Jogging is one of the most popular leisure-time activities with one concern frequently voiced among the running fraternity: “Are my running shoes the right ones for me?”
Now, the latest technologies are bringing customers and manufacturers closer together and taking the customer experience to a new level. The big question is, do customers stand to gain as much from greater customer focus as the manufacturers will?
Millions of joggers in the U.S. run regularly. Some run to relax, some to stay fit, and others are out chasing ambitious sporting goals. Running is an activity that appeals to people of all ages. You can run in winter and summer; on flat or mountainous terrain; on tarmac or in the forest; come wind, rain, or shine.
Yet whatever their age or running preferences, all joggers must pay close attention to their footwear. That means making sure their shoes don’t pinch or rub and checking that they are a good match for their running style and profile. Traditionally, the first port of call for all running-related questions is a specialty running store. But technology is now paving the way for other forms of communication and opening up new dimensions in customer relationship management.
Valuable Information for Runners
Marcus Rübsam, head of Global Solution Management for SAP Hybris, outlines an example from the running shoe industry. “Several major sports shoe manufacturers have begun integrating sensors with a unique ID into their products. So when a customer buys a pair of running shoes, the store assistant can take that person’s details — such as name, weight, height, and shoe size — and create a customer profile then link it to the ID for the shoes.
If the customer uses the manufacturer’s running app, the sensors will transmit information about how the shoes are used and what distance they have covered, according to Rübsam. This capability has other potential uses too. Shoe sensors could provide information about whether shoe soles are wearing down evenly – or whether runners are placing more weight on the inner or outer side of their feet, causing one side of the shoe to wear down faster than the other.
“The customer could pass this information on to a doctor or orthopedic specialist, who could then use it to assess whether the patient has a foot malposition that could be corrected easily with an orthopedic insole. That would be a contribution to safeguarding people’s future health,” says Rübsam.
Valuable Information Manufacturers
Naturally, the sensors can capture all kinds of other data too, such as information about whether the customer prefers to run on forest trails, cinder tracks, or asphalt; about whether he or she runs regularly or occasionally, slowly or fast; about whether the shoes were purchased in-store, online, or from a mobile device.
“By linking a product with an identified customer and his or her usage behavior, manufacturers can generate an extended customer profile of previously unimaginable value,” says Rübsam, explaining the business perspective. This profile is not only valuable in marketing and sales: What channel does the customer favor when searching for personalized offers? Where might cross- or up-selling be successful? Where is it worth advertising a new product? The information in the customer profile is also crucial for product development: Who buys my shoes? Older runners or younger ones? Men or women? Leisure-time joggers or marathon runners?
This kind of insight is vital in helping manufacturers choose the right look for their products. Companies like sportswear and equipment manufacturer ASICS have used information like this to improve their conversion rate for marketing campaigns by 15 percent and cut customer acquisition costs by eight percent.
“From the business perspective, these are real, quantifiable benefits. Benefits which, though not so easy to put a figure on, ultimately filter through to customers, too ‒ in the form of new, improved, better-fitting products.”
Explorative Data Analysis Shaping the Customer Experience
Nevertheless, says Rübsam, the potential offered by digital technologies is far from exhausted. In his view, the running-shoe example is still very closely aligned to the functions of conventional customer relationship management (CRM), albeit with an added, in-depth Internet of Things (IoT) scenario. Because its purpose is to address existing customers.
Strictly speaking, says Rübsam, the term “customer relationship management” does not cover the latest approaches to creating an improved “customer experience” or, better, “customer engagement.” Because the latter are increasingly concerned with creating initially anonymous customer profiles, rapidly enriching them with knowledge about real customers, identifying those customers, and addressing them directly.
“The central question, in a nutshell, is how companies can put the data at their disposal to the best possible use,” says Rübsam. When it comes to laying the technical foundation for the digital transformation that is required to do this, companies need an IT infrastructure that allows them to eliminate data silos. They need to be able to analyze both structured and unstructured data and make decisions based on real-time information ‒ even where mass data is involved. Innovative, integrated functions for business intelligence, planning, and predictive analytics round off the requirements for efficient explorative data analysis.
Data Collection Only Acceptable if it Benefits the Customer
The digital transformation will see the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) change dramatically. “Digital” CMOs will have access to personalized customer data that they must use as the framework for their marketing strategies.
“In addition to their existing tasks, CMOs will increasingly function as ‘customer experience managers,’ whose job is to focus on analyzing customer data and on integrating all touch points along the customer journey – including downstream delivery, service, and billing processes in the various lines of business,” says Rübsam.
The CMO of tomorrow must also be capable of communicating seamlessly with individually identified customers across all channels and of placing them at the center of their efforts.
“Only a comprehensive technology platform like SAP HANA gives companies the means to build the integrated IT processes they need to achieve this in the simplest way possible,” says a convinced Rübsam. Specifically, SAP HANA helps consolidate customer data, place it in a customer-centric context, create personalized offerings, and thus give consumers their own, unique customer journey.
SAP HANA-based solutions from SAP Hybris provide valuable insight and empower enterprises to make real-time decisions in B2C and B2B markets. They link customer profiles with business processes in commerce, sales, marketing, customer service, invoice processing, and business model management. The interaction between integrated technologies, applications, and processes helps businesses drive the digital transformation throughout the organization – as well as achieving that all-important extra portion of customer focus.
And, in Marcus Rübsam’s experience, “Customers are more than willing to disclose their own data if they know there’s something in it for them.”
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