SAP is looking to distance itself from the CRM competition with a subtle shift in its products' focus from “relationship” to “experience”.
At its recent Influencer Summit, SAP positioned its CRM products using the new messaging with emphasis on social networking, mobility, incorporating back-office data, and data analytics.
But analyst Ovum has warned that although “customer experience” provides SAP with a differentiated message platform against vendors such as Oracle and Salesforce.com, the message is open to misinterpretation because of its use by other vendors in other contexts.
Analyst Carter Lusher said in a research note that to be successful, SAP must sharpen the messaging and demonstrate significant new CRM capabilities and business value based on a “customer experience” approach. “Enterprise and public sector IT managers who are current SAP customers or in CRM procurement projects should engage SAP in discussions of how “customer experience” will be translated into real functionality, and in what time frame.”
“One the major drivers of a move to customer experience is that socially connected and digitally armed customers have not only more choices than ever, but also megaphones to broadcast their dissatisfaction with companies. As a consequence, SAP feels that companies have to focus on improving customer experience or face shrinking revenues and potentially viral attacks on the brand,” Lusher says.
However, SAP’s CRM website has not been modified to reflect “experience,” and still focuses on traditional CRM messages, Ovum says.
The analyst says making a major investment in CRM development and marketing would be a smart move for SAP, as CRM is a bright spot in the enterprise applications market. According to Ovum’s CRM Business Trends 2011 survey, even in the tough economic environment, CRM budgets in 2012 are expected to grow at approximately 45% of respondent companies, versus the 5% that expect budget cuts.
SAP's subtle shift of focus marks the latest acknowledgement from the major CRM vendors that change is occurring in the CRM sector. Just last week, in an interview on MyCustomer.com, Steve Fearon of Oracle said: "Customer relationship management is the corner stone of a customer-centric approach, but the brand needs to be able to address the customer expectations during cross channel processes. We are seeing the evolution of CRM to customer experience management."