Ask marketing pros what they want from customers and you get a variety of answers. Money, of course, is first, but "engagement" has steadily risen on the list in recent years. In response, SAP has released SAP Jam Communities, edition for SAP hybris Commerce, software intended to tie community engagement functionality into the buying process.
In a telephone conversation with InformationWeek, Sameer Patel, senior vice president and general manager, products and GTM at SAP, noted that there are a lot of community software packages available, but none were designed with commerce in mind.
With SAP Jam, "We wanted to allow companies to fully infuse community into the business process," Patel said. He added that human interaction seemed missing in the whole business process -- something that SAP wanted to change with Jam Communities. "hybris has a good history of closing commerce transactions. Now they want to be able to engage the customer throughout the purchase process," Patel said. "This is a natural step for SAP, going from transactions to a holistic solution."
There are often conversations that go on around products and vendor reputations, but those conversations tend to go on separately from the transaction process. The result, Patel said, is a fragmented process that doesn't meet customer needs and leads to missed sales opportunities. The response, according to a statement by SAP, is software, "...that weaves customer-driven reviews and information into commerce to inform decision making, introduce related products and build relationships with loyal customers."
In addition to creating an engagement model that stitches community and commerce together, SAP Jam Communities provides analytics capabilities around engagement and purchases. Patel said that the analytics allow community managers to do something that has been almost impossible up until now. "It's extremely difficult for a community manager to show ROI," he said. "Because commerce happens somewhere else, the ROI [for community] is extremely derivative and soft. Driving the commerce inside the community will allow community managers to show instantly and in an irrefutable way the value of the community," Patel explained.
The architecture of SAP Jam Communities is based on micro-services that allow the engagement components to be integrated into the pages where the potential customer first lands and begins to explore a purchase. The community is brought onto the page where the commercial transaction takes place -- and vice versa. Patel said that the combination of community and commerce is especially important now that the nature of the items we purchase online is growing more complex. "There's going to be a major shift in the need for assistive capabilities on the Internet," he said.
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"With the increase in software-defined everything, the products are getting more and more complex as they become more and more useful. Helping customers through the journey from analog products to digital, software-defined products is key," Patel explained, noting that Intel estimates 200 billion connected products in customer hands by 2020.
Patel said that SAP Jam Community's open, data-driven architecture is better suited to the needs of commerce than community software developed before the explosion in online retail. Putting a dollar amount on the value of engagement may ultimately be the biggest contribution the software platform makes to the world of the online community.