There was a time not so long ago when the industrial and commercial world could just focus on delivering products and services. Products and services still matter, but what gets you ahead of the competition is how those make customers feel. Today, our relationships with brands are not only transactional. They determine how much we engage with their products and ultimately how much “brand affinity” we develop.

Welcome to the age of customer experience.

The Experience Factor

Sometimes labelled as user experience (UX), the experience factor is now one of the most important market differentiators that drives consumers to make brand choices.

Dion Hinchcliffe of ZDNet noted, “Perhaps the topmost priority of most major digital transformation efforts is to improve the customer experience, which is the leading discriminator today when it comes to successful growth and customer retention. However, organizations have a long way to go when it comes to scaling up their digital experience factories.”

Why Is SAP Moving into Customer Experience?

That gap in digital transformation is perhaps why SAP is now working to extend the SAP HANA platform with a specific customer experience function. SAP C/4HANA is described as an in-memory customer experience (CX) suite that offers cloud solutions for marketing, commerce, sales, service, and customer data. It uses intelligent technologies like machine learning to power real-time engagements.

Another “P” in the Marketing Mix

Marketing specialists like to talk about the “marketing mix” (also known as the 4Ps). These are a combination of factors marketers use to drive their marketing strategy including product, price, promotion, and place. The new unofficial marketing mix might now include perception (to add a word that conveys user experience).

So, how do businesses make and sell experiences? How is SAP supporting this new approach? And what do ASUG Members need to consider when building this new strategy into their customer-facing technology?

Running with Adidas

The German sports goods manufacturer, Adidas, has the highest profile among key SAP C/4HANA customers. The company took part in the stage presentations in 2018 at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference to help showcase how SAP C/4HANA has helped it transform its approach to customer experiences.

“It’s all about the love of sports, its uniqueness, its legacy, and the constant drive for innovation,” said Kai Bienmueller, IT director for wholesale ERP solutions at Adidas Group.

What Consumers Want

The team at Adidas is using SAP C/4HANA, SAP HANA, and SAP Leonardo to channel its knowledge of market demands in the highly competitive sports retailing sector. “To bring the best products to market each and every season, the company has to know what consumers want and when,” Bienmueller said.

He added that omnichannel commerce is a big challenge for Adidas Group and the entire industry. Consumers expect brands and retailers to offer a seamless shopping and buying experience in-store, online, and on mobile devices. It is that seamless experience factor that Adidas Group is using SAP C/4HANA to deliver.

What Consumers Want to Avoid

In terms of other working examples, it’s interesting to see how key SAP partners view the moves to drive wider adoption of SAP C/4HANA. Donovan Guin, practice lead for SAP customer experience at IBM, asked us to think about a prospective customer receiving an offer via a marketing campaign, only to struggle to find the offer once they land on the e-commerce site.

How about when the customer contacts the call center for help only to have to struggle with a customer service rep who can’t access the marketing system that generated the offer? “This kind of scenario plays out constantly across the market in various ways,” he wrote in his recent LinkedIn article, “fueling lost opportunities, higher costs, and slower growth.”

It is perhaps no surprise that SAP acquired Qualtrics in November of last year. Qualtrics is known for its experience management software that works to collect feedback at every touchpoint of the customer journey through email, SMS, website intercepts, offline collection, and more. It offers a predictive intelligence engine to run sentiment analysis so that firms can automatically correlate data to find satisfaction drivers and run advanced statistical models with a single click.

Making Multichannel Experiences Work

So, what have we learned? We know that the customer experience is an individual thing. Every person will measure his or her own interactions with a given brand differently. At the same time, we know that many factors in the customer experience can be quantified and managed. Qualtrics has prime examples of these tools at work.

We know that customer experience is all about people getting the right product and service information and support at the right time, in a consistent manner across all multichannel shopping or procurement touchpoints.

We also know that retail and leisure have, for the most part, been leading the initial charge for customer experience. Other industries such as energy, legal and financial, real estate, and health care (the list goes on) are certainly not as far in terms of their journey to focus on customer experience. Though these types of industries are bound to be equally affected as business-to-business (B2B) customers continue to follow the path of business-to-consumer (B2C) customers.

The Customer Is Even More Right

If we look at interactions across the B2B and B2C sectors, we can’t overstate the importance of customer experience.

The customer experience factor is now, in many cases, more important than price in the customer decision-making process. It’s not hard to argue whether it needs to be part of every ASUG member’s future business plans.

As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Experience matters… and you only learn that through experience.

Catch up on our conversations on SAP C/4HANA with the leader of one of the five SAP C/4HANA clouds, Chris Hauca, to learn what SAP Commerce Cloud does and what it can do for your business. ASUG members can register for an SAP C/4HANA webinar and learn and how it can help transform customer experience.