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The old adage “the customer is king” is probably truer today than ever. In fact, the customer is not only king, but can also be the judge, the jury and the executioner when it comes to a products reputation and success.

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In a recent blog I wrote about the Emergence of the Demand Network, noting that a “state-of-the-art demand network puts the customer at the center of all processes, and connects all business partners needed to profitably fulfill the demand with the speed customers are expecting.”

But how can we put the customer “at the center of all processes?” How can you get into their minds and ensure our processes deliver what they want, when they want it?

This involves gathering insight from inside and outside of your organization, from all available structured and unstructured sources.

  • How do I usually do with this product (the forecast)?
  • What are the latest orders?
  • What is trending about your products?
  • What is the current sentiment analysis?
  • What is selling in each store, location or region?

Gathering a true picture of actual demand and available products, all social and sentiment analysis about your customers and your products and all relevant market dynamics enables this complete view — now, in real time, wherever you are, on whichever device you have near you. Only then can you focus on targeting the right product to the right customer at the right time.

Let’s take an example. Product demand information — usually historical sales figures (at best a week old) forces to drive my business based on “historical information.” This is like trying to drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror.

What is needed is the ability to sense actual product demand signals and indicators across the entire network to enable us to become more demand or market driven. You would then have access to all sales transactions as they are happening at your customers. You could see the sentiment of your products by customers and consumers as it happens. If all of this (big) data was available in a harmonized view of actual demand for your products, you could drive your promotional plans, your inventory positioning and your organizational decisions in real time.

Only then can you foresee changes in demand sooner and boost sales by predicting and reducing out-of-stocks or slumps in sales. Or make smarter inventory decisions around logistics, safety stocks and transportation plans.

To learn more on how to better sense demand and get closer to your customer and actual demand, SAP and SAP Insider are hosting a webinar on Feb. 27. Register today to join us online and supercharge your demand management.

Follow me on Twitter @howellsrichard.

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