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John Siegal on Consumer Insights Running on SAP HANA

by Ken Murphy, Editorial Director

November 7, 2013

Listen to our interview with Jon Siegal, CEO of FanAppz. Jon spoke with us about the FanAppz Consumer Insights hub, which runs on SAP HANA and recently became part of the SAP Cloud for Customer solution.

Ken: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and I’m pleased to be joined by Jon Siegal, the CEO of FanAppz, a Santa Monica-based company that develops personalized marketing platforms and strategies. Jon is here to speak with us about the FanAppz consumer insights hub which runs on SAP HANA and it recently became part of the SAP’s cloud for customer solution. Jon, welcome to the podcast.

Jon: Thank you. Appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Ken: Jon, FanAppz says that one of its goals is to convert fans into customers and turn good customers into great ones. Can you start out by telling us a little bit about how the consumer insights hub that runs on SAP HANA can help make that happen? A lot of companies like social media data, so what sets the consumer insights hub apart?

Jon: Excellent question. When you say that a lot of companies collect social media data, what we’ve learned is that most companies are actually capturing high-level aggregate data, total numbers of fans, the numbers of followers, and basic sentiment, but they really don’t know down at the individual level much about the fans and followers who love their brand. And in many cases these people are just nameless faceless silhouettes. They don’t know if they have a customer relationship with them.

They don’t know if they’re a member of their loyalty program, and so what the consumer insights hub allows our clients to do is to actually capture permissioned end-user individual data that helps them turn that nameless faceless silhouette actually into the person that they really are and by having more information about who your fans and followers are, and these are things not just like email addresses, but there are other behaviors about them, the brands that they like, behaviors they mix, brass with your brand, where they live, are they married, are they single.

And this is all information that’s shared by the consumer, him or herself. When you have that information about them, you can actually talk to them in a more relevant and more personalized way and when you talk to people in a more relevant and personalized way, they do more business with you and then they appreciate that and so that’s how the consumer insights hub helps take the fan and turn them into a customer or the existing customer into a better customer.

Ken: That sounds logical enough. I’m curious then what the limitations were of the platform prior to SAP HANA, so you had customer data, you have social media data, I’m wondering where the real-time  analytical processing, you know, how that advances, where that comes in. I mean, were the insights prior to them just not delivered fast enough? Or was the platform limited in the analytics provided?

Jon: So the vision for the consumer insights hub is to provide in a real-time insight about individuals so that as they interact with your brands, you can tailor the behavior to reflect their interests and information you have about them. And we have clients who, in some cases have hundreds of millions of fans and followers across their various sub brands and each of those individuals could have hundreds or thousands of attributes about themselves, and so we start talking about the sheer amount of information and the need to actually respond in real time to people on your web site or people who are contacting you through your contact center or through other channels, you need to have an infrastructure that can actually support that kind of real time performance, access to data and be able to do something with it.

When we looked out into the marketplace and we were using some more standard database technology prior to supporting or building on top of SAP HANA, the current technology we were using, there’s no way it  could get there. At that point we looked at what are our alternatives. We wanted to get a next generation database technology to leverage as part of the platform. Obviously SAP HANA was one alternative, there were others, perhaps Open Source, and obviously we chose SAP HANA as the platform of choice.

Ken: Could you provide a specific example of how a customer or client of yours, say a retailer for example, is there something in particular they have done with consumer insights hubs by targeting and personalizing their efforts has led to increased revenues?

Jon: Absolutely, so one of our retail clients was very interested in increasing sales around Mother’s Day and so using our solution, which included the consumer insights hub, they were actually able to get 22,000 moms to share a series of attributes about themselves.

Their preference around particular products, their Facebook ID, their location, other information about themselves and that information was then taken to do a couple things. One, it was taken to actually plan the merchandising for that particular Mother’s Day period. They had the aggregate knowledge of what 22,000 moms across social media preferred and they used that information to determine in their catalog and in their stores they created special displays as well as on their web site to highlight the most popular and most sought after products from these moms, but they also at the individual level knew which mom liked which specific product and so through all of their marketing channels they were then able to personalize their communication, email as an example, of how I’m going to send one of those moms an email.

I don’t want to send her a generic email, I want to reflect the interest in the product that she shared with me. And so as a brand they were able to that, and this was a very successful Mother’s Day for them, significantly increasing sales, and it was the combination of our personalized marketing platform and the consumer insights hub that made that possible.

Ken: So they're looking forward to the Christmas season then? [Jon laughs.] 

In the spring of 2012, you were accepted into the SAP startup folks program. Can you take us through the discovery phase? How you learned about SAP HANA, first saw its usefulness, and became involved with that startup focus program?

Jon: So, in the spring of 2012, as I had mentioned earlier, we were looking to determine what’s the right technology to go build our consumer insights hub on top of given the limitations we saw with the current technology we were using and it just happened to be a personal contact of mine that introduced me to some folks at SAP and we were actually weren’t even talking about the consumer insights hub.

We were talking about some other potential things that we were looking at and when they asked us what we’re doing and some of projects, we shared the consumer insights hub and said, you know you really need to talk so some of these folks over in the SAP startup focus program because we think they could be of some help and let’s go learn what it’s all about and so it was just by that chance introduction frankly that we started the dialog and as an early stage company one of our greatest assets and resources is the time and resources of our people and when we did the analysis of what solutions is best for us to develop on top of, one of the key factors actually was the resources that SAP brought to the table with the startup focus program that actually helped us get productive very, very quickly and go from knowing nothing about SAP HANA to actually building and delivering a production solution within a series of months.

And so between having bootcamp training and a dedicated account manager who’s there every week to ask us questions, “How are we dealing?” “What problems can I solve?” Access to an extensive series of resources, development licenses, hosted instances at Amazon AWS, all of these things were critical to us moving very quickly and time to market, and as I said, the time of our people are just extremely valuable resources and so when you go Open Source, you get what you pay for, and so if we had gone and Open Source route, we didn’t have the necessary skills in some of those technologies. The ramp-up and the time to market would have been significantly longer.

Ken: And so now the insights, consumer insights hub is now part of the SAP cloud for customer solution, so can you talk about how that partnership with SAP provides additional value for SAP customers?

Jon: Definitely. The consumer insights hub, you know, is essential staging ground for where we bring all of the social and behavioral and other consumer data together and at the same time there are many clients who have either implemented a CRM solution like SAP cloud for customer or want to implement one to replace perhaps an existing one that they have.

What we found is very valuable is the ability for our solution to do what it’s very good at, which is the ability to actually capture and enable the use of all of this valuable consumer and social data. And one of the important uses of that is to actually integrate with a customer relationship management platform and so all the social profile information that we capture, we can seamlessly pass into SAP cloud for customer and then enable SAP cloud for customer users to actually access the detail of that information through the views within the SAP application platform.

So it’s a seamless experience and the two solutions work very nicely together and if you’re a marketer and your using the SAP cloud for customer solution to be able to tap into FanAppz and the consumer insights hub to do a better job of capturing detailed consumer information and be able to use it in a more personalized role, if in a way to acquire new customers, the two solutions together we believe are unmatched by any others in the marketplace.

Ken: So you’ve talked about a lot of interesting things that your company has been doing and now you partner with SAP. But, I mean, looking ahead, what do you see down the road as far as the amount of information or the different information that clients can collect? Do you foresee clients having access to more or better information about consumers than they do now?

Jon: So there’s a couple things that I see happening going forward that create great opportunities for marketers.

One the underlying platform that consumers use in the social space have over time become more open and consumers have been over time become more comfortable in sharing information with trusted brand partners with whom they do business or with whom they want to do business and so the quantity and the quality of the data that’s available today is outstanding and over time we see that only increasing and so whereas perhaps in the early days companies were focused mainly only on, let’s say, data from social platforms like a Facebook, platforms like Linked In and others are becoming much more critical in the overall scope of what can be done. So that’s sort of one thread we see happening.

The other thing that we see happen that we’re very excited to be a part of is actually helping take the social and visual experience and bring it in to new places and new ways for consumers. in particular. to interact and so one of the things we’ve been focuses on is delivering our solution into physical locations so that in a retail store, not just online, not on a mobile device, but in an actual retail store to be able to access and interact with our consumer facing applications. All of which are designed to help people to drive engagement and become the moment of interaction where we can actually capture that information when consumers want to share and so extending from the digital phase into the physical space we think is another very exciting opportunity. We’re going to see all kinds of exciting advances in that over the next couple of years and FanAppz plans to be a leader in that space.

Ken: Great, well, sounds like some very interesting things on the horizon. Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and I’ve been speaking with Jon Siegal, who is the CEO of FanAppz. Jon, thanks for your time today.

John: Thank you, Ken. Appreciate it.

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