Just three months after SAP acquired SuccessFactors, a cloud leader for human capital management solutions, for $3.4 billion, it has now announced the acquisition of Ariba, a cloud leader for eProcurement solutions, for another $4.3 billion. Now, $7.7 billion is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time on two companies that hardly make any profit. But it’s all for the cloud, which means it’s for the future business opportunity in cloud computing services. So far, so good; SAP has invested and acquired quite a number of cloud companies over the past years: Frictionless, Clear Standards, Crossgate, etc. The difference in this most recent acquisition is the big overlap with existing solutions and internal R&D.
Following the first wave of cloud acquisitions, SAP was sitting amid a zoo of cloud solutions, all based on different platforms: ePurchasing, CRM-OnDemand, BI-OnDemand, Carbon Impact, ByDesign, Streamwork . . . They all used very different technology, resulting in big integration and scale challenges behind the scenes. The market welcomed with open arms SAP’s announcement 1.5 years ago that it would consolidate its cloud strategy on the new NetWeaver platform for both ABAP- and Java-based cloud solutions.
It seems online marketplaces are cropping up everywhere. Retailers, software companies, media companies, and consumer electronics makers are using marketplaces as a means to enhance and augment their own offerings with products made, owned, and distributed by third-party retailers, distributors, developers, and brands. The most successful examples of these today are of course Amazon’s Marketplace, eBay, Apple’s App Store, and Valve’s Steamworks. But based on numerous inquiries of late, soon we will see many, many more marketplaces online. Key reasons why we are seeing the proliferation of marketplaces in the next 18-24 months:
For retailers, it’s about growing the assortment without the inventory risk. Larger scale pure-play online retailers and multichannel retailers look to the significant growth of Amazon.com’s marketplace — which today comprises approximately 35% of Amazon’s gross retail sales — and wonder if they could also benefit from a marketplace. Adding a marketplace provides the opportunity to extend the product assortment and available pool of inventory without taking on the inventory risk and expense of merchandising, buying, warehousing, and shipping an assortment in unproven categories. For some it may be even a way to bring licensed products under a brand umbrella. Amazon’s model is to take roughly half the margin of the products sold — based on expected margin by category — as the fair value of driving that demand, but they bear none of the inventory sourcing, carrying, or logistical costs.