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A recent survey of SAP customers found that 81% of mill products companies believe cloud computing will transform their businesses and/or industries through new efficiencies, process innovation, or competitive differentiation. Because only 5% of those surveyed have “completely or extensively” adopted cloud solutions, companies that are moving in this direction have a distinct competitive advantage.

 

Many mill products firms spend a significant amount of energy and money updating and optimizing their on-premise IT systems but still can’t provide the latest innovation their internal stakeholders demand. One key area where such innovation is needed most urgently is customer relationship management.

 

Customer buying behavior has changed dramatically. As business customers increasingly expect the same simplicity and personalization enjoyed by consumers, customer relationship management is ripe for the transformative innovation that cloud technology offers.

 

Increasing customer centricity and profitably

Let’s take a closer look at how companies innovate in the CRM area today and the cloud solutions they use.

 

Among new business strategies observed among industry leaders is elimination of intermediaries for a closer relationship with the end customer. In a model that retailers have been using for years, a mill products company might acquire a paper distributor and sell directly to small printers, for example. The company can support this relationship using a simple, cloud-based online store and call center, through which customers can place their orders and check the status of those orders.

 

Other industry players are connecting with businesses and consumers through major channel partners such as Home Depot or Lowes. Because there are often multiple partners involved in getting products to customers, this strategy requires tools for collaborating effectively with those partners and determining whether the partners’ promotions are cost effective. Companies must also find the most effective way to link sales, production, and delivery processes to ensure the perfect order. Key cloud-based support for this strategy includes:

  • Solutions for promotions and channel management
  • Marketing tools that provide a consistent experience across customer-facing channels
  • Tools for analyzing brand experience, social engagement, and customer sentiment

Using in-memory computing and the advanced capabilities now available through the cloud, innovative mill products firms are gathering and analyzing huge volumes of data from an ever-increasing variety of sources and gaining real-time, 360-degree customer insight. They are using this insight to respond quickly, proactively, flexibly, and consistently to customer needs across multiple transactional channels – and give particular attention to the customers and products that are the most profitable.

Creating an agile, omnichannel experience

Standard business warehouse applications can only help companies analyze information after the fact, and the questions they can answer are limited. Today’s cloud-based analytical applications let companies drill deeply into live transactional data and experiment with a wide range of sales scenarios in real, or nearly real time. Companies can customize offers and process orders across multiple channels and make real-time business decisions in the boardroom, based on the latest company and market information.

 

Mohawk Industries is a good example of enhanced customer engagement using the new cloud-based tools available today. To target customers for specific pricing and promotions, Mohawk developed a mobile app that lets its sales team access a complete customer view – plus advanced analytics, and sales tools — from their iPads. Productivity has increased, customer interactions and sales plans are more personalized, and the company expects an annual US$25 million rise in sales.

 

Increasing the Speed of Innovation, While Lowering TCO

Cloud-based solutions provide a shortcut to innovation in customer relationship management. They minimize the time, total cost of ownership (TCO), and expertise involved in adding new tools and can readily connect with existing on-premise systems.

 

Because cloud-based solutions can be readily configured, deployed more quickly than on-premise solutions, and updated more frequently – they bring a faster time to value. Lower initial solution and deployment fees, elimination of maintenance and upgrade costs, and prepackaged integration can reduce total cost of ownership

 

Freed from additional system customizing and maintenance, the IT departments of mill products firms can be more involved in innovation and strategic planning – whether for customer relationship management, supply chain management, or other key business processes. They can help their companies gain a clearer understanding of customer needs, sell more strategically, and enhance service.

 

Where do you stand with your journey to the cloud? What was your main motivation to move?

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