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How long have we all been talking about “marketing to an audience of one”? For years now – and as customers have changed, pressure to realize this holy grail of marketing has only intensified. As noted by IDC, today’s customers really are in charge, and enterprises must obey. They don’t want to be sold to; instead, they self-educate about products and services well before making a purchase, by using mobile access to diverse online content and social networks that expose them to opinion leaders, existing customers, and peers.

Customers don’t want their learning to restart every time they move from a search to a social campaign to a Web site and to a community to learn more. Rather, the content that companies provide at each channel must match the individual customer’s context across every purchase phase of the journey, or it will be perceived as a waste of time.

But with every new digital channel or social network that emerges, it’s gotten more complex for marketing teams to realize the vision of one-to-one marketing. They need to take advantage of the massive volumes of digital customer engagement information that prospects and customers generate to understand what buyers want and need in the moment. This information follows customers along their journey and lets marketers provide just the right content and offerings at the right time.

To address this issue, software companies have developed a wide range of point solutions that help marketers automate the diverse activities of marketing across multiple channels. But too many point solutions create new problems.

According to IDC , the average midsized, advanced marketing organization has 40 to 50 separate systems in place to support operations. Large organizations can have as many as 200. Marketing is typically organized around these silos, which specialize in campaigns, advertising, content production, data and analytics, and more. And because each silo has its own database, customer data gets fragmented, making it impossible to aggregate the right data needed to understand each customer and personalize interactions across channels in real time.

Of course, this IT complexity and data fragmentation is not conducive to marketing to an audience of one, which requires deep insights into customer behavior that are possible only when you have a 360-degree, real-time customer view. Innovative solution providers – like SAP – saw this long ago and started to develop new platforms that simplify IT and excel at cross-channel integration and data-driven marketing.

These solutions unlock the data frozen in social media silos and use it to support seamless, personalized customer engagement throughout the customer journey. Interaction points are centrally managed. They feed one common customer data model for a true, 360-degree customer view and a decision engine that ensures customers receive the right information and offers at the right time, wherever they are. As these systems are integrated with back-end CRM, ERP, and other software, marketing can support seamless operations and reporting.

At SAP, we deliver on this vision with SAP S/4HANA, the next-generation business suite. Now all areas of your business – including marketing – can be connected with SAP S/4HANA as the digital core. This digital core enables digitized, mission-critical processes on a single source of real-time information that interconnects all aspects of the digital value chain. So even customer data being created through social media channels is instantly stored and available for analysis in real time. Imagine this:

  • Having real-time insights into customer intent based on a blend of structured and unstructured data, giving you the full context of customers to automate personalized  engagement at every stage of their journey
  • Delivering contextually relevant offers to individual customers – known and unknown – every time, in real time, through the customer’s current, preferred channel of engagement
  • Running marketing with unprecedented speed and agility so you can respond to behavior changes and trends in time to impact marketing outcomes
  • Understanding marketing activity performance to optimally plan resources for customer advocacy and growth

The results speak for themselves. According to the value engineering group at SAP, marketing organizations using the SAP S/4HANA Marketing solution to support extensive cross-channel integration and data-driven marketing achieve 61% greater revenue from new customers and 32% lower marketing spend. They gain 24% revenue growth from new customers and 30% higher growth in market share. And they do it all with 22% fewer employees.

What’s your plan to drive digital marketing transformation? Read the IDC Technology Spotlight, “Updating Marketing Technology as Part of Enterprise Digital Transformation” to learn more and start your digital transformation journey.