By Ratul Shah, Head Of Product Marketing, Customer Data Solutions, SAP
When choosing between fueling growth and harnessing data, growth always wins. But research data from IDC suggest that medium-size businesses cannot afford to pick one over the other.
According to the IDC Info Snapshot, sponsored by SAP, “Business Reimagined: Competing More Effectively,” midsize companies are better positioned to face larger competitors over the long term when they leverage the power of their data in three key areas:
• The end-to-end customer journey
• Product innovation
• Operational excellence
By ensuring that data is accurate, integrated, and shareable, organizations can form a complete picture of customer preferences, behaviors, and intentions. Yet, there’s trouble brewing behind the scenes: an infrastructure of fragmented data, siloed applications, and disconnected interactions fails to support a personalized experience that inspires lasting customer loyalty and profitable growth.
Rethinking data for a hybrid environment
At the onset of the pandemic, the unexpected reality of lockdowns and remote working prompted businesses worldwide to accelerate their digital business initiatives. And, in most cases, this modern infrastructure is quickly becoming “a strong enabler in addressing employee, customer, supply chain and broad brand impact to position the enterprise to come out of the crisis stronger,” according to Gartner.
Although this flurry of change is beginning to settle down and businesses are growing more predictably, organizations are now managing a wide variety of siloed data scattered across a hybrid of cloud and on-premise data. And inevitably, they must decide whether to adopt integration and advanced analytics capabilities to work with each other as a single, seamless business model.
A lot of people think it’s just the biggest companies that can take advantage of advanced analytics capabilities such as machine learning. That’s absolutely not true. Midsize companies can tap into APIs or use software with built-in, advanced functionality to help compete just like the big giants.
Redesigning the digital backbone
Whenever I talk about the relationship between data and the customer journey, I always think about my shopping experiences with a favorite shoe retailer. Initially, I was attracted by its mission to manufacture environmentally friendly, carbon-neutral, and amazingly comfortable shoes. But what truly got my attention is how it manages every aspect of the customer relationship seamless.
For example, I recently ordered a new pair of green running shoes, then decided to complete my profile and opt-in to receive email communications from the brand. Like most retailers, the company sent me a promotion that’s perfect for avid runners like me: a monthly shoelace subscription. The idea that I no longer have to deal with the nuisance of searching for a pair of shoelaces that match my awesome green shoes was very appealing.
And over time, that customer experience only gets better. Last week, I visited the site to find a personalized page designed to suit my needs and preferences. Somehow, the retailer knew that I would want a new shirt that matched my new shoes – and one for my daughter too – correctly using the data I gave them.
How did this retailer know which products would best match my needs and preferences without overstepping my personal privacy? They asked me and got my permission to use my data to better my experience. Now, it all comes back to its ability to integrate applications and analyze customer data from the perspective of every business area, including supply chain, sales, marketing, merchandising, product engineering, and finance.
But more importantly, the retailer can understand demand signals to help ensure its operations can keep up. It uses the commerce site and email communications to educate customers about how they can extend the life of their shoes. Furthermore, customers can now get even more value from their purchases while the business enjoys a more profitable and sustainable business model.
In this case, customer data is much more than just “customer information” to increase transactions. Understanding who the customer is and how they want to be treated is critical. The customer is in control, and brands need to understand that fact before using it to connect with their customers and look at different channel opportunities. Looking at how the retailer initially helps customers find shoes, it’s easy to see how they eventually expanded by going direct to consumer and creating new customers within my family too.
Reimagining competitiveness for a changing market
Midsize businesses must always keep an eye out for larger competitors. But an even more profound and imminent threat to their growth potential remains if their data and applications cannot support the kind of customer centricity that build brand trust.
By unifying their intelligence, companies can manage an influx of new disruptions and take a more purposeful and planned approach to growth. They can build more modern business models, processes, and supporting systems that help improve their customer experience game to keep existing customers satisfied, maximize the value of those relationships, and attract new customers to grow.
To learn more, read the IDC Info Snapshot, “Business Reimagined: Competing More Effectively,” sponsored by SAP, May 2021 | Doc. #US47676021.
And if you’d like to explore this topic further, join the on-demand webinar, sponsored by Intel and Google Cloud, to hear how midsize companies can compete more effectively, as part of our #ConnectGrowWin series.