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SAP e-commerce extends to Azure, other new features added

Artificial Christmas tree manufacturer Balsam Brands uses Hybris to expand internationally, allowing for dynamic pricing and product catalogs, depending on the country.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In 2013, SAP acquired e-commerce company Hybris to help its customers better sell to their customers.

Fast-forward five years, and at its Sapphire Now annual conference, SAP e-commerce is getting a boost with the integration of machine learning through SAP's Leonardo and other features. This was laid out during a roadmap session at the conference. SAP's Commerce Cloud, formerly Hybris, is also part of the company's new CRM suite of products, C/4HANA.

Included in the SAP Commerce Cloud roadmap was integration with Microsoft Azure and automated deployments, with other features such as data hub support and web caching available later in 2018. More frequent product upgrades are also expected, up from the quarterly upgrades of the past.

"Ultimately, where we want to end up is deliver a world where you can stay on par with innovations and get them for free and automatically," said Lisa de Souza, lead for Commerce Cloud product management for SAP. "The automation piece is the first step around a bigger story in [SAP] e-commerce."

The SAP e-commerce offering is also included in the new suite of products SAP is calling C/4HANA, which it hopes ties together front- and back-office capabilities to provide a 360-degree view of the customer experience.

Balsam Brands expands with Hybris

Rick Ragusa
Rick Ragusa, vice president of e-commerce for Balsam Brands, speaks to an audience at SAP Sapphire Now about the company's use of Hybris, SAP's e-commerce tool.

Balsam Brands, an artificial Christmas tree company based in Redwood City, Calif., recently licensed the SAP e-commerce tool to better scale during its peak months of October to December, as well as drive expansion into other countries.

"The opportunity we've seen since implementation is, 'How do we use the native capabilities of Hybris as effectively as possible?'" said Rick Ragusa, vice president of e-commerce for Balsam Brands. "We did $131 million in sales last year. But during peak volume, we operate like a company doing $2 billion in sales."

To improve execution during this busy season and help with expansion into countries like Australia, Balsam Brands turned to Hybris -- now SAP Commerce Cloud -- to better manage these challenges.

"Last holiday season was the first with SAP, and we do a massive amount of sales in a short period of time," Ragusa said. "Hybris allowed us to meet that demand."

Ultimately, where we want to end up is deliver a world where you can stay on par with innovations and get them for free and automatically.
Lisa de Souzalead for Commerce Cloud product management for SAP

In addition to helping Balsam Brands scale during its busy periods, the move toward SAP e-commerce allowed for easier implementation in other countries and migration off legacy commerce tools.

"We can take what we did with the [United Kingdom] implementation of Hybris and copy and paste it to new markets," Ragusa said, adding that Australia is the next nation in which Balsam Brands is hoping to market.

Challenges of implementation

After its first year with the SAP e-commerce offering, Balsam Brands saw 15% year-over-year growth. Yet, with a small team of eight within the commerce department, there are still some challenges through which Ragusa and his team have to work.

Before joining Balsam Brands four months ago, Ragusa said there were too many customizations the commerce department had implemented -- making it so Balsam Brands didn't get the most out of the SAP e-commerce offering.

"You can talk about the challenges of the process of implementation, but if you haven't been thoughtful about what you need to leverage the tool coming out of the implementation, you're at a disadvantage," Ragusa said. "It's been a focus with the team -- realizing where we haven't aligned resources appropriately and leaving capabilities on the table."

These challenges around what to do after implementation are shared among the commerce industry. According to data from Forrester provided by Riad Hijal, SAP's global vice president for commerce strategy, 55% of e-commerce decision-makers see more agility and faster time to market as important growth factors.

"In today's e-commerce world, agility has taken over as the top requirement," Hijal said. "But agility shouldn't be at [the] expense of differentiation."

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