SAP buys e-commerce vendor Hybris in strike back at Oracle, Salesforce.com

The deal will give SAP an 'omni-channel' e-commerce offering

SAP is buying privately held Hybris in a bid to build out an e-commerce software offering that connects with customers across multiple "channels, devices and touch points."

Terms of the deal, which was announced Wednesday, were not disclosed. It is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

Hybris, which is based in Switzerland, is the fastest-growing e-commerce software vendor in the world, according to SAP's announcement. It sells an "omni-channel" platform spanning mobile, call center, in-store and Web commerce, and caters to both large and small companies, SAP said.

In addition, the Hybris technology provides a "single view" of customers and products across channels thanks to built-in master data management and other capabilities, SAP said.

Hybris counts Levi's, 3M and Nikon among its more than 500 customers, according to its website.

While Hybris will be run as an independent business unit, SAP plans to integrate the vendor's software with its HANA in-memory database as well as the Jam social network.

The Hybris deal comes some months after SAP launched 360 Customer, which combines its CRM (customer relationship management) application with HANA, Jam and other components.

Collectively, SAP's moves can be viewed as a response to rival vendors such as Oracle and Salesforce.com, which have also been trying to build out product families meant to help companies build closer relationships with customers amid the rise of social media and mobile devices.

The Hybris announcement comes one day after Salesforce.com announced it would purchase multichannel marketing software vendor ExactTarget for US$2.5 billion.

SAP had already made a number of e-commerce-related acquisitions through the purchase of Ariba and Crossgate. But Hybris will serve as "a defining step in SAP's evolution to a business-to-business-to-consumer company," co-CEO Bill McDermott said during a conference call Wednesday.

It's also going to be part of SAP's plans to "take over" the CRM software market, McDermott said. Analyst firm Gartner recently issued a market-share reportthat placed Salesforce.com in the top spot, moving past SAP.

McDermott disparaged Salesforce.com's decision to buy ExactTarget, saying SAP's strategy for e-commerce is "not about sending out email blasts." Email marketing is one of a range of capabilities offered by ExactTarget.

Rather, SAP intends to provide "everything a CEO needs to run a corporation in full intimacy with their consumer," and in real time, McDermott said.

While not specifically addressing Gartner's report, McDermott said Hybris "is the piece we had to have to complete the puzzle."

McDermott declined to say what SAP is paying for Hybris, but called it "a fair price" and "consistent with other fast-growing assets."

Hybris' leadership team will remain with the company after the deal closes. SAP went through an extended process to make sure the acquisition was the right fit, McDermott said. "We are friends, we are close and we want to rock the market together," he said.

The companies have a bit of a head start, with SAP's and Hybris' software already being used jointly by customers around the world, said SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe.

But SAP wants to "go much further than that," for example, by offering Hybris on its recently announced HANA Enterprise Cloud, he said.

Salesforce.com didn't respond to a request for comment on McDermott's remarks, but another competitor weighed in on the Hybris deal.

"This acquisition is clearly in response to the success NetSuite's SuiteCommerce platform has had over the last year," NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson claimed via email. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

SAP will also have the challenge of rationalizing the "hairball in the making" represented by it and Hybris' code bases, Nelson added.

Competitive trash talk aside, Nelson's remarks do point to the question of how quickly SAP delivers on the product integrations and technology additions it promised during Wednesday's announcement.

It also remains to be seen whether SAP's move sparks further acquisitions in the e-commerce arena. McDermott alluded to a competitive bidding process for the company. "There were others that wanted Hybris," he said. "Hybris wanted SAP."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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