hybris Helps SAP Retail and CRM

As my colleague Bob Eastman reported in a blogpost earlier today, SAP plans to acquire hybris, a vibrant and widely recognized leader in e-commerce technology with the choice of on-premises or cloud deployment, as enterprises around the world struggle with the customer experience for businesses and consumers across an ever-growing number of delivery channels, devices, and touch points. The combination of industry-leading enterprise solutions from SAP with the multi-channel commerce solutions of hybris should provide enterprises with the enhanced data and tools necessary to optimize margins and customer loyalty.

As mentioned in TEC’s report from the NRF 2013 conference, today's consumers and businesses demand a seamless brand and shopping experience across all channels. The e-commerce technology market is experiencing rapid growth as businesses adapt to changing customer behaviors that seamlessly cross Web, mobile, store, contact center, and other points of engagement. Big data, cloud, mobile, and social technologies only heighten demand for innovative commerce solutions needed for managing consistent customer engagement.

SAP might be trying to achieve something similar to IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative focused on the Buy - Market - Sell - Service processes across industries. The acquisition of Ariba last year has covered the first process, while hybris should help with the latter two processes. Founded in 1997 with headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, hybris is a fast growing e-commerce software company offering a multi-channel commerce platform that incorporates omni-channel solutions, with 500 customers worldwide.

The combination of hybris' commerce platform with the flagship in-memory platform SAP HANA, analytical and cloud applications, and the SAP Jam social software platform should allow SAP to deliver new levels of customer insight and engagement across multiple channels. Following the launch of the SAP 360 Customer solution, which introduced the SAP CRM application powered by SAP HANA, the acquisition should further SAP's ability to help companies fully engage customers to improve loyalty and create stronger, more valuable relationships.

Rounding Out SAP Retail

It is interesting that this is SAP’s second retail-oriented acquisition in Switzerland, the first one being SAF AG in 2009 for precise retail-level forecasting and replenishment. But e-commerce capabilities have long been an admitted gap in the SAP Retail portfolio. Growing at more than twice the rate of the retail industry, e-commerce is increasingly recognized as a critical capability in identifying, winning, and growing profitable customer relationships. Given IBM WebSphere Commerce’s longevity in the market, Oracle’s acquisitions of ATG, Endeca, RightNow, and inQuira, JDA Web Commerce (that came from RedPrairie and Escalate), NetSuite’s acquisitions of Retail Anywhere and OrderMotion, and Epicor’s recent alliance with Magento, SAP simply had to make the move.

Upon completion of the transaction, expected in the third quarter of 2013 and subject to regulatory approval and other closing conditions, hybris will operate as an independent business unit and will retain its existing management team led by Ariel Ludi, CEO, hybris and Carsten Thoma, president and co-founder. This seems a smart move for SAP, similar to how it has handled Ariba. Both Ariba and hybris have many customers outside of SAP’s install base, and that nature of their business will likely continue.

There is still a number of specialist e-commerce software providers, such as Demandware, Magento, Starmount, ChannelAdvisor, Volusion, etc. While there is plenty of business to go around for all, these independent vendors will have to work even more on improving their value prop in light of more integrated offerings in the market.

It remains to be seen what SAP will do about the remaining marketing process in the aforementioned Smarter Commerce initiative, especially after Oracle and salesforce.com recently splurged on Eloqua and ExactTarget respectively. While hybris and SAP CRM can help with capturing customers early in the lifecycle through Web site visits and later through customer service initiatives, marketing automation and sales force automation (SFA) are important for managing proto-customers on the event horizon (i.e., planting the seeds for future prospects).
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