For the first time in ASUG history, ASUGFORWARD offered SAP customers a virtual way to experience a week's worth of customer presentations, meeting its members wherever they are. Every organization, large or small, must adapt to the changing business landscape and find new ways of reaching and connecting with customers.

“Companies have had to rethink how they’re going to reach their customers,” said track emcee Kelly Dowling, who is also senior manager of enterprise content at ASUG. “Sales processes have been transformed, and the demand for some of the products and services that these brands offer has significantly changed.”

For two days, attendees of the Sales and E-Commerce sessions at ASUGFORWARD learned about how they can use their SAP portfolio to adjust to their customers’ new reality, as well as create new revenue streams and business strategies for a post-COVID-19 world.

Data Helps Track and Customize Consumer Engagement

On the first day, ASUG CEO Geoff Scott had a one-on-one conversation with the Chief Experience Officer for Under Armour, Paul Fipps. The two discussed the importance of remaining agile during a time of uncertainty because it is what will allow any business to align with consumer demand.

Fipps echoed that sentiment, pointing to examples of Under Armour’s flexibility as well as its willingness to quickly change something already in motion. As the pandemic swept across the nation and the world, the Under Armour marketing team had to act quickly to shape the right message. “We were in the midst of one the largest marketing campaigns in our company’s history and it was going very well,” Fipps said. “When the coronavirus hit, we had to stop and rethink the messaging to the consumer because the world had changed so dramatically.”

The team successfully shifted its messaging within three weeks, which it was able to do because of the data it had available. For Under Armour, the change was in the air—or on the ground so to speak, back in January. “We were dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus in China, and then more broadly in APAC, and then we watched it go across the globe. We learned a lot during this time, and we started to apply those learnings here. This data helped us learn how consumers were moving through this pandemic—both literally and figuratively. “This gave us an opportunity to engage, as well as show our customers that we care about their health and well-being.”

CIO Panel Covers Convenience as the New Currency

This pandemic has forced organizations to reinvent or reimagine how, and where, they do business. The status quo is no longer viable. Those who have risen to the challenge are now better positioned for future disruption, as well. Attendees heard a panel conversation on how companies have had to change their business models in order to create new revenue streams, retain their customers, as well as provide better experiences for them. Steve Shander of SAP moderated the conversation between Glenn Pinnel, CIO of Benjamin Moore, and Gary Desai, CIO of Discount Tire. He asked both, “How has COVID-19 changed your business model?”

Discount Tire fell into the category of essential businesses that were allowed to stay open across the country during the crisis. “Our first priority was to keep our customers safe,” Desai said. “But we also had to meet their new expectations. Our processes had to change, and we had to shift 4,000 terminals in our showrooms overnight.” Desai discussed changing business models to accommodate customer expectations of curbside pickup. “That completely changed the way IT had to do things,” he added.

Likewise, Benjamin Moore was deemed essential, which allowed the company to keep its manufacturing and distribution facilities up and running. “We were in the middle of a digital transformation when the pandemic happened,” Pinnel said. “It created a need to go live much faster than we had planned because we didn’t want to miss any opportunities.” The digital transformation will allow the company to meet customer experience demands so that the buying journey no longer requires making a trip to a store. “We are seeing buying behaviors change, where customers are much more comfortable going online and navigating their options that way.”

COVID-19 has forced a shift in people’s mindsets. Businesses need to be ready to meet them where they are—whether that’s online, at the curb, or a combination of the two. It’s convenience that is driving strategy, and organizations need to be paying attention. “To be able to meet customers where they are,” Desai said, “you have to have your digital systems and strategies in place.”

Moving the Sales Relationship to a Conversation

On day two of the Sales and E-Commerce sessions, attendees learned about the people, process, and technology decisions they’ll need to make going forward. SAP Chief Strategy Officer for Customer Experience Esteban Kolsky talked about how customers continue to have growing control over conversations with brands and that ultimately, that control will dictate how organizations make important decisions.

“We’ve been innovating in customer interactions for a while,” Kolsky said. “We’ve gone from single channel to multichannel interactions, and about 10 years ago, we started this concept of omnichannel.” He added that the reason this model hasn’t worked is because there are just too many people controlling too many channels and it lacks the ability to provide an equal experience for all customers. “In the next 10 to 20 years, he said, “you’re going to see us get to a model that we call headless, which means the right information at the right time.

Kolsky reminded attendees that we are in a post-digital time and that at this point, the focus for organizations should not be on collecting more data, but rather on how to use the data they already have. “You need to use that data to gain insights that will dictate how you create experiences,” he said. He emphasized that the experience needs to be a place where the customer and the company can co-exchange value, potentially leading to customer-centricity. “It’s time to leverage information to build relationships. Customers don’t want to have life cycles, they want to have conversations as part of a continuum,” he added.

How Leaders Are Creating Opportunities for Customers

During the last Sales and E-Commerce session, attendees listened in as the Ask the Experts panel on creating opportunities for customers while also driving efficiency. The panel included Sumita Jayaraman, senior director of product marketing and customer experience at SAP; John Goetz, global practice director of SAP customer experience at Birlasoft; and Seema Vishnoi, VP of customer experience at SAP.

The audience was asked to answer the poll question, “Has your company’s customer experience strategy been impacted by COVID-19?” It’s not surprising that the majority indicated that COVID-19 has, in fact, had an effect on their overall strategy, with 46% saying they have seen a significant impact, and 29% saying they’ve seen at least a minimal impact. “We are in a state of unrest,” Vishnoi said. “We are in an unpredictable and unprecedented environment and each and every business has been affected.”

As far as technology’s role in creating opportunities for better customer experiences, “The ability to support the whole end-to-end process is key,” Goetz said. “From a technology perspective, SAP does a nice job in providing that, but technology is just one side of it.” He added, “You need agility in the organization, as well. You need the ability to listen to the customer and understand where the opportunities are, as well as where you have to improve. And you have to be able to quickly implement that.”

In the end, attendees learned that sustainability, trust, and empathy are the keys to successful customer experience.

If you missed our Sales and E-Commerce sessions at ASUGFORWARD, you can catch up by viewing them on demand. ASUG members will have unlimited access to all of the week’s sessions on-demand, while nonmember registrants can view them until Sunday, June 28 at 11:59 p.m. CT/Monday, June 29 at 12:59 a.m. ET.

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