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Last week I attended the 4th annual SAP EMEA Customer Value Network (CVN) Event in Barcelona.  Many of the world’s leading Consumer Products companies once again participated, building on last year’s theme of “Enabling the Consumer Path to Purchase,” to the theme of this year’s event “Optimizing Brand Experience in a Digital World.”

Much to my surprise, the very lively discussion took a slightly different and very interesting tack, focusing on the larger question of what it means to enable the digital enterprise.

The shift in emphasis resulted from several themes that emerged from discussions surrounding the various presentations, driven mainly by the idea that “digital” is now a required and tightly integrated part of enabling business processes as opposed to a “new” or “separate” set of processes and activities.  In that sense, and as noted by the companies participating, “digital marketing” is not a separate function but, rather, should be considered as part of “marketing” holistically along with traditional marketing, enabled and extended to reach consumers through a robust, integrated and comprehensive digital enterprise.

The technologies and enabling innovations that enable this new concept of the digital enterprise are, according to the participants:

  • Pervasive across business functions including marketing and sales, but also procurement, supply chain, manufacturing, finance and more
  • Organized beyond the concepts of efficiency, productivity, cost and speed around a new and central emphasis on enabling global growth

In this way, every business function benefits from access to technology innovations, real-time data, advanced analytics and predictive capabilities, i.e. "digital” to contribute to the process of reaching, engaging and serving increasingly connected, mobile, and social consumers to drive companies’ short- and long-term growth objectives.  And, at the same time, there was strong consensus that IT can and should partner with the business to be an enabler of these capabilities consistently and with scale enterprise-wide.

That said, here are a few highlights showcased in the meeting of how “digital” and IT were serving as enablers for business functions:

  • Insight-driven marketing – Beiersdorf described how the company is leveraging SAP Demand Signal Management to enable timely, consistent and convenient marketing share and sales performance reporting to empower its’ marketing managers globally with insights about real-time demand,
    market share and competition.
  • Enterprise growth strategies – Unilever described how the company is deploying the SAP HANA Platform in conjunction with a global IT simplification and business process standardization initiative as a key component of its’ enterprise growth strategy and to drive sustained margin improvements that contribute directly to the bottom line.
  • Collaboration – Dansk Supermarked gave an overview of its business strategy for collaborating with its consumer products suppliers as part of its efforts to a) be the top retailer in each of its formats b) support an aggressive growth target and c) drive substantial savings to the bottom line in conjunction with its growth objectives.
  • Omni-channel – hybris, an SAP company, gave an overview of the new omni-channel imperative, describing both the rapidly emerging opportunities for consumer products companies along with the impressive scale and scope of omni-channel capabilities across sales, marketing and service, but also procurement and finance through data integration with other solutions, including Ariba.

So, while Optimizing Brand Experience in a Digital World remained the overall theme of the event, the outcome was a much better, and broader, basis for understanding where and how consumer products companies are investing across business functions to grow their business and, most especially, benefit consumers.