SAP HANA and Analytics – a marriage made for retail

In this world of ever increasing demands on our time and money, how can retailers reach customers most effectively? How do they differentiate their products and services from the multitudes of choices out there? Sure, they could use traditional media advertising with TV ads and direct mail, or they might use email blasts offering incentives like a coupon to visit their store, but does this really build an affinity or does it just build a database of names? I also wonder whether loyalty can be built solely on discounts and assortment of merchandise, or whether it requires a little bit more. Frankly, I am a very busy person with little time or patience to sift through the cavalcade of emails I receive about “Daily Specials” and “Today Only” deals – even from stores that I frequent. I know I could save money by diligently making a list of things I will pick up at this store and that, and noting the discounts from online ads. However, I just don’t have the time. I want more than self-service coupon clipping for my loyalty. I choose to visit the stores that have reasonable prices, of course, but I go where they make my experience easier.

I see value in the helpful customer service people. I appreciate the availability of deals on things that are actually of interest to me — without spending time searching through an inbox full of loyalty spam. I want the personal shopper or boutique assistant pointing out new merchandise or suggesting things that are germane to me – regardless of whether I visit the specialty store or my local pharmacy. Sound like Utopia? Not really. I already experience the helpful suggestion of related items when I am online, why not in person, too? With the advent of super fast technology like SAP HANA, the power of analytics applied to marketing, and the advent of location-aware mobile devices, it is here now.

I give you two scenarios. In both you are a retailer offering your customers a loyalty card with built-in incentives. In the first scenario, you provide the customer an extra discount at checkout. They have picked their merchandise and are happy to pay less for the items due to their affinity program membership. They leave the store with exactly what they came in to buy. In the second scenario, you reach out to your loyal customer as soon as they walk into your store, offering a market-basket analysis review of their past purchases and suggesting items they may also like to purchase this time. While in the store I can learn about recommendations for complimentary purchases or new items of interest that relate to my buying patterns. High-end boutiques do this quite successfully with trained (sometimes commissioned) staff, but what about my local big box retailer – shouldn’t they know me, too?

I contend that by providing the consumer with personalized customer service to guide their purchases as well as recognizing them as a loyal customer, you have changed their shopping experience and built the foundation of affinity. In the first example, the loyalty discount may have influenced my decision to visit their store, but in the second scenario they may have influenced my decision to buy, or at least consider, additional items. They have reached out to me as a unique, valued and understood customer. They have offered to help me navigate their extensive merchandise catalog for items that fit my buying habits. They have provided me with recommendations during my purchasing experience when it is most needed and potentially most influential. Think of it as finally offering me the online shopping experience in a brick and mortar store.

Why am I so excited by this possibility? Well, if you tried this approach even a couple of years ago, you would have failed. The technology to provide real-time analytics, on massive amounts of data, simply was not possible. Now it is. SAP HANA handles big data like point of sale history with lightning speeds. Embedded analysis allows real-time association algorithms to be applied to that data. Location-aware mobile devices allow retailers to connect with the consumer when they shop, not just when they purchase. A cloud-based solution like SAP HANA One, makes it economical even for small businesses. Bring these technologies all together and I think it is a powerful combination that changes the way we reach consumers.

That’s why the SAP HANA Academy team has created the SAP HANA Recommends course, offering step-by-step instructions to teach any sized retailer how to create a similar solution for their customers – whether they do it in-house or work with any of our extensive ecosystem of partners and consultants. This is not a pre-built solution from SAP. Think of it as the set of blueprints and selection of tools to build and customize your own solution. Today.

Contained within SAP HANA Recommends, you will find:

  • video tutorials to walk you through establishing an SAP HANA environment in the cloud using SAP HANA One;
  • sample data sets and illustration of loading Point of Sale data and connecting with SAP HANA;
  • instructions for establishing the predictive analysis “a priori” algorithm within SAP HANA to perform the association analysis for recommendations;
  • sample code lines for building an HTML5 user interface;
  • an example of a HTML5 application;
  • sample X-code projects for building a companion iOS application;
  • an example of the potential companion iOS application (download or view demo)

The new SAP is about innovation and helping our customers reach their customers like never before. To me, this is an excellent example of how innovations in technology can converge to produce opportunities for business and to improve experiences for consumers. I see it as a win-win-win scenario. To learn more, visit us on the web at, or contact us at, or stop by in person at SAPPHIRE Now to chat about taking your marketing to a whole new, personalized level.

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