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“I survived my first NRF!” Where can I buy that t-shirt?  All of you convention veterans in the blogosphere might think I’m being a bit dramatic. Ok, I probably am. But, I truly did kick the show off with a bang…luckily the SUV my cab hit was relatively unscathed as were all the parties involved.

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NRF, a.k.a. National Retail Federation, calls this RETAIL’S BIG SHOW, and it’s aptly named. Close to 30,000 industry professionals from around the globe converge on one location to network, learn, share best practices and discuss the future of the retail industry. However, one salient moment hit me when I stumbled upon the Coca-Cola Happiness Lounge – a relaxing oasis away from the jam-packed expo hall. In this area, they were featuring Coca-Cola Freestyle, their uber drink dispenser that lets you customize a soda – there literally are over 100 choice combinations. My favorite is Vanilla Coke Zero , and as far as I know, you can’t buy it in bottles or cans.

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This machine is nothing new, and I've actually used it in the past. However, put in the context of NRF, it really stuck a chord with me. All day, I had been having discussions with retailers about driving loyalty and sales by delivering personalized experiences. With this machine, Coke really hits the mark. In fact, just the way they describe it gives me warm fuzzies. “Coca-Cola Freestyle® is all about you. Your choice, your taste, your drink. It's more than the new way to quench your thirst. It’s the refreshing new way to express yourself.“

 

It’s not just an interesting story because of personalization. It’s also about big data, analytics and mobile (or more accurately, M2M). I got home, did some research, and was proud to learn that SAP played an important part in pulling this off. The machine provides tremendous opportunities, including the ability to:

 

  • Test drink flavors faster and more efficiently
  • Determine the ideal product mix and regional tastes
  • Plan inventory and automate ordering
  • Provide proactive signals when service is needed

 

This “refreshing” moment I had ties back nicely to everything we were discussing with our customers and partners at the booth. For example, the retail industry is battling the challenges presented by showrooming (consumers using their mobile devices in the store to compare prices and then buy online from an online competitor who has a lower cost structure), yet price matching is not a sustainable practice. By combining the forces of big data, analytics and mobile, much like Coke did, innovative retailers can enable SAP Precision Retailing, an incredibly powerful engine that delivers highly personalized consumer experiences, in the moment. The result is greater engagement, share of wallet and ultimately, customer loyalty.

 

Additionally, retailers have a unique advantage over online-only companies – the physical store – where the majority of transactions still occur. Because of this, it’s essential that they take the opportunity to educate and empower their associates in order to provide customers with the best possible in-store experience. Keep in mind, however, that today’s consumers have high expectations, and they come armed with smartphones that offer unlimited pricing and product information. So, if an associate is not on a level playing field, with a similarly equipped device, there is a much greater potential for lost sales. During NRF, SAP announced and demoed new mobile apps that enable retailers to deliver a superior omni-channel experience both directly to consumers’ mobile devices and via mobile equipped in-store associates.

 

  • SAP Retail Store Ops Associate empowers associates with in-store merchandising, sales and service by providing them with detailed product insights to deliver exceptional customer service. 
  • SAP On-Shelf Availability monitors sales transactions, detects discrepancies in sales patterns that might relate to product availability on shelf and issues warning.
  • SAP plans to release SAP Customer Loyalty which would enable retailers to send unique offers straight to the customers’ phones, thereby increasing promotion conversion rates and marketing return on investment (ROI). .

 

From the back of the store, to the store floor, and beyond the four walls of the store, SAP is taking a holistic approach to transforming the retail industry. To learn more about our approach, join our upcoming webinar on January 23.

 

 

Follow me on twitter, @BrentCohler - and be sure to let me know if you ever see Vanilla Coke Zero on the store shelf!

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