SAP outlines plans for Hybris, push into 'omni-commerce'

The company will take the fight to Oracle and IBM in the customer experience management market

SAP has given customers a peek into how it will compete with the likes of Oracle and IBM in the growing market around CEM (customer experience management) software with the acquisition of commerce software vendor Hybris.

The Hybris deal, which was announced in June, closed last week and on Tuesday executives took part in a press conference to share some future plans.

Today, consumers are "crowd-sourcing their decision-making," said SAP chief marketing and communication officer Jonathan Becher. More than half of customers change their minds about buying a product after reading a negative review online, he added.

"What does this mean for companies?" Becher said. "What does it mean for brands? It means we have to listen and respond to a whole host of digital signals. We have to change our mindset from controlling customer relationships and automating them, to thinking about how to provide that holistic experience."

The Hybris platform handles both business-to-business and business-to-consumer scenarios, and covers e-commerce, call centers, mobile devices and on-premises systems at retail locations. SAP is therefore using the phrase "omni-commerce" to position the product.

While the general direction of SAP's intentions for Hybris were already generally known, some additional details emerged Tuesday.

For one thing, an initial integration between Hybris and SAP's HANA in-memory computing platform is now complete, according to executives. SAP and Hybris will reveal more detailed product road maps and integration plans during events in October, they said.

SAP plans to push Hybris as an option to its installed base, which includes 40,000 core ERP (enterprise resource planning) software customers, Becher said in an interview before Tuesday's event. "All of them are interested in a commerce solution," he said.

In addition, "there's a replacement cycle that's happening now," with many customers looking to upgrade an older system or switch to an alternative, Becher claimed.

About 30 percent of Hybris' installed base is made up of SAP customers. While Hybris intends "to be the best commerce platform on the SAP stack," it will remain open to other ERP systems, said Hybris CEO Ariel Luedi, in an interview. "You have to be agnostic to the back end."

SAP rival Oracle has spent billions on acquisitions to build out its commerce software portfolio, with pickups including ATG and Fatwire. While the price SAP paid for privately held Hybris wasn't disclosed, the Wall Street Journal reported the cost was between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, citing anonymous sources.

Before agreeing to the SAP acquisition, Hybris had "other options, even financially more interesting options," but the fit with SAP seemed better from a broader integration perspective, Luedi said during the press conference.

In the interview, Luedi criticized Oracle's approach to the market, saying its many acquisitions in the sector make it difficult for customers to piece together a complete package of commerce tools. In contrast, Hybris provides a single stack that is "much easier to deploy and customize," he claimed.

An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment on Luedi's remarks.

Meanwhile, other plans for Hybris include a push into more verticals outside the "obvious" one of retail, Becher said Tuesday. Other targets will include manufacturing, banking and financial services.

SAP also intends to couple Hybris with its Ariba online supplier network, which hundreds of thousands of companies use to buy products.

In addition, SAP will begin pushing Hybris into new geographic territories, particularly China, Becher said.

Ultimately, SAP's strategy speaks to a world where traditional notions of B2B and B2C commerce "are dead," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "It's about personalized commerce."

While SAP will be able to "get a good start with Hybris," there are many other related acquisitions it could still make, he added. "SAP's missing identity, payment technologies, and a few other digital enablers like signatures and mobile wallets."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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