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By Claude Ringuet

This year’s ECR Asia Pacific industry conference took place in Singapore. With over 400 attendees from the consumer products and retail industries, and presenter representing WalMart, Tesco, Metro AG, Unilever, P&G, Diageo, The Coca-Cola Company, NTUC Fairprice, IBM, Accenture and yours truly from SAP, the stage was set for a valuable two days of industry best practice sharing and visionary thinking. The event delivered!

Given the joint emphasis on consumer products and retail, the event focused on touching lives and improving value via key themes common to both consumer products companies and retailers – products, customer value, consumer trends and sustainability.

The primary example of these themes was the thought provoking opening keynote presentation conducted jointly by Harish Manwani, COO of Unilever, and Scott Price, CEO of WalMart Asia.  Harish and Scott stressed four key messages:

  • Products: a desire to see the trade operate for less and ultimately deliver products at a more affordable price point to the majority in Asia.
  • Consumer Value: delivering value to the individual consumers rather than simply to the segment as a whole, especially by leveraging big data and social media.
  • People: the imperative to develop, equip and retain top talent in the region in order to meet the challenges of rapid urbanisation, digitalisation and sustainability.
  • Planet: the importance of focusing on sustainability, especially in Asia, through product packaging efficiency and optimizing the supply chain from raw material to consumer.

These key themes carried through to presentations and discussions throughout the rest of the conference, with a particular emphasis on the many challenges facing trade in Asia. For example, the stress of regional population growth and urbanisation is unsustainable and many attendees were looking for ideas and opportunities to leverage technology to help address the corresponding imperative to drive business growth while simultaneously improving environmental sustainability.

Likewise, social media and big data were very much hot topics across conference sessions.  Attendees were interested to learn not only how to leverage social media and big data, but also how to assess the nature of the relationships they’re building directly with consumers and measure the value of those relationships, along with ROI. And, along with these, attendees were anxious to understand enabling technologies for social media and big data to help them derive consumer insights to improve marketing and mobility to improve consumer reach and engagement.

Based on these topics, one of the key takeaways from the conference is that enabling technology must be adopted to help support each of these key themes, from streamlining the end to end supply chain to improve product delivery and sustainability, to deriving greater insight through data to empower people and improve consumer value.

Given these challenges and opportunities, SAP is perfectly positioned to address the demands in the trade at multiple levels. Here are just a few examples:

  • Big data is not a new opportunity or challenge for the industry. However, the ability to deliver insight in near real time is what will set organisations apart in the future. Leveraging the SAP HANA PlatformTM for rapid data analysis is now enabling organisations to make more optimal decisions around supply chain planning, trade promotions activity and POS analysis. With this data now available, it is possible for organisations to be more targeted on the consumer and deliver much more efficiently across the supply chain.
  • SAP Social Media Analytics measures consumer sentiment relating to brand perception, response to promotion and marketing campaigns, product positioning and more.  With this type of visibility marketing teams derive consumer insights to improve direct-to-consumer engagement.
  • Consumer engagement ultimately requires product to be on shelf. SAP Sales and Operations planning, SAP Extended Warehouse Management and SAP Forecasting and Replenishment are all tools that enable the optimisation of supply chains and delivery of optimal demand plans to ensure on-shelf availability and mitigate the risk of lost sales due to out of stocks.

In Asia, we are seeing a rapid move to fast technology adoption. Organisations want to transform from basic operations to sophisticated enterprises without a stop in the “intermediate zone”.  And, markets like China, Indonesia and India are not so far behind the mature markets. They want, and need, more than just ERP solutions to enable them to address the key issues of products, consumer value, people and planet.

The door is open to help organisations transform and SAP can help. Like the tagline for the ECR Asia 2012 conference,” touching lives, improving value”, SAP can help our customers realise value that will facilitate consumer engagement, optimisation of cost and sales in the region, maintain the critical emphasis on talent and ensure long-term sustainability.

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