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Author's profile photo AMIT AGRAWAL

Running Live in Retail

We at SAP have talked “Run Live” for some time now. However it’s not always obvious what characteristics of a business make it “live” vs. not so much. At recently concluded SAP Retail Forum in Miami, Lori Mitchell-Keller, Global General Manager for Consumer Industries at SAP expressed her thoughts on the topic. Here is some of what she had to say.


Retail is Live

When it comes to running live, the world of retail is not unlike a live human being. We as humans are constantly getting all sorts of input through our senses, we pass that information to our brain which makes decisions, and in turn causes various parts of the body to come together to act – all in the moment – as it is happening. For example, if we see a car coming toward us, that information is useless unless we instantly use the visual signal … to decide … and then actually follow through … by getting out of the way.


In the world of retail, we know that retailers today have tons of information in real-time – however, this also means they need to make decisions instantaneously … and act on that information right away. When you do that … you run live.


Sense as it happens!

If a retail business needs to run live like a person, what is a Retail business sensing for? And How?

  • Retailers today have access to all sorts of data … sales transactions, every step of every customer’s shopping journey, social media activity, data from all sort of sensors and internet-connected devices. The challenge is putting all this data together at the right time … because when you do, you get new insights into your customer’s behavior and identify opportunities that only you can. No one else has exactly the same data. Your opportunities are only yours to identify … or yours to lose if you don’t.
    • Can your people sense the latest trends before the opportunity has passed?
    • Can your board room see how your business is doing at this very moment?
  • But it’s not just opportunities you are sensing for. Retail is more and more about delivering outcomes and creating experiences. To do that, Retailers have to be a master at “reading” their customer’s minds and emotions, so they can go above and beyond and create an unforgettable experience for their customers. As if this wasn’t enough, you also must be able to sense and change your employee mood, morale, and culture … after all, happy employees make for happier and more satisfied customers.
  • Finally, a retail business needs to become much more pro-active at identifying and addressing business risks. Can you sense that your latest product is selling faster than you anticipated and replenish in time so as not to lose sales? If there is a negative social media story against you, can you act in time before it blows out of proportion?

Once you have honed your “sense” … be it risk, opportunity, or emotion – what do you with that insight?

Decide in an Instant!

A live business must instantly be able to leverage insight.

  • However, there is often no time for human intervention. Decision-making must be automated as much as possible.  As an added advantage, algorithms can be very data-driven and factor in tons of diverse and rich content such as live-traffic which humans simply cannot.
  • Live businesses do not run in silos. Collaborative processes help retailers connect store associates, suppliers, and business networks in real-time to serve customers better. Your employees and business partners collaborate using one version of the truth, you eliminate steps in the process and speed up decision-making.
  • Running Live also means you can extrapolate from what you just “sensed”. Data is better at predicting behavior than we are ourselves. When integrated with transaction systems, predictive processes help companies make smarter decisions in real-time.

So you have used all the insights and made a smart decision … now what? Decisions mean nothing if we cannot act on them.

Act in the Moment!

Live businesses are set up to capitalize on the opportunity by acting with speed and determination.

  • They run Lean and Simple Processes for speed and agility. They automate processes through inter-linked transaction systems, or even eliminate processes entirely through machine to machine interactions
  • When you run live, you and your store associates know everything relevant about a particular customer in real-time … when it matters … not after that customer has left the store. Action is then tailored to the person and to the moment. When retail is live, the line between the real and the virtual world is blurred. Customer experience is augmented by virtual reality, providing customers with useful, personalized, and context-specific information.
  • Similar to humans that are always learning and growing from experience … A live business is always “sensing” its own actions and results. Self-learning allows processes to become smarter over time by continuously monitoring what worked and what did not.

Live Business is here, today!

The good news is that we have the right technologies at our disposal to make live retail a reality. At the center of it is SAP S/4 HANA, which serves as the nerve center of a real time retailer.

  • It is immediate, giving business users with insights to act in the moment
  • It is intelligent, going beyond automation to predictive suggestion
  • And it is integrated, not only between your departments, but connected to the world we live in

From customer experiences to workforces and supply chains, such a Live Business predicts the future instead of reporting the past.

Is your Business Live?

Find more SAP Retail Forum content here

Amit Agrawal (Twitter: @am_agrawal and Linkedin: is VP of Strategy for Consumer Industries, at SAP Industry Cloud.

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