Interconnected, Intelligent, International

sap mobile services
Mirko Benetti (left) and Rohit Tripathi, SAP Mobile Services

Working in this business, you’re no doubt familiar with SAP, the multinational enterprise software giant – but have you heard of SAP Mobile Services? A subdivision established after the company acquired Sybase for $5.8bn (£4.4bn) in 2010, Mobile Services is now operated as a fully integrated business within SAP.

SAP Mobile Services is built on the messaging business previously known as Sybase 365, which offered SMS marketing tools to brands across the world. However, in the six years since the acquisition – practically a lifetime in mobile – the business has evolved to encompass email and push notifications, connections to social networks, and value-added solutions like authentication 365, Engagement 365 and Consumer Insight 365, in order to offer its customers an end-to-end solution for mobile engagement and customer reach.

“What we hear our customers are saying is, don’t just give me a platform which does some of the job, leaving me to assemble the different pieces of the puzzle and figure it out myself,” says Rohit Tripathi, GM and head of industry and line of business products for SAP Mobile Services. “They want to be given the full solution in one place.

“Together with Hybris, SAP’s real-time contextual marketing platform, we can take you through the entire journey: segmenting your customers; creating, executing and delivering campaigns; and measuring their effectiveness. That’s the end-to-end vision that the market is demanding.”

Going global
The customers in question are an impressive roster of brands, who use SAP Mobile Service’s tools for an even wider selection of use cases.

“Three major social companies use our services for customer engagement,” says Tripathi. “The top package and shipment delivery provider worldwide uses us for engaging with its end customers. The key retail banks use us, not just for providing one-time PINs and security services to customers, but also for their marketing campaigns.”

These customers and campaigns are spread across the globe. SAP Mobile Services has a presence in over 200 countries, spanning the Americas, EMEA and Asia. That comes with a number of benefits for the company and its clients – from the ability to connect with a number of different operators internationally, to a global customer service team that is able to respond 24/7.

“For the end customer, saying that they cannot be reached because they live in California but are travelling in Singapore, is now just unacceptable,” says Tripathi. “A customer might need a one-time PIN from their bank while on holiday, or need to reset the password on their social media account – which can at times be just as important as a bank account.

“We can take away the headache of trying to figure out all those individual end points and connections. We take care of that for our customers.”

However, working globally isn’t without its challenges. Each market has subtle differences – and some not so subtle – that aren’t always obvious to a marketer who isn’t on the ground. As one example, Tripathi points to India, where regulations were introduced earlier this year which ban marketing messages from being sent before 9am or after 9pm, but these sorts of intricacies are present across the world.

“Just looking at Europe, which could be seen as a homogeneous region, we see that there are different requirements from country to country,” says Mirko Benetti, SAP Mobile Services’ VP of sales, Europe and CIS. “For example, in France, you need to use specific numbers to do specific things – you need to have one number for advertising, and another for two-way engagement. Meanwhile, in Italy there is a specific regulation regarding the sender of the messages, and many other countries have more particular long- or shortcodes with different implications for two-way services.

“This is particularly important when we work with global brands, because they may have people in the UK taking care of a campaign that will run all over the world. These people can work with us to plan their interaction in a consistent way that still complies with all of the different local rules, making it much easier to manage a global rollout.”

On top of all this, according to Benetti, it is important to consider what stage each individual company – and its customer base – is currently at in its digital transformation. In some cases, pure SMS may be the most effective channel, whereas in others it may be best supported with push notifications from an app. “With a different mix of our services, we are able to address a variety of different needs,” he says.

Friends-on-phones-SMS-text-in-social-situations.jpgMixing the channels
In the era of Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and a myriad of other social channels, it is important not to dismiss the value of the humble SMS, Tripathi and Benetti agree. The original mobile messaging channel is still very reliable, ubiquitous, and works across the globe, but it has lost its sheen somewhat in recent years.

“The market for person-to-person SMS has faced a flattening or even a slight decline over the past five years” admits Tripathi. “However, the interesting part is business-to-person SMS – enterprises reaching out and connecting with their end customers via SMS – that has actually increased.”

This is backed up by a 2015 SAP whitepaper based on research by Ovum. This showed that 62 per cent of consumers used mobile messaging at least once a day. 71 per cent said that, in the following year, they expected to use SMS as much or more than they already did.

The breadth of options within mobile messaging is only getting wider. “The emerging channel of chatbots provide an additional means of engaging with customers,” says Tripathi. “We are already working on a few proof-of-concepts for these new offerings.” The key to SAP Mobile Services’ Success has been bringing the various messaging channels together in one platform – but it’s a tricky balancing act.

“Not every message is super critical, and the end customer is asking for a balance in what gets pushed forward in one channel versus the other,” says Tripathi. “If I have installed a brand’s app, maybe reach me using a push notification, but in other situations maybe SMS or email is better. We offer intelligent notifications, which allows the business to consider what type of messages or events are sent only via email or as a push notification, or maybe both.

This kind of intelligence underpins all of SAP Mobile Services’ offerings, thanks to its Consumer Insight 365 platform, which collects so-called ‘ambient data’ from its mobile operator partners, in order to help clients understand more about consumer behaviour and fully inform their campaigns.

However, SAP Mobile Services works to make everything as simple as possible for its customers. “There needs to be an ease of doing business,” as Tripathi puts it. In the ever-changing world of mobile, which can be difficult to keep up with, SAP Mobile Services tries to remove as much complexity as possible, by making the connections between disparate networks and solution providers for them, by handling the intricacies of global mobile marketing, by offering its services in easy-to-integrate APIs – and, most of all, by bringing all of this together in one end-to-end platform.

This sponsored article first appeared in the September 2016 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here.