How the internet has changed the daily flow of business is staggering. One perfect example is the way companies purchase expansive pieces of enterprise software. Business-to-business (B2B) software purchases used to involve a lot of moving parts and were typically done in-person. Now, there is demand to simplify and speed up the process.
As technology adoption continues to increase, companies aren’t interested in jumping through the hurdles of buying ERP platforms in-person. Instead, they want to easily compare vital information about the software—like price, functionality, and licensing—and quickly make an informed decision. Customers want the software they need when they need it. Software providers are catering to this shift by making platforms available for demos and purchases via online marketplaces.
SAP Digital Commerce offers current and potential customers digital solutions to purchase and add to SAP, including SAP Store, SAP App Center, and SAP.com. ASUG had an opportunity to sit down with Amanda Mountain, global VP of marketing for SAP digital commerce, to talk about these changes, how SAP is responding to shifting customer demands, and how current and future SAP customers can make the most of these online marketplaces.
ASUG: Customer expectations continue to change, and companies look to provide an experience that matches those expectations. How will this continue to evolve at SAP?
Amanda: It will continue to become more consumer-like. We’ve seen the rise in business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations, and that has set the benchmark for customer expectations of what online business should be like. However, I think we all know that a B2B sale is much more complex than most B2C sales, and even more so for enterprise software.
Purchasing will also continue to evolve as we’re able to find more ways to mask that complexity and provide the simplest possible experience. It will continue to become more consumer-friendly and, at the same time, more enterprise-grade. There are still some limitations around the size and complexity of the deal that you can handle in a digital channel, but that won’t be the case forever.
The SAP Digital Commerce team is working with some of the biggest SAP accounts to understand real enterprise-grade needs for digital buying in an effort to evolve the platform. By working closely together, I think we’ll have a more ubiquitous digital channel, ranging from very small deals to very large deals for a wider swath of the portfolio. I think it will continue to move in that direction. It’s going to be important because the B2B buyer wants that same level of assurance and trust in the digital buying experience that they have grown used to in traditional enterprise-buying methods.
ASUG: That makes sense. It’s a very complex process and a lot goes into the decision-making. Having that connection to help guide you through those decisions is essential. What type of software is being purchased digitally? And what does it mean for SAP and its offerings?
Amanda: According to the 2019 B2B Digital Buyers’ Journey report, which SAP Digital Commerce worked with Futurum Research on last year, companies make a strategic move to the cloud as part of their technology and transformation strategy. That means they’re also transforming or digitizing their procurement process, and they’re no longer wanting to wait for calendarized or annual purchasing cycles. They want the solution that they need when they need it. They’re looking for speed and operational efficiency from the digital purchase.
In terms of specific categories of software being purchased digitally, our full analytics portfolio from SAP is available for online purchase. That category is one of our top sellers online. There’s also the SAP Cloud Platform portfolio, including developer tools like SAP Web IDE, some of the add-ons and tools that surround that platform, and education offerings like SAP Learning Hub. Those are some of the most popular SAP solutions purchased digitally.
The study bore out our experience and added some new answers. The people surveyed weren’t just SAP customers—they included anyone who purchases enterprise software digitally. The types of software most purchased included CRM platforms as well as analytics and business intelligence software, with 46% and 42% already purchasing that software digitally, respectively. The survey then took things a step further and looked for areas where enterprise software buyers are going to be making digital purchases in the future. Education is at the top of the list, along with things like enterprise performance management and governance, risk, and compliance solutions.
ASUG: Let’s talk about what SAP is doing. You’ve touched on this a little bit, but can you give me some specific examples of how SAP is using digital channels to build trust and deliver better experiences for its customers?
Amanda: If you look at the whole buying journey, it’s not just the transaction or the purchase. It starts much earlier than that in the search-and-discovery phase. Customers then move into the consideration phase before the purchase and post-purchase phases. It’s a whole end-to-end journey, and each step of that is an opportunity to build trust.
The discovery and consideration phases are the opportunity to make sure the necessary material is available. Are there customer case studies available? Is there a product spec sheet available that talks about dependencies or system requirements? Is the price clearly communicated? Does the customer understand what has an impact on the price?
Each step in the journey is an opportunity to win or lose trust. SAP is thinking through each step, the relevance to the customer, and what they’re going to need—making sure that all of that is available.
ASUG: Part of what customers are looking for is a trial period. How important is it to provide trial periods for customers and why?
Amanda: It is incredibly important. According to the 2019 B2B Digital Buyers’ Journey report, 90% of organizations consider product trials to be important to their digital-buying process. Eighty-five percent of respondents rated one-on-one online product demos or video product demos as “very important.” And four out of five organizations said they consider paid proof of concepts important to their buying journey. So, even if it’s not a free trial, they would pay for that test drive to prove how this solution is going to fit their business, along with expected results and benefits. The research bears that out in black and white, and our own experience also bolsters that.
There is a full list of available trials for SAP products on SAP.com. One that I would like to highlight is SAP Cloud Platform, which offers a 90-day complimentary trial. The team recently launched a new user interface, which offers users a guided tour and hands-on tutorials. When you’re registered for that trial, you also go into a nurture flow, where SAP will reach out and help with navigating and interconnecting the dots between different services within SAP Cloud Platform.
ASUG: What do you say to organizations that aren’t purchasing digitally? If they’re hesitating to do so, what does this mean for them short-term and long-term?
Amanda: I would ask them “why not?” Organizations that aren't purchasing digitally are going to start feeling the impact as their competitors continue to do so. With a digital-buying approach, you get solutions much faster. You’re up and running faster, operating more efficiently, conducting business faster, and baking agility into your business and your procurement process. In the long-term, companies’ competitors will begin to outpace them if they don’t start moving this direction.
ASUG: What’s been some of the feedback that you’ve heard from SAP customers on the SAP Digital Commerce platform?
Amanda: Customers want this approach. When SAP Digital Commerce first launched about five years ago, the reaction from customers was skeptical—customers weren’t quite sold yet on being able to buy enterprise-grade software digitally. What’s been refreshing and validating as I’ve grown up with the business, is that I don’t get that reaction anymore. Customers now talk about how they’ve benefited from being able to buy digitally.
ASUG: What do you want ASUG members to know about SAP Digital Commerce?
Amanda: I hope that every ASUG member will check out SAP App Center to see what innovation is available from the SAP ecosystem. It’s an SAP-centric marketplace. I also hope they’ll look at SAP Store and see what’s available. The portfolio on SAP Store grows every week. It’s worth checking out today, even if you were already there last month. It’s helpful beyond new solutions and purchases because we also heard from customers, loudly and clearly, that they actively want self-service models when it comes to adding more of the same.
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