Let’s talk shop: taking retail to the next level with S/4HANA

Main visual : Let’s talk shop: taking retail to the next level with S/4HANA

We’re in the midst of a retail revolution.

Out of all the industries, it’s often retail that captures the public’s imagination when it comes to digital transformation. Same-day delivery. Drones. Personalization. These are just some of the innovations becoming a reality. And they are raising customer expectations considerably.

Digital transformation is a strategic necessity. Not just to keep up with competitors, but to seize opportunities and lead the pack in the digital age. But this is easier said than done.

Transformation is challenge. It requires time, investment, and collaboration across an entire organization. Critically, it requires businesses to reimagine their core systems. ERP has a key role to play – and yesterday’s outdated infrastructure simply isn’t up to the job.

In the last article, we looked at how S/4HANA can transform manufacturing. I now want to turn my focus to retail and explore what opportunities can be unlocked.

Exceptional experiences

The importance of customer experience in retail cannot be underestimated.

Expectations are raising. And businesses that don’t evolve will inevitably be viewed less and less favorably by customers. Even more so than price point and product quality, a poor experience pushes customers away, and makes them less likely to interact in the future.

Conversely, a positive experience has major benefits. Customers are more loyal, and will even pay more. This is true everywhere, but especially when it comes to luxury or indulgence purchasing.

Many businesses try and push the boat in terms of website design and installing the latest technology. But in reality, innovation starts with the low-hanging fruit

It can be surprisingly difficult getting the basics right. And while ensuring an intuitive user interface and seamless transitions between devices may not sound too exciting, it’s essential businesses nail them before trying anything more ambitious.

Easier said than done

But even reaching the “low-hanging” fruit can be challenging.

To truly optimize the buying journey, businesses need to identify customer pain points with precision. And this involves an awful lot of number crunching.

Enterprises say ‘improving customer experiences’ is a top benefit of real-time customer analytics. But without a core that can handle large amounts of data, businesses simply won’t know where the bottlenecks are.

And this is equally true with the big-ticket digital transformation projects.

Personalization for example. The two-way supply chain will become a fixture in tomorrow’s retail environment. Innovations like mass-customization mean customers are taking active roles developing products. Being able to transfer customers’ specifications to a production line is critical to this – but doing so at scale requires sophisticated data management.

Transparency is also a key trend. Never before have consumers cared so much about where their products come from.  Sustainability. Ethical business. Corporate responsibility. These really matter to customers. And using data to throw light on supply chains is a key way to earn trust.

Finally, Google recently reported a 120% growth in searches for “same-day shipping”.  Customers want their products as quickly as possible, but to do so requires seamless collaboration between retailors, suppliers, and logistics.

Next-generation retail

If you’ve read previous articles in this series, some of the words I’ve used above will seem familiar: ‘seamless’, ‘collaboration’, ‘reimagine’.

That’s because, in many ways, digital transformation in retail is no different to other industries. It requires a core that is comfortable crunching large amounts of data – connecting dots and breaking silos to ensure businesses are offering the best experiences possible.

With S/4HANA, businesses have a solid foundation for their data. It enables smooth processes in logistics and in digital channels – from order right through to payment. Machine learning and predictive analytics mean retailors gain additional insights from operational data, empowering them to make better decisions.

S/4HANA gives both headquarters and store associates an intuitive user experience. So whether it be enabling same-day delivery, personalization, or simply smoothing out kinks in the buying journey, businesses have the tools to get ahead in the digital age.