With today’s consumer behaviors quickly shifting to adjust to the global pandemic, retailers especially have needed to act fast to offer the best online experiences. And with consumers’ preferences continuing to lean toward e-commerce, investments in modern digitalization have become more important than ever.
Here Matt Laukaitis, global general manager of consumer industries at SAP, talks to WWD about the increased need for intelligent technology in retail, changing needs out of the pandemic, and how SAP is helping retailers adjust.
WWD: How has the pandemic made technology, like the solutions offered by SAP, even more, vital for retailers?
Matt Laukaitis: The pandemic has made intelligent technologies essential for retailers. Retail brands are facing increased pressure to invest in innovative business models and new ways of creating value for their ecosystem, especially as consumers call for purpose-driven retail and expectations of experience reach new levels. In October, SAP announced the industry cloud offering for retail. Industry cloud solutions for the retail industry include, for example, leveraging machine learning algorithms to help consumers have the best experience no matter how they choose to interact with the retailer’s brand while helping the retailer serve that experience in the most efficient way possible.
WWD: What are the new needs of today’s retailers?
M.L.: Technology adoption has accelerated at a fast pace this year. As companies quickly adapted to the pandemic, digital transformation has proven to play a key role in improving customer experiences and creating a more agile business model capable of withstanding crises.
Retailers today need to be investing heavily in omnichannel platforms. According to recent research from Oxford Economics and SAP, 81 percent of senior retail executives say their customers prefer digital experiences to physical ones and 78 percent demand personalized experiences. Brands are feeling this impact and clearly seeing the need for digital-based approaches when engaging with customers. With market and customer demands changing quickly, retailers need to be able to scale quickly to maintain business continuity and stay competitive within their market.
WWD: How does SAP help retailers adjust to new needs?
M.L.: With COVID-19, retailers are adapting to an everchanging consumer engagement model. SAP helps these companies build a strong digital, e-commerce presence that fosters loyalty and inspires shoppers. SAP solutions enable retailers to take e-commerce to the next level, building personalized customer experiences and empowering stylists or associates to be effective in a virtual clienteling role. Beyond the customer experience, SAP gives retailers greater interconnectivity across their organizations, from supply chain management to the virtual storefront.
For example, PVH uses a digital foundation, SAP S/4HANA, to manage a diversified portfolio of brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Izod and others. Implementing SAP technology has helped the company support innovation, modernization and digitalization on a wide scale. By moving the company’s fashion and vertical business elements to SAP, there has been a significant improvement in transparency and flexibility that has proved critical for delivering on the brand experience.
WWD: How does SAP differentiate itself from other companies in the market?
M.L.: SAP’s industry cloud strategy is differentiated from other companies in two key ways. First, SAP’s industry cloud portfolio delivers specialized applications that were built for retail, are implemented quickly and deliver tangible business value. Today’s market realities demand that businesses — and retailers, in particular — have the ability to shift quickly and effectively to meet consumer expectations. Second, the industry cloud is an open innovation platform, which means our partners can seamlessly integrate additional industry-specific capabilities into the platform. This agility, combined with our retail expertise, is key to delivering best in class solutions for retail.
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