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Author's profile photo Victoria Robinson

How COVID-19 Galvanized SAP Partners in 2020

The pandemic accelerated the move to the cloud and inspired rapid innovation in areas like e-commerce, supply chain, and healthcare

COVID-19 created personal and professional challenges across societies and economies, raising fears that businesses — and entire industries — would struggle to stay afloat.

The tech industry, including SAP partners, found itself in a moment of opportunity. Confronted with the realities of remote work and massive disruptions to the worldwide supply chain, they innovated — in ways that sustained businesses, kept the world moving forward, and even helped find success in the “new normal.”

E-commerce: Fuel to Keep the Economy Humming

When public health concerns forced shops, restaurants, and offices to close, many businesses found themselves unable to complete any customer transactions. Some companies fumbled along, offering customers only minimal (and clunky) options. Even experienced e-commerce businesses struggled to keep pace with the massive surge in demand.

To survive, millions of businesses needed to fast-track their digital transformation efforts.

Consider the impact the pandemic had on restaurant food takeout and delivery. According to market researcher NPD Group, just 5% of food orders were completed online or through phone apps in 2018. By April 2020, online orders represented 20% of all orders. Digital restaurant orders increased by 138% from May 2019 to May 2020. And, of course, online grocery deliveries saw a huge spike: 77% higher than before the crisis.

Overall, e-commerce sales increased 18% year-over-year in 2020, according to eMarketer, while e-commerce retail sales jumped even higher, 28% over 2019. This year, worldwide e-commerce sales are expected to approach the $5 trillion mark.

In the SAP partner community, a number of companies made huge strides in e-commerce to keep pace.

Velou, a San Francisco-based onsite search provider supporting e-commerce retailers with automated product data enrichment services, partnered with the fashion e-commerce company Everything5Pounds. Together, they deployed next-generation search-and-discovery technology, which leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to help customers find items more to their liking. Velou also made its AI-powered search technology, Velou Search available for purchase on SAP Store.

Dynatrace, a Massachusetts-based leader in cloud monitoring software, teamed with SAP to make the software company’s digital experience monitoring capabilities available as part of  SAP Commerce Cloud, which customers can subscribe to via SAP Store. The deal was cut in time for e-commerce retailers to cash in on Cyber Monday, typically one of the largest shopping days in the U.S.

Applexus Technologies, a global technology leader offering business consulting and SAP services to customers in the retail, fashion and consumer products industries, made its SimpleRetail technology available on SAP Store. Fully integrated with SAP S/4HANA, SimpleRetail helps retailers offer consumers new options when shopping, including the ability to buy online and pick up in-store.

Some other e-commerce highlights from SAP partners include Popwallet’s Mobile Wallet CX platform, delivering contactless customer experiences at scale, and Mercaux’s In-Store Clienteling platform, providing omnichannel capabilities and personalized shopping experiences to retail businesses using SAP solutions.

Pricefx also launched its Optimized Dynamic Pricing solution, an SAP endorsed app that helps businesses transform data into insights by calculating prices in real-time based on a predefined set of business rules and modern price optimization algorithms.

Supply Chain: The Lifeline for Billions

Shortly after the pandemic hit, it became painfully clear that the supply chain was not equipped to handle a global crisis. Consumers scrambled to find staplessuch as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. Industries faced the same problem, with personal protective gear, aluminum, and microchips in short supply.

Analysis revealed that common supply chain strategies, such as “just-in-time inventory” and “lean-manufacturing,” were no match for COVID-19.

“They were designed for cost and efficiency, but without really a thought to what could go wrong along the way,” said Susan Lund, McKinsey & Co., in October 2020. As a result, McKinsey believes as much as 16%-26% of world trade could shift over the next few years to different countries or markets to take advantage of better performing supply chains.

To take advantage of these trends, SAP partners moved quickly to fortify global supply chains.

Software developer Zilliant partnered with the SAP Wholesale Distribution Industry Business Unit to help distributors deliver a better customer experience, making its price optimization, management, and sales guidance software available on SAP Store. The software gives wholesale distributors better tools for managing and monitoring their inventory.

InstaFreight, a German company that offers shippers an end-to-end digital solution for their road transport needs, partnered with SAP to integrate its key digital services with SAP Logistics Business Network, bringing new and more flexible transport solutions to Europe.

In September 2020, ClearMetal joined SAP Logistics Business Network, bringing its CDX Data Platform and Transport Visibility API platform with it. The solution helps customers use trusted and accurate international freight data to improve on-time delivery, reduce logistics costs, and optimize inventory. Shippeo also joined SAP Logistics Business Network to bring real-time and predictive information to the transportation industry, helping shippers address the complexity of European transportation by delivering increased visibility.

Healthcare: Impacted Like No Other Industry

In November 2020, said this about the the health care supply chain: “The early 2020 demand spike — coupled with export bans from countries that supply more than 80% of the raw material that goes into personal protective equipment (PPE) — led to widespread shortages. In many hotspots, supplies dwindled from two weeks’ worth of PPE in February to just a few days’ worth of inventory by March.”

The devastating human toll notwithstanding, COVID-19 affected nearly every aspect of healthcare — from the way it’s practiced to the way it’s delivered to the way it’s financed and the people for which it was prioritized.

The management consultant PwC did an assessment of where healthcare spending will likely increase and decrease between 2020 and 2021. They found spending in 2020 spiked in the areas of telehealth, testing, and treatment. This was accompanied by a significant drop in spending on non-emergency room visits and elective procedures. In 2021, the company expects big jumps in non-emergency room visits and elective procedures, as well as COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration.

The tech industry — software vendors, hardware manufacturers, IT consultants, and partners in the SAP ecosystem — jumped in to help, despite their own workers being displaced or dealing with the illness themselves. Partners created digital solutions that addressed the tracking and treatment of COVID-19, as well as its ripple effect throughout the healthcare industry.

SAP partner Cordis Solutions and its parent company, ExceleratedS2P, created an application that organizations can use to assess supply chain exposure against COVID-19. The app leverages data from the World Health Organization to provide organizations a localized risk assessment within almost any country. And Cordis launched the Supply Chain Distribution Overview app on SAP Store in just seven days.

In March 2020, HuRis added its Illness Manager app to SAP Store. The app integrates with SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and helps assure full control of illness reporting for employees. The timing for such an app, obviously, couldn’t have been better.

Elsewhere, in September 2020, Mendix teamed with Van Marcke, Belgium’s leading plumbing wholesaler, to rapidly build and deploy a contact tracing application to help ensure the health of employees returning to work. itelligence also announced its it.lifesciences for plasma solution, employing built-in intelligence from SAP S/4HANA with machine learning to accelerate the quality and compliance processes that are critical for the blood plasma manufacturing industry.

An Inspiring Year

Throughout 2020, partners proved they could step up to the challenges of this generational moment, time and time again, with skill and speed. And they didn’t just keep things afloat; they helped customers thrive.

In 2021, SAP partners will continue stepping up to the task — and help build our new, post-COVID world — by evolving, innovating and advancing the tech industry to meet its challenges, no matter what they entail.

Find more exciting news about SAP partner offerings on the SAP Partner News Room.

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