It’s no coincidence SAP has chosen today, the first day of Salesforce’s Dreamforce Conference, to unveil its integrated digital experience technology strategy. 

“We want to have our point of view in the conversation,” said Nayaki Nayyar, the SVP who leads the charge for Customer Engagement Solutions at SAP. 

It’s a pretty bold move considering that, during our interview last week, Nayyar couldn’t have known what Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his crew would be announcing at his company’s star studded user conference that has almost, literally, taken over San Francisco this week. It’s the largest software conference in the world.

Tapping DX

So you can rest assured that if SAP didn’t think it had anything game-changing to introduce, they would have sat back,  watched and planned their next move.

But instead they’re staking the ground that goes beyond CRM and into digital experience (DX).

While from a nuts-and-bolts perspective it leverages in-the-moment customer profiling, digital commerce, community development, the Internet of Things, data analytics, social listening and responding in real time, and more, in the end it ushers in a new era of digital connectedness, customer service and support.  

“CRM has evolved, the world is now digital,” said Nayyar.

“Devices are part of our lives, so are Twitter and Facebook. The CRM solutions of yesterday weren’t built for this world.”

And by “this world”, she doesn’t mean just the world of her nine-year old son, who has a smart watch and smart phone, but also of her 65 year old “digital immigrant” mother who spends her time sharing family news, videos and pictures in places like Facebook and WhatsApp.

Transformative Times

We need to transform the way we look at customer relationships, sales automation and customer service, according to Nayyar. How we sell, how we service, how we market, how we deliver experiences, not only has to change, but it can also create new opportunities.

“Success won’t be won by selling,” she said. “Engagement is more important now.”

Nayyar wasn’t spinning a vision as she spoke. She had real world projects to talk about. They leverage SAP hybris as a service on the HANA Cloud platform and are sold as vertical market specialized microservices that you pay for by the month. 

But enough about that. Real world scenarios paint better pictures and explain how value is won.

Fans into Brand Advocates?

SAP is working with the New York Yankees, for example, on a project that aims to turn fans into brand advocates.

The journey begins with, say, a mother who takes her kids to see a ballgame. The kids get hungry and the mother tweets asking where to get gluten-free pizza.

Whoever is monitoring the stadium twitter feed gets in touch with Mom and tries to hook her up with the goods, or at least insure that she finds a viable alternative. Not only that, but the Yankees might also invite the family to a meet-and-greet after the game. 

That’s a story that everyone in the family might likely repeat. Fan to brand advocate, we’ll let you be the judge. But consider this, the Yankees now have a good view of the family and they’ll likely get some special offers in the future as well.

What’s the formula? Listening in real time. Responding in real time, being contextual…

Ice Cream on Command

Somewhere in America you can already tell your phone that you want something cold, creamy and sweet and get a trail of breadcrumbs that leads to the goods. If you’re a friend of Dreyer’s ice cream (a subsidiary of Nestlé, which also makes Edy’s ice cream), your phone will tell you exactly where to find our favorite ice cream bar. At least that’s how Nayyar explained it.

And while Siri or Google might point you some algorithmically selected brand (and maybe a store that sells it), if you’ve got an app or belong to a loyalty program it could send you a QED code that acts as a coupon, lead you to a nearby vending machine that has exactly the bar you’re salivating over, give you points for buying it … and so on.

But it’s not only Sales, Marketing and Customer Service that SAP’s digital enterprise strategy team is addressing in its new portfolio.

There are things like predictive maintenance as well. In an IoT world, for example, there’s an opportunity to fix things before they break.

In the case of the ice cream vending machine, data from a sensor might indicate that something’s going on with the freezing mechanism. The analytical system which detects this can take the information and use it to identify a nearby service person who can go repair the machine before anything melts or a customer buys an ugly mess.

SAP for You, Too?

While in the past solutions like the aforementioned were only available to deep pocketed enterprises who had a gazillion geeks on staff and months, if not years, to implement solutions, that’s no longer the case. SAP has made a major step change.

You don’t have to buy any software, get dirty coding or spend time and money on projects praying that they’ll work. You can buy them as microservices from SAP and pay for them per user per month. 

“If you’re not happy, you don’t have to worry,” said Nayyar. You’re not locked-in, you don’t have to stay.

Best of Breed Solutions Built-In

SAP offers almost a dozen microservices built specifically for industries such as consumer products, high tech, utilities, banking, insurance, professional services, retail, automotive, manufacturing and public sector.

They leverage built-in best-of breed technologies such as Sprinklr (for listening), DocuSign for digital signatures, GENBAND for real time communications and OpenText for pushing out content and documents.

What does this mean at the end of the day? That enterprises can buy microservices and create connected journeys for their customers in what seems to be a plug and play way. Time will tell if they’ll yield competitive advantages at the right price.

One thing is already certain though, Salesforce won’t be the only cloudy digital play in town. The new lighter, simpler SAP will be using its SAP Hana platform and Enterprise creds to woo customers large and small.

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Title image by RC Cipriano.