SAP Multichannel Foundation for Utilities (MCF) has been eagerly embraced around the world with more than 50 Utilities opting for MCF to enable digital self-service. If you are new to MCF you can fill your boots here. Essentially MCF delivers a library of utilities industry functions from SAP ERP/IS-U and SAP CRM as restful services with sample User Interfaces (including iOS and Android apps) and supporting functions for user registration, channel preferences and the like. It offers a great way to get digital self-service up and running fast. It is also an approach that aligns with the buzz surrounding “microservice” architectures and APIs that are a hot topic again.
A question that regularly comes up is why might you need Hybris solutions when MCF is available? Here are some reasons for you to consider why MCF might not be enough.
You have abandonment Issues
The Chief Marketing Officer of a retail utility once explained to me that the behaviour of consumers on their site resembled a “curly pig’s tail”. Consumers would come on the site, look at their rate packages and then go away. Often they would circle back again to look at the rate packages, then go away again. This might repeat 3 or 4 times before this circling around comes to an end.
What they needed was way to intercept these habitual site abandoners and proactively try to convert them into a customer. This is where SAP Hybris Marketing Convert can help. It allows you to target consumers based on browsing behaviour or purchasing abandonment with contextualised messaging. This might be an immediate email reminder from a customer service mailing address “We noticed you are interested in our Home Super Energy Package. You can sign up here in 3 easy steps. If you are having problems signing up here is a 30 second video and you can always live chat with an agent or call this number…” followed by a further reminder 24 hours later, followed by a specific promotion incentive in 6 days time. Done poorly this comes off as a bit creepy. Done well, consumers perceive remarketing as proactive high quality service. This approach to remarketing is not just about converting customers in deregulated markets. In regulated markets, remarketing is a way to provide proactive customer service and capture customers in lower cost digital channels rather than have them resort to call centers in frustration.
SAP Hybris Marketing Convert is a SaaS solution that can work with any website and is simple to set up. It does not require the broader SAP Hybris Commerce platform, as it is based on the acquired solution See Why – who were long recognised as market leaders in remarketing. In other industries like retail, Hybris Marketing Convert customers typically see a 10-30% improvement in their website conversion rates by triggering real time follow ups with website abandoners using email and social media.
To be clear, SAP hybris Marketing Convert is in no way a replacement for MCF and you dont need to implement Hybris commerce – but it is a simple way to give your digital channel a lift.
You are selling more than water, gas or electricity
Most Utilities offer products and services to complement delivery of their core commodity. For many regulated Utilities, “selling” might be oriented towards offering products and services that help customers with efficiency, conservation or safety. For other Utilities in rapidly changing deregulated markets, developing new energy products, services and marketplaces is an existential concern. In recent years consumers are displaying increasing interest in a wide range of additional products and services. This was confirmed in Accenture’s definitive longitudinal research on utility consumer trends: The New Energy Consumer. Consumer interest is not exclusive to electricity with the highest percentage point increases in the area of “Natural Gas and/or Water”.
While some Utilities have physical storefronts (or have abandoned these in the past), digital channels provide a flexible lower cost option to offer energy-related products and services. Accenture’s research also finds that “Digitally engaged energy consumers are significantly more interested in signing up for products and services”.
Clearly a digital first approach is key. However selling energy-related products and services is beyond the scope of MCF.
This is where, in the realm of microservice architectures some IT teams are tempted to source all the separate components required to build an online store and stitch it all together. Hybris Commerce simplifies this by providing an end-to-end commerce platform that you can enrich by adding microservices to if required (SAP Hybris has invested in YAAS, a microservice market place to make is easier to find and subscribe to microservices).
SAP Hybris Commerce provides the market’s best end-to-end commerce solution. Some key features include:
- Product Content Management – empowers business users to enrich ERP product/service information to make it “commerce ready”. Integration with SAP ERP is unrivalled.
- Web Content Management – manage site content and layout and create highly personalized experiences across all channels.
- Advanced Personalization – dynamically tailored content to provide consumers with a individual experience.
- Bundling – empowers business users to create product and service bundles. This is especially attractive to Utilities that are not using the Product Modelling (PMU/PFC) functionality in SAP CRM7.
- Open Development Environment – Unlike other enterprise grade commerce platforms based on proprietary technologies, SAP Hybris Commerce is ideally suited to get new Java developers up to speed in a few weeks, giving you flexibility to in-source development and drive rapid innovation.
In markets where Utilities are being challenged by new and non-traditional competitors, presenting a personalized and consistent user experience across all channels is an important factor in attracting and retaining customers.
SAP MCF supports self-service transactional activity: view invoice, pay bill, view consumption history, change billing plan etc. However MCF does not include any dynamic personalization capabilities. You can wrap MCF with a 3rd party Content Management System and try to leverage insights from 3rd party marketing tools and you soon wind up with lots of moving parts. While Utilities often have lots of tools in this space, the real challenge is closing the loop from insight to execution.
SAP Hybris Commerce simplifies personalization by having out-of-the-box integration between the Hybris Commerce Web Content Management System (WCMS) and SAP Hybris Marketing. In the WCMS you can create customer segment rules that verify the membership of a customer to a SAP Hybris Marketing campaign or target group. This means that the look and feel of the site can be intelligently tailored to consumers according to your marketing team’s segmentation rules.
Additionally SAP Hybris Commerce can display recommendations generated by models that are created in SAP Hybris Marketing Recommendation. The recommendation models in SAP Hybris Marketing use the big data insight and predictive capabilities of HANA to suggest intelligent cross sell and upsell products.
Digital goes beyond your consumers
The Multichannel Foundation is intended to cater for end consumers. This is reflected in the 55+ OData services that cover typical utilities self-services processes. This is also reinforced by the license model for MCF. The MCF license waives the need for additional named user licenses for individual end consumers “an individual performing transactions solely on his or her own behalf as an individual”. Clearly MCF is very focused on use cases for individual end consumers.
However most Utilities have important interactions beyond the end consumer with stakeholders such as property developers, building contractors, equipment installers, inspectors etc. Typically, these participants require a digital portal allowing them to complete application forms online, submit plans, pay fees, monitor the status of approvals.
Hybris Commerce offers a single platform that supports B2C, B2B and partner portal scenarios. There is a flexible forms engine for easy to use, validated applications. You can upload files, review the status of application forms and pay fees. SAP Hybris commerce simplifies the digitizing of application form processing. This delivers benefits for the Utility in reducing errors by validating data at the point of filling in an application, reducing errors by eliminating re-keying data, improved transparency and workflow by eliminating paper, reducing postal costs. Stakeholders also benefit by simplified dynamic forms that can hide irrelevant sections, increased transparency of application status, assistance features like map integration and live chat support.
SAP Multi-Channel Foundation or SAP Hybris Commerce? (the correct answer is both)
SAP MCF and SAP Hybris Commerce complement each other. SAP does not yet offer a Hybris Commerce industry accelerator for Utilities. SAP MCF effectively verticalizes SAP Hybris Commerce by providing essential utilities-industry content for self-service from SAP (through its OData service library).
SAP Hybris Commerce lets utility companies offer a consistent and personalized customer experience across channels. It provides a rich user experience for utility consumers and other stakeholders and combines self-services with online commerce of any product and service.
In summary, you might want to look beyond Multichannel Foundation for Utilities if:
- You want to provide proactive service for customers that abandon your digital channels
- Your customers are demanding energy or water related products and services
- You need to attract and retain customers with a personalized experience
- You need efficient communication with stakeholders like builders, contractors, installers and inspectors.
Is also important to note that MCF and Hybris Commerce are complimentary, working together to deliver the best user experience for Utility consumers.
More information on the full portfolio of SAP Hybris for Utilities