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Article
When ERP Is Not ERP Any More

ERP goes social and Mobile . . . Visits with Infor, SAP, and Oracle at the National Retail Federation (NRF) 100th Annual Convention and Expo.


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The data explosion continues, and with that the acquisition strategies of SAP, Infor and Oracle look smart. We are at the beginning of trying to internalize a new world of data in the social and mobile arenas: voice, video, social network scribbles, and what they all mean. Companies, especially with consumer-facing businesses (Retail, Services organizations and Government agencies that deal with the public), have plunged into the social world and are trying to learn what it all means. And we are all learning together—end users and solution providers. 

I attended an interesting session with Clarisonic, Anna’s Linens and Groupe Casino hosted by SAP at the National Retail Federation Expo.

Panelists Stéphane Bout, CIO of Groupe Casino (1st from left, with mic); Taylor Evans, of Clarisonic (2nd from left).

Clarisonic sells across multiple channels: direct through online, on shopping networks, and through retail channels. Taylor Evans, of Clarisonic, talked about her company embracing the social network and how they are using this data. Sentiment ranking allows the company to understand how the company and products are perceived in the market. And individual messages and tweets allow them to respond quickly to specific customer concerns, “. . . targeting resources to fix issues quickly.” 

One thing I observed here is that Clarisonic is not afraid to deal with the personal nature of the social networks. This is critical if companies want to learn to understand this environment. Past marketing approaches deal with aggregate data models—demographics or companies’ customer segmentation models which are very important but don’t drive down to the individual level. Although it may be new and challenging to deal with, certainly managing demand is the Holy Grail for companies in all sectors. We talked about that with Oracle, this need to sift and sense through many customers’ data to ultimately drive product and sales strategy.

Groupe Casino is leveraging the mobile and device convergence. Stéphane Bout talked about the linkages between home and company, where users can scan products, learn more about them, or place orders. In addition, this was all about integration across channels. As the customer moves from channel to channel (as they often do even within ‘one session’) they don’t lose them, they keep ‘constancy.’ This is a huge deal—a real customer satisfier that many online (web 1.0) sites had better learn. They need to keep inputs as users move from screen to screen, what to say of channel to channel (airline and many travel sites come to mind).

We'll talk about Anna’s Linens in a subsequent article on retail/store analytics.

What was exciting about this session was that these retailers have really dived in–not just talked about the future—and can already see benefits, though they know there is much to learn about these new worlds.

The Data

One of the things we have talked about quite a bit is the need to understand and grapple with both the structured data of traditional systems and the unstructured world of the web and other media.

Take email, a strong medium for communication. Used to excess by all of us, companies have barely scratched the surface on how to make mail more effective, more targeted and more personal, and allow outbound mailing from companies to be interactive (hate those emails that say ‘do not respond to this email,’ don’t you?). Epiphany: this is now part of Infor’s CRM grapple with this thorny issue. In addition, their interactive advisory allows companies to actually keep track of and respond in real time to these outbound (and inbound) communications, regardless of the medium.

SAP, through their Business Objective acquisition is placing big investments, providing a foundation to begin the journey. For example, they have a platform for all structured and unstructured data. (More about it at this YouTube: SAP Business Intelligence for Retail.)

Oracle’s Universal Content Management also grapples with the challenge, it appears. 

Many of the marketing automation strategies and solutions we discuss certainly have the jump on the consumer web challenge, but enterprise solution providers have finally embraced the world beyond the enterprise. In fact, SAP told us that they are not really fond of the ERP categorization anymore. And they are not alone in that perspective, since Oracle and Infor, as well as SAP, have so many products and channels to sell through.

On that note, I asked the panel (mentioned above) how they sift through all the offerings and make sense of it all. Although this is a more mundane question compared to the excitement of social networks, the audience thought that it was an important question and so did the panel. And the fact that much of this is experimentation (though it is very valuable), means that solutions must and will evolve quickly. 

Focusing on business objectives is the key to understanding what solutions make sense for your organization. What do you have to learn? What goal are you trying to achieve? Some clarity on these questions will help you sort through the many solutions in the market. But in the new social and mobile world, we still need to be a bit more open on technology, since the final act has not been written on solutions or architecture. In fact, we are barely through the overture.

Further Resources:

Marketing Automation

Demand Management

Mobile and Social Communication articles 


To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.




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