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Don’t you hate when you rush to the store before closing to pick up something you really need and it’s sold out. Of course every other product is fully stocked, yet there you stand in front of an empty shelf. Annoyed and frustrated you get back in your car and begin your quest to find another store that’s open.

Out-of-stock is not a new problem in retail and it’s not confined to in-store purchases. It has been a long-standing issue for retailers, and when consumers are hit by it, we think the store doesn't care. We think they sold everything so they are happy. But that is not the case. The company just lost revenue and may have lost a regular customer to a local competitor.  Every retailer that wants to stay in business works hard to prevent out-of-stock situations, but it’s a hard problem to fix.

Beating Out-of-Stock

SPAR Austria Group, a leading retailer operating in its core business in five countries in Central Europe, is tackling out-of-stock events and other modern-day retail challenges with innovative technology. It wants to offer customers a digital, real-time retail experience, which requires a new and higher level of IT and business process performance than it had in the past. With accumulated turnover of €12 billion across its food, sporting goods, and real estate and shopping center business units, the company needs flexible and scalable business solutions.

“Innovation is one of our leading strategic guidelines and drives us to transform the company from a traditional brick and mortar retailer into an omnichannel retailer,” said Werner Kraus, Enterprise Architect, at SPAR Business Services.

An effective omnichannel solution gives the retailer and customer real-time insight and easy access to inventory across all channels. Point-of-sale data is immediately visible and can alert the retailer to a potential empty shelf before it happens. Customers are able to check store inventory on their mobile devices before they make the trip. And store transfers and ordering online are quick and simple alternatives when items are sold out in a store.

“We want to create a great customer experience so it’s critical that we are able to provide them with cross-channel fulfillment information,” said Kraus.  To make this type of information available externally to its customers SPAR Austria Group first needs to consolidate the data in house.

Integration Provides Insight

The size and scope of SPAR Austria Group’s business complicates operations and IT. “We have multiple solutions, which deliver more or less the same kind of information,” said Thomas Thalhammer, Enterprise Architect, at SPAR Business Services. “We would like to integrate all this information into one central system.”

The integration solution for SPAR Austria Group is the SAP Customer Activity Repository application, a new retail data repository powered by SAP HANA. Using SAP Customer Activity Repository, SPAR Austria Group will be able to collect a diverse set of customer, sales, and inventory transactional data spread over its point-of-sale, e-commerce, and ERP systems.

“We envision SAP Customer Activity Repository to address two topics: customer intelligence - everything about our interaction with the customer, and company intelligence – everything about our operations and stock optimization,” said Kraus. This unified view of transactions available in real time will enable the company to uncover, predict, and share valuable information.

“If we can combine all this data and provide it to our shop assistants in real time, they can guide customers as soon as they enter the store, they can answer questions quickly and accurately, and they can suggest other products and services that match the customer’s needs,” said Thalhammer.

Building a Better Future

This will not be SPAR Austria Group’s first experience with the SAP HANA platform. In fact, it is quickly becoming the central building block of its IT strategy. “At the beginning of the year we moved our SAP Customer Relationship Management application onto SAP HANA and it was very, very successful. So we are really very happy about it,” said Thalhammer. The company also successfully migrated its large SAP Business Warehouse applications onto SAP HANA and plans to do the same with its ERP systems in the near future.

SPAR Austria Group’s vision of real-time retail is clear, and so are the benefits – both for revenue generation and cost savings. “We get a better customer experience, better information about the consumer, more tailored products, and more tailored offerings,” said Kraus. “And because we optimize operational costs we get better processes, better stocks, and better fulfillment, which will reduce our operational costs.”

Using SAP Customer Activity Repository running on SAP HANA, SPAR Austria Group can move its vision another step forward with confidence. Thalhammer sums it up best: “With our existing system landscape we wouldn't be able to fulfill such high-volume, real-time tasks. We see SAP HANA as the facilitator to make real-time retail business a reality.”

Watch the SPAR Austria Group video

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