SAP Eyes B2C Commerce in Hybris Buyout

German enterprise software powerhouse SAP took on B2B commerce with its $4.3 billion buyout of the Ariba cloud commerce network last May, but today's announced purchase of leading e-commerce technology platform hybris, expected to close in the third quarter for an undisclosed sum, brings the company that much closer to B2C commerce environments.

During last month's SAP SAPPHIRENOW conference in Orlando, Fla., company executives claimed SAP was the company that could power all "business-to-business-to-consumer" transactions. On a call today with media and analysts, Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP, said that "no competitor even comes close to the power of hybris [for e-commerce]...and when you combine hybris with SAP HANA, we're putting enterprises in direct relationships with customers."

On the heels of Salesforce.com's ExactTarget acquisition announcement yesterday and Oracle's go at Eloqua several months ago, mega-vendors are preaching the same mantra—these companies want to power personalized, one-to-one interactions between companies and their customers with cross-channel support for customers whether they began a transaction online or finished it in-store.

"CRM is evolving dramatically," commented Ariel Luedi, CEO of hybris, on the media conference call. "The new style of CRM is all about making real-time buying decisions. [Companies are asking for] solutions that cross all stages of the customer life cycle" from the research phase to the actual purchase and customer service and returns in the aftermath of an interaction.

Hybris, which has more than 500 customers, including Costco, General Electric, Toys R Us, and Procter and Gamble, has found that more than 50 percent of its customer installments are running SAP on the back end, according to Luedi. Founded 15 years ago, hybris saw commerce "complexity increase tremendously" over the past three to four years, Luedi says, precipitating the company to add order and information management capabilities to complement solutions that range from mobile to in-store solutions.

Consumers today expect three things: consistent information across all channels, a continuing dialogue regardless of where an interaction began, and channel-agnostic purchasing. For a retailer to provide an order online and pick-up in-store, or other variances of that model,"behind the scenes, you need a lot of technology, and [we want to] offer this full-stack, end-to-end [technology]" Luedi said.

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