SAP Anywhere hits pilot stage in US, with Canada to follow next year

The front-office suite, which was announced in the spring, has just reached general availability in China and was originally going to be limited to China for some time. However increased demand and competitive pressure have led SAP to change its plans.

IMG_0061SAP’s SAP Anywhere solution, a SMB-focused front-office suite to jointly manage sales, marketing, e-commerce and inventory activities, has hit general availability in China. However, while the product was originally supposed to be limited to that market for an extended period, SAP has changed their plans. A U.K-based pilot is well under way. A U.S. pilot is not as far along, but has begun. Canada is also on the drawing board, with a pilot scheduled for the first half of 2016.

“There’s a pent up demand for this,” said EJ Jackson, SVP and GM, SAP Anywhere. “We see the addressable market for this as a hockey stick. Even today, 73 per cent of spend is still traditional media, but the trend is digital. We are bringing this offering to market at the right time.”

They are also bringing it to market, outside of China, ahead of schedule. When SAP Anywhere was announced last spring the plan then was to limit it to the Chinese market, in partnership with China Telecom. At that time, SAP said the plan was not to roll it out sequentially to other markets shortly after it hit general availability in China. While the long-term goal was to take it global, that emphasis was very much on the long-term, and that SAP wanted to make it a big hit in China before broadening out.

That strategy has now changed.

“We have changed our original go-to-market plans in an acknowledgement that digital transformation is causing macro drivers to get us to market earlier,” Jackson said. “We see a leadership opportunity to get there in advance of our major competitors.”

IMG_0060Jackson said this kind of product is badly needed because the public perception of SMBs moving into digital is much stronger than the reality.

“I had a perception that SMBs are more advanced here than they really are,” he said. “The pilots have surprised me in showing how many of these SMBs are making their first foray into digital media, and that so many of them are neophytes here. The traditional marketing and sales approach is a high cost one. Staying completely manual, running on Excel, is not a way to survive.”

SAP Anywhere is a front office application, which SAP has built from the ground up, and which runs in the public cloud. It uses accounting information to provide real-time analytics to enable SMBs.

“This is all about multi-channel digital marketing and social CRM,” Jackson said. “None of this is radically new, and they are old topics for Fortune 2000. It is new for SMBs though, who have never had the wherewithal to get to it. Today if you aren’t making these investments as an SMB, your competition will.”

This kind of multi-channel e-commerce solution has been more B2C than B2B in the past, but SAP believes that is changing, to the point where B2B will be double B2C by 2020. Jackson said that SAP Anywhere is also ideally suited for merchants who want to sell both B2B and B2C.

“One in two SMBs do both B2C and B2B, although they tend to be weighted to one or the other,” he said. “One customer, a bike shop in Shanghai, has been mainly consumer, but they also just sold 75 bikes to KFC. They know it’s very difficult to do both B2C and B2B well, and want to grow B2B while remaining best-in-class in consumer, and see SAP Anywhere as spanning both channels effectively for them.”

SAP Anywhere can be accessed through both mobile devices and desktops, although SAP is publicizing the mobile aspect more, emphasizing that it will allow SMBs to manage their business from anywhere using their mobile devices.

It handles both online and offline marketing campaigns as well as shopping, sales and service functions. Users can create online stores in minutes, centrally manage product listings, display real-time inventory and pricing information, and execute promotion strategies. Customer information is captured on the fly and mined using SAP HANA, although the application itself is custom-designed, and not an extrapolation of HANA. Inventory insights will be leveraged into the unified order-management system in real time.

“We see the breadth of the offering as its strength,” Jackson said. “We don’t see ourselves taking out Salesforce in CRM, but for breadth across retail and wholesale, this provides value, and it’s something SMBs can get up and running in 40 hours or less.”

The fact this is designed as a pure SMB product makes it a channel play.

“We have 244,000 SME customers and 1300 partners that sell into that,” Jackson said. We have to leverage that. It’s a huge opportunity because customers don’t know both B2B and B2C, and many have little knowledge of multi-channel digital marketing and social CRM. They need partners to bring this expertise. Many partners’ expertise is more in the ERP back office, not in the front office, but this transformation is happening so fast, they need to adapt quickly.”

While SAP Anywhere is generally available today in China, in both the U.S. and the U.K., it is now being piloted.

“It will be available in Q1 in the U.K., and in the first half of 2016 in the U.S.” Jackson said. “Canada should follow shortly thereafter, and we will be looking to pilot Canadian customers in the first half of the year.”