“Multichannel is going to be a topic for almost every retailer“ - Interview with Susanne Zander, Managing Director Xpress Reply, Gütersloh, Germany

Multi-Channel Solutions

In 2011 you were an exhibiting company under your former name cm4. Since then the company has been renamed. Why is that?

Xpress Reply – until September 2011 known as cm4 on the market – has already been integrated since 2006 into the European Reply corporate network. Reply is a network of specialized and market-leading IT companies. By including our parent company name in our company name, we emphasize our affiliation with the network and make the close collaboration more transparent to the market. For our customer it means that we can complement our professional know-how by adding technological special competences, like for example developing mobile applications, and thus provide end-to-end solutions from one source.

What was your highlight during the previous EuroCIS within the EuroShop – and what has become of it since then?

Xpress Reply has “grown up“ in distance selling (distance retailing) and in distance selling the multichannel subject has long since been a hot topic. Call centers, web shops, IVR (interactive voice response) and stores: over ten years ago our first customer, the German Bertelsmann Buchclub (=book seller), assigned us the task of integrating these channels by mapping them and thus gaining a holistic view of the customer. With the knowledge that we have since then gained through many customer projects, we have created an industry sector solution for the distance selling segment based on SAP standard software.

We have learned that our know-how is increasingly also in demand with retailers who so far had their core emphasis in the brick and mortar business. B & M business and distance selling merge and multichannel becomes a topic for almost every retailer. That’s why we were represented for the first time in 2011 as an SAP partner at the EuroCIS and have introduced our “Xpress EMMA“ solution – E-Commerce and Mail order Management – to a larger audience.

The reactions were positive. The interest in multichannel is large, so that we are happy to once again be a partner at the SAP booth in 2012. In addition, in 2012 we will also be represented for the first time as Reply Deutschland with our own booth at the EuroCIS to introduce more solutions in the areas of mobile solutions and E-Commerce, which go beyond SAP.

Multichannel is almost a buzzword. Where does it fall short in everyday life?

The biggest challenge for multichannel solutions are the fragmented IT landscapes of our customers. Since they grew in a traditional way, E-Commerce systems and back-end systems today are housed on different platforms. Where applicable, more in-store platforms are added to the mix, where customer data for example is kept for customer loyalty programs.

With M-Commerce and social commerce, additional channels are being added to the mix. Especially with these channels retail consumers‘ expectations are increasing: shopping carts are supposed to be filled with the mobile device and further processed at the Web shop. Stock availability in stores should preferably be available in real time for retail customers. All this requires technology integration of the different platforms. Often these existing systems – standard software as well as older, out-dated in-house developments – are still not prepared for this integration.

Which retailers would you like to see as your customers?

We are particularly excited about customers with new business ideas and concepts for whom there are still no ready-made solutions. At the end of the day it is not about handling multichannel solutions well or poorly, but whether you can identify and address the needs of your customers. This applies to us just as it does to our customers. But we also welcome all customers who have their home in the brick and mortal business and who are looking for support in planning and introducing sound solutions to develop their processes pertaining to their established retail customers.

What are you planning for EuroCIS 2012?

At the EuroCIS 2012 we will primarily present two topics: mobility and in-memory databases.

Within the Reply group we offer our customers a solution platform for mobile devices with “HI Reply“, where among others applications for proximity marketing and mobile payments are made available. For location-based proximity marketing the location of the mobile phone is identified via acoustic signals. Retail customers do not need any special devices for this but merely standard Smartphones that are already available on the market today. In addition, this technology requires no large investment from our customers. Our solution for mobile payments also gets by without any larger investments in the infrastructure area by utilizing QR codes and PIN numbers with standard commercial Smartphones.

In-memory technologies like these are available for example with SAP-HANA and also open up completely new possibilities in marketing. Enormous amounts of data can be processed with this technology at unbelievable speeds. Imagine you are able to offer your retail customer during the sales transaction – in the call center or at the checkout – products that are tailored to him/her and his/her shopping cart. I am not talking about “customers who bought this item also bought this one“, but an offer that considers the customer’s entire purchase history, his preferences and if applicable also his social media activities. And all this in real time during the customer contact. As a partner of SAP we will introduce the first practical applications at the EuroCIS.

Both technologies, the increased expansion of mobile applications for retail customers and the chance to analyze customer data cross-channel in real time, represent milestones for multichannel retailers which will once more dramatically change the world of retail, similar to how the Internet has influenced retail. Aside from these two major subjects, we will also address the EuroCIS focal topic E-Commerce and introduce different reference solutions on different E-Commerce platforms.

René Schellbach,