Dallas, Texas, for the second year, was the gathering place for the 2013 SAP Retail Forum.  It’s an appealing destination because of its central location without the distractions of Las Vegas.  We must have found the right formula as this was the seventh year with each year expanding on both the valuable content and number of attendees.  I’m fortunate to have been at all seven, and look forward to the eighth.  Here are some of the highlights from my point of view starting with an event that’s close to my heart.

October is always the ‘Month of Service’ for SAP.  I’m proud of the fact that our company has a long and very committed effort to give back in a concrete way.  I can say that it’s on the verge of becoming a tradition to engage in support of the Retail Orphan Initiative at an SAP Retail event.  It started at last year’s Retail Forum, continued at Sapphire in May, and once again drew a great crowd on the first day to pack meals for Food for Orphans.  This year we completed 23,000 meals for distribution to hungry kids.  It’s a great way to start a week, any week, but certainly with an industry that is so engaged in their communities.

Customer Activity Repository, or CAR for short, was the most talked about subject and dominated my calendar.  The official launch of the solution was met with an incredible amount of energy from prospects, customers, analysts and press.  Lori Mitchell-Keller and I were very excited to brief the press and analysts on the second day, and it was a packed room with a lot of great questions.  It’s very clear that the demand for analytics and customer interaction RIGHT NOW is a key objective of the retail market.  On the third morning, usually a slow time, Matt Garvis and I hosted a breakfast with Daniela Khalaf from our St. Ingbert team with every seat taken, and people standing around the walls.  This session was mostly customers and partners, and the energy and excitement were awesome.  So CAR will be the star of this event from my perspective (view this CAR Infographic).

Consider this event as the formal welcome of our hybris colleagues to SAP.  With a keynote from hybris CEO Ariel Luedi, demonstrations of the solution, and several OmniCommerce experts on hand, this was another winner among the attendees.  Almost everyone I talked with commented on how this was the final and crowning piece of an SAP Retail footprint that removes channel from the discussion, and provides all the components to deliver a compelling brand experience.

Store tours are always an oversubscribed activity, and this year was no exception.  I was fortunate enough to have a great group of retailers on a visit to PGA Tour Superstores, Luxottica, and BCBG.  Chris Ball and I were amazed at the sheer size and selection at PGA Tour Superstores.  The blending of merchandise, services, and personal interaction in such a large format is incredible.  They are a great partner who is running our point of sale system, and are now implementing our full Retail suite with CAR on the HANA Enterprise Cloud.  Luxottica is a long time SAP customer who uses our Retail and Wholesale solutions and had the most incredible team members host our tour.  They sell ‘happy’, and do a great job of it with high energy and very engaging stores.  BCBG showed the group how they handle high growth and fast fashion.  They constantly adjust and reset to capture the eyes and imagination of their customers.  A truly great four hours, and the bus driver NEVER got lost, unlike last year!

Big data and retail are synonymous.  SAP announced the Big Data Bus in September and it made a grand appearance at the Retail Forum.  Attendees got to tour the bus and see the demonstrations of HANA with extremely large data sets.  There were retail and sports entertainment scenarios that amazed the attendees with the potential insight and business possibilities.  Look for the bus as it continues to tour the country, and make sure and ask the tour guides for the cool t-shirts.

Change is a constant. With all the talk about change in the industry from technology to shopper power, companies are adapting to get closer to their customers and deliver a consistent brand.  At SAP Retail, we’re not standing still either.  Simon Paris, President of SAP Strategic Industries shared with the audience our integrated business model.  Listening to our customers, we have taken action to align our global organizations that are part of our Retail practice to ensure we present a common face to our customers and operate cohesively under a single global leader. Having been at SAP Retail for ten years, I am really excited about the value this offers our customers, and our ability to deliver more innovative retail practices.

Thanks to all the customers who presented in sessions, and the partners who supported the event.  It couldn’t have happened without their commitment to retail excellence, the retail community, and SAP.  It was great to see all of you, and I look forward to our next adventure, the NRF Big Show in New York, New York, in January!

Join me on Twitter @Auburnguy

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