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We are in the midst of the busiest shopping season of the year and it is amazing to see how much consumer habits have changed from one holiday season to the next. Shoppers are utilizing technology more than ever, from generating record online sales to sharing information with other shoppers via social media tools, to using mobile devices for increased information and in store price comparisons. This is requiring retailers to also use technology to get to know their customers better and deliver a better customer experience to be competitive.

The information generated by shoppers and their footprints across many varied channels must be analyzed to understand their needs in order to win their business. A technology tool that can play a leading role is SAP HANA.

SAP HANA is a powerful in-memory database that allows for real-time analytics, predictive analysis, and forecasting by combining data from multiple sources into a single platform.  This allows you to understand your customers’ needs better than ever and accelerate your business decisions to provide an exceptional experience.  As we continue to capture incredible amounts of data, it is important that we are able to use the data for a competitive advantage.  SAP HANA provides the following:

• Access to data from multiple sources

• Ability analyze detailed information

• Incredibly fast access to information

• Simple, usable, real-time information reports

With SAP HANA, you can:

• Analyze information in real-time at unprecedented speeds (up to 3600X faster than traditional databases) on large volumes of non-aggregated data (100 billion rows of information per second)

• Create flexible analytic models based on real-time and historical business data

• Foundation for new category of applications (e.g. planning, simulation) to significantly outperform current applications in category

• Minimize data duplication

SAP HANA can be a valuable tool to help retailers with the following challenges:

Marketing:

Marketing professionals have more customer touch points to manage than ever before. Customers are performing detailed research and shopping online and via mobile applications at an increased rate as well as continuing to utilize catalogs, and traditional retail locations creating a challenge for retailers to target different customers in different ways through various promotional programs.  A broad promotion for all customers is no longer sufficient.  In today’s environment, it is important to know the profitability of each customer type and target promotions and discounts accordingly. Marketers also want to increase the frequency and quality of customer contact to improve response and conversion rates. Incorporate all of this information with customer feedback in social media and the information becomes overwhelming. HANA is now able to produce analysis of the overwhelming amount of information being captured to analyze customer behaviors and match their needs for targeted marketing campaigns.  It also allows for delivery of this analytical information in concise, usable reports to sales managers on a real time basis. This results in the ability to evaluate the financial impact of changes to various metrics and make immediate adjustments resulting in improved promotional effectiveness.

Inventory management:

During the peak season, retailers want to maximize their sales opportunities but, at the same time, make sure that they are able to manage their cost of inventory. Therefore, it is important to know what products customers want and which locations will need them. HANA can help join information from various systems including point of sale, website data, and inventory delivery systems to assist with predictive analytics of customer buying trends and suggested  required inventory levels and reorder points by location. In addition, product sales representatives can monitor how their different products are moving to ensure efficient sell-in and utilize upsell, cross-sell and replacement product strategies. Add to these scenarios that all of this data is available real-time, and you have the ability to improve both the revenue and expense side of equation thus maximizing profitability in an ever challenging margin environment.

Warranty and Returns:

Customers demand the maximum value from the products they purchase and rightfully so.  They also have access to a multitude of information about products including online reviews (both by professional organizations and by other consumers). To meet customer expectations, companies must have quick access and the ability to analyze warranty and returns information efficiently. Utilizing HANA to combine point of sale information with manufacturer production information and online product feedback can allow retailers to proactively resolve customer issues and reduce the impact of warranties and returns on profitability while, at the same time, improving the customer experience and loyalty.

In the SAP HANA platform, data is completely stored in memory in a more compressed manner. It is a full transactional relational database management system (RDBMS) that stores data into both row-based and columnar tables and loads the data directly into RAM.  This allows for increased performance, reporting and statistical analysis of data on a real-time basis. SAP HANA has many advantages over other similar products.  It can provide data modeling, data management, real time data replication and it can be run seamlessly with SAP Data Services for ETL Capabilities from SAP Business Suite, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, and 3rd party systems.  This sets it apart from Oracle Exalytics which is a cache-based database that only supports bulk data loads and requires a second database to load data.

With the changes happening in the retail environment at an accelerated rate, retailers looking for a competitive advantage should add SAP HANA to their holiday wish list.

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