Q&A: Kees de Vos, Hybris

Hybris enables companies to enjoy an entirely fresh approach to handling their communication and marketing processes. With its standards-based solutions, hybris plans to set the foundation for uniquely future-assured customer solutions. We spoke to hybris’ Director of Business Consulting, Kees de Vos, to get a better understanding of how the company helps retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses create a unified and seamless cross-channel experience for their customers—from online, to in-store, to mobile and beyond.

Can you tell us a little about hybris and your role with the company?
hybris develops a complete multichannel commerce software solution that integrates product content management, commerce operations, and the extended channel to help retailers, manufacturers, and other businesses create a unified and seamless multichannel experience for their customers—from online, to in-store, to mobile and beyond.

I joined hybris about four months ago. Previous roles have indicated to me that the success of multichannel implementations is only partially down to a successful technology implementation. Mainly it is about having the right business strategy and change management in place and business can benefit significantly from following best practice. That is primarily what I want to do at hybris—deliver multichannel success to our clients by underpinning great technology with sound business advice to ensure our clients and prospects succeed in multichannel ventures.

Tell us more about multichannel and eCommerce and how you see the sector progressing
Being a multichannel retailer is, in my opinion, a means to survive and not something that provides significant market advantage any longer. If you look at society you will observe that the way people communicate and interact with each other is fundamentally changing—the Internet is ubiquitous, especially because of the ever-growing popularity of mobile and smart phones. Finding information, making decisions, contacting people is more immediate than ever. We interact socially through the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and use the Internet for practical purposes, such as shopping.

With over 80% of consumers already using multiple channels during their purchase journey, for example by investigating a product online and then going into a store to buy it, the consumer is already in a multichannel state of mind—they interact with the retailer or the brand in the best way to suit them—online, through mobile, social networks or in-store. The retailer has to respond to this new world and play by the new rules—if you don’t, you will struggle to survive.

Where does hybris fit into this?
hybris structures its software in a very unique way. The focus is on 3 areas:
content, commerce and channels. The content part allows retailers to aggregate, manage and distribute content, whether it is structured or unstructured, product or editorial content, out to all channels. This means retailers can provide a consistent message to consumers at all times, whilst managing it from a single place.

The commerce element is the engine—this is where all the business logic is executed from—the merchandising, the marketing and the order placement. Again a single place to serve all channels. Our channel modules deliver channel-specific logic for channels over and above ecommerce that have specific needs. For example our call centre module, our print module, (which is unique) and our mobile module all deliver additional functionality for these channels. These three tiers, content, commerce and channel, are fundamental to a good multichannel infrastructure, and we provide them in a single solution.

In addition to the functional benefits this brings, all of these modules are built on a single technology stack, which means they are seamlessly integrated. They have not been acquired over time, they have not been built on different technologies—it’s all on the same stack.

And that brings us to the second differentiator, our technical approach. Technically the platform is based on the latest technical standards and technologies and we spend a lot of time and effort to keep it that way—the German engineering really plays a role here. This has resulted in a platform that is very flexible and easy to work with, which means it is a lot easier to install, implement and maintain for our customers, and it also enables us to develop our product a lot faster.

In addition to our true multichannel focus and top class technology platform, analysts also praise our product management capabilities, our strengths in internationalisation and our business user tools.

How do you see the future of multichannel and eCommerce?
The Internet will continue to grow in its presence around us and will take a more and more important role in our day-to-day life, connecting everything and everyone around us, enabling almost instant communication and gratification. Retailers, brands and manufacturers will have to continue to adapt in this world where multichannel will be the default. The channels to market and how they will be used will continue to evolve and that is something that companies will need to prepare for.

In the immediate future I see retailers making fundamental changes in order to play effectively in this new world—both from an organisational and technology point of view. There is a need for an Internet-enabled, orchestrated way to interact with the consumer wherever they are, however they choose to connect with you.

A lot of developments that people may perceive as futuristic have already launched on the market or are currently in development—everyday devices such as televisions and even fridges are now more and more Internet-enabled, instantly creating new sales channels for consumers to use and retailers to cope with.

Ongoing development of technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC) and increasing wireless broadband connectivity speeds will mean that the store channel will be even more closely integrated into the Internet-enabled, multichannel environment. These developments in conjunction with, for example, the popularisation of tablets such as the iPad, will challenge the role of the traditional POS system in the not too distant future.

Once all sales channels are truly Internet-enabled and we can make customer recognition across all channels a reality, a whole new range of opportunities will come to the fore, enabling retailers to provide a truly consistent and relevant user experience wherever required. What this exactly may look like is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure; further change will happen.

Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.