Taking enterprise commerce to the next level

In August last year, SAP acquired hybris, one of the world’s leading enterprise commerce platforms. Freya Purnell spoke to Graham Jackson, managing director of hybris Australia, about what has been driving the company’s impressive growth.


The demand by customers in both the B2C and B2B space for personalised and contextualised experiences across all digital and offline channels has been well documented. But it was an area in which SAP was struggling – its SAP Web Channel Experience Management solution was not challenging the market leaders in this category and was out of favour amongst analysts. This placed SAP at a disadvantage relative to competitors Oracle and IBM, both of which have successful solutions.

With the enterprise commerce space entering a new phase of maturity and representing a market opportunity worth around $80 billion, from a strategic perspective it was a product line SAP had to address, alongside other key solutions such as ERP and CRM.

In 2013, SAP moved to close the gap with the acquisition of hybris software. Headquartered in Switzerland, hybris had carved out a position as the number one independent omni-channel commerce platform in the world, having posted compound annual growth of 83 per cent since 2009.

At the time of the acquisition, SAP said the companies planned to combine “the agile omni-channel commerce solutions of hybris with robust enterprise technology and industry-leading in-memory, cloud and mobile innovations from SAP to help facilitate new levels of customer insight and engagement”.

While hybris’ B2C Commerce suite is among the best, the company also has a mature B2B suite, commonly used by manufacturers and distributors. In the most recent Forrester Research Wave report on B2B Commerce, issued in October 2013, hybris was named as a leader in this market due to its “modern Java-based architecture, embedded enterprise product content management capabilities, the embedded and rapidly maturing order management capabilities, and the flexibility of the framework”.

However, according to Forrester analyst Peter Sheldon, in a blog post on the acquisition, customers were increasingly finding duplication of capabilities between hybris – sometimes billed as the ERP of the front end – and their SAP ERP solutions, adding extra impetus for the companies to work together rather than compete.

hybris in the local market

Graham Jackson established the company’s Australian and New Zealand presence last year, and hybris is now active across a number of vertical markets, including retail and telecommunications for B2C and manufacturing, distribution and wholesaling for B2B. hybris also has developing capabilities in digital and financial services.  

Jackson says the hybris software roadmap is really driven by changing consumer behaviour, whether they are business buyers or individuals.

“Buying decisions are made online today. It might be actioned offline – for example, the actual purchase might take place in a physical store or over the phone – but the decision-making process is happening online,” Jackson says.

Customers also demand a true omni-channel experience, expecting the organisation they are dealing with to provide a consistent experience and display the same knowledge of them as a customer, regardless of how they interface with the company. But from a systems perspective, this can be easier said than done.

“Typically the systems that are responsible for delivering the touchpoint experience, whether it be a mobile platform, a website, people in the store with point of sale systems, or account managers on the end of phones, are not connected,” Jackson says. “We talk about the importance of customers having a single view of the business they are dealing with. They don’t want to be treated differently just because they happen to choose a different method of communicating with you.”

The consumerisation of the business-to-business buying process is another factor at play in the enterprise commerce space, where buyers who are accustomed to great functionality and features, such as faceted search and personalised experiences and pricing, from consumer retail sites, are expecting those same experiences in their business interactions.

“We see companies coming forward for a new e-commerce platform talk about themselves wanting to be the Amazon of the steel buying world. They want to give an experience that is Amazon-esque and they realise that they need some technology to help them do that,” Jackson says.

The front-end customer experience is also becoming more important for companies to remain competitive, particularly as internet-enabled price visibility flattens out pricing, he says.

“Price isn’t really driving a decision as to whether to use a particular supplier anymore. It’s more about providing a robust process for a start, and an enriched user experience that differentiates you from the others. That’s what is being demanded by SAP’s customers’ customers.”

Partnering for growth

hybris has an ecosystem of over 250 technology and commerce service provider partners, including premier partners such as Sapient, Deloitte and Accenture. The company provides training and certification for partners in various disciplines, and has a large and active channel and partner management team.

“Locally we have a channel manager responsible for the relationships with those partners. We don’t necessarily expect partners to be experts in demonstrating the software close to the sale, we will always help them with that, but obviously we do expect them to be experts in implementing the software,” Jackson says.

As the terms of the acquisition mean that hybris is still operating as an independent unit, tagged ‘an SAP company’, the company will also maintain a separate program to SAP’s partner program.

“At some point those programs will likely start to come together, but that’s not in the foreseeable future. For the time being, partners will need to, independently of them being an SAP partner, become a hybris partner as well,” Jackson says. “We already have a couple of existing SAP partners who have become hybris partners in this region.”

BluLeader, Ciber and Fair Consulting Group are amongst the local SAP partners that are also hybris partners, alongside global players such as Accenture, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys.

Mobility and cloud continuing to grow

One of the key trends Jackson expects to see continuing is an explosion in the use of mobile devices for transactions, particularly for business internet traffic. It is already having a huge impact in retail and B2C.

“If I were to look at some of our customers in Australia and New Zealand today, we would see over half of that site traffic coming from some sort of mobile device. We have already seen that mobile including tablet has overtaken the traditional PC desktop as the preferred method of buying from a retail website,” he says.

“We see mobile traffic as a proportion of business internet traffic increasing significantly along similar lines.”

From an enterprise perspective, Jackson also expects to see more companies turning to cloud to manage their IT investments.

“Companies are becoming more and more wary of spending money on software systems, and cloud becomes even more important as a method of delivering software.”  

This article was published in Inside SAP Summer 2014.

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