Umbro Matthew Umbro PPCChat 7.35
35 @markwschaefer Mark Schaefer Schaefer Marketing Solutions 7.21
36 @FeldmanCreative Barry Feldman Feldman Creative 7.1
37 @BrianHughes116 Brian Hughes Integrity Marketing 6.76
38 @ItsDUHnise Jenise Henrikson Search Engine Journal 6.64
39 @DanScalco Dan Scalco digitalux 6.62
40 @neilpatel Neil Patel Crazy Egg 6.59
41 @martykihn Martin Kihn Gartner 6.47
42 @MarketingLetter Dr. Angela Hausman Hausman and Associates 6.41
43 @lacostejonathan Jonathan Lacoste Jebbit 6.37
44 @crestodina Andy Crestodina Orbit Media 6.29
45 @markfidelman Mark Fidelman Evolve! 6.2
46 @marktraphagen Mark Traphagen Stone Temple Consulting 6.06
47 @jacobvar Jacob Varghese jacobv.com 6.01
48 @marcusbowlerhat Marcus Miller Bowler Hat 5.89
49 @CynthiaLIVE Cynthia Johnson American Addiction Centers 5.87
50 @BrettRelander Brett Relander Launch & Hustle 5.65

Top marketing topics

Onalytica was interested in seeing which topics were most popular among their identified top influencers, so they analyzed their tweets and blogs from January 1st to April 19th this year, counting the number of mentions each marketing topic received.

Social Media dominated the list with 27% share of voice, with Content Marketing coming in at second with 12%, and Branding at 9%. Facebook, Twitter, and SEO were tied for fourth place at 8%, followed by Strategy and Advertising both at 5% and Analytics at 4%. Email Marketing, PPC, LinkedIn, and Planning all received 3%, with Growth Hacking rounding out the list at 2%.

Topic-Share-of-Voice-Among-the-Top-100-Digital-Marketing-Influencers-and-Brands

Mapping the digital marketing community

Onalytica also looked at which marketers and brands were leading the conversation on Twitter, so they analyzed over 1.5 million tweets from December 4th, 2015, to April 29th, 2016, mentioning the keyword “digital marketing,” and identified the top 100 most influential individuals and brands who were leading the online discussion.

Onalytica discovered that there was a very engaged community of high-profile marketers, business professionals, and brands. Below you can see the network map of the online conversation Onalytica created with its Influencer Relationship Management software (IRM), showing the No. 1 Influencer, Jeff Bullas, at the center and the conversations to and from the influencers in his field.

Network-Map-5-Jeff-Bullas

Here’s another network map with the No. 1 brand, Econsultancy, at the center, and the conversations to and from the influencers in its field.

Network-Map-6-Econsultancy

Disclaimer: As ever with these lists, it must be stressed that the ranking is by no means a definitive measurement of influence, as there is no such thing. The brands and individuals listed are undoubtedly influential when it comes to driving discussion in Digital Marketing.

The PageRank based methodology we use to extract influencers on a particular topic takes into account the number and quality of contextual references that a user receives. These calculations are independent of a user’s number of followers, but we do filter our lists based on how much a user is engaged in the conversation and the influence they drive through their networks.

Stop confining social media to marketing. To boost returns, it must be embedded into how companies do business. Learn more about this topic in our research inquiry In a Live Business, Social Gets Its MBA.

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, former Head of Strategy at NewsCred, and the former VP of Global Content Marketing here at SAP. Michael is also the co-author of the book The Content Formula, a contributor to leading publications like The Economist, Inc Magazine, The Guardian, and Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to the Marketing Insider.