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Consumers don’t know or care about channels. There’s no distinction in their minds about shopping in the store, online or with their mobile devices — but there’s a huge difference to the retailers.

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SAP CAR offers customer insights that retailers can use across every channel, Lori Mitchell-Keller told the SAP Retail Forum 2013 on Wednesday. (Photo by Rory Thomas O’Neill)

Many retailers keep their Web data separate from their brick-and-mortar data — some even segregate online and in-store inventories. The result is often a tangled mess or isolated enclaves.

Either way these companies lack focus.

But they should have a focus, and it needs to be on the customer. So SAP launched an application Tuesday to help retailers collect siloed customer, sales and inventory data in one place, where they can better understand and act on consumer behavior — and offer consistent customer experiences across all channels.

Taking CAR Off-Road

“Do you have available all of the customer insights you need to know about your customer across every single channel?” SAP’s Head of Global Retail Industry Business Solutions Lori Mitchell-Keller asked a group of retailers at the SAP Retail Forum 2013 (@SAP_Retail) Wednesday. “That’s where CAR starts to be really important.”

The Customer Activity Repository (CAR) is about more than using customer and transactional information across channels, Mitchell-Keller stated. It’s also about company information, such as inventory, accessing warehouse and in-store stock, and identifying inefficiency.

CAR combines this data with customer insights from social media feedback from Twitter, Facebook and other sources. All of this information in one repository becomes a single source of truth to help retailers optimize branding, marketing, promotions, pricing, merchandising, inventory management processes and more.

“Once they understand who their customers are — their customers’ preferences — they can start taking action,” SAP Solution Engineer Sandra ten Brink said in an SAP Business Trends video. This includes targeted one-on-one promotions and other marketing initiatives.

The Road Ahead

CAR sits atop the SAP HANA in-memory platform, which will help retailers better understand customer demand. And real-time visibility into consumer sales data will enable retailers to more accurately predict their customers’ behavior by understanding what, when and where they make purchases.

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“You are no longer in control of the customer,” Ariel Luedi told the Retail Forum on Wednesday. (Photo by Rory Thomas O’Neill)

CAR will be generally available in the first quarter of 2014. Farther down the road, SAP plans to design better access to inventory levels, predictive models and improved operational management analytics.

But this won’t be a drive down aasy street for retailers because they aren’t calling all of the shots in the industry anymore.

“You have to accept that it’s tough,” hybris CEO Ariel Luedi told the Retail Forum on Wednesday. “You are no longer in control of the customer.”

CAR puts all of your information on a single dashboard, but the customer is the one who is driving.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher. Like this story? Sign up for the SAP Business Trends newsletter here.

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